Photo via Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Oil painting of Father Junípero Serra from the 1700s. Photo via Wikimedia Commons / RNS

When Pope Francis unexpectedly announced last month that he would canonize the Rev. Junipero Serra during his visit to the U.S. in September, he thrilled the many fans of the legendary 18th-century Spanish Franciscan who spread the Catholic faith across what is now California.

But the pontiff who has decried the “ideological colonization” of the developing world by the secular West is now facing criticism from those who say Serra — called “the Columbus of California” — abused Native Americans and pressured them to convert, aiding in the devastation of the indigenous culture on behalf of the Spanish crown.

“Serra was no saint to us,” Ron Andrade, executive director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, told the Los Angeles Times.

Some of Serra’s sharpest critics say he was part of an imperial conquest that beat and enslaved Native Americans, raped their women, and destroyed their culture by forcing them to abandon their traditional language, diet, dress and other customs and rites.

Add in the diseases introduced by these Old World invaders, and the original indigenous population of perhaps 300,000 was decimated by as much as 90 percent.

“If (Serra) is elevated to sainthood,” Nicole Lim, the executive director of the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center in Santa Rosa, told The New York Times, “then (Serra) should be held responsible for the brutal and deadly treatment of native people.”

Jim Wallis 11-05-2014

We cannot undermine or defeat a group that we do not understand. 

Bishop Arthur Gitonga, center, of the Redeemed Church in Kenya. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

A call for greater acceptance of gays and lesbians has put African and Western churches on a collision course, as some African clerics liken mounting criticism from the U.S. and Europe to a new wave of colonization by the West.

Consider some of the statements at a news conference last week led by Bishop Arthur Gitonga of the Redeemed Church in Kenya:

“Homosexuality is equivalent to colonialism and slavery,” said one participant.

“We feel it’s like a weapon of mass destruction,” said another.

“It is not biblical and cannot bring blessing to Christians,” said a third.

Gitonga, a powerful East African Pentecostal church official, is among a group of Kenyan leaders who have launched “Zuia Sodom Kabisa,” Kiswahili for “Stop Sodom Completely.” The campaign seeks 1 million signatures to petition legislation to criminalize homosexual acts in Kenya.

Rebecca Kraybill 01-08-2014

These magazine articles and blog posts published by Sojourners through the years pay tribute to the great South African leader.

Jim Wallis 01-03-2014

We give thanks for how he turned righteous anger into the power of reconciliation.

Birth of a White Nation: The Invention of White People and its Relevance Today. Strategic Book Publishing.

Lisa Sharon Harper 04-03-2013

Richard Twiss teaching on indigenous worship. Photo by the International Worship Institute.

"Richard Twiss was willing to step out for what he believed in."

Duane Shank 03-09-2012
Photo by Tischenko Irina/

Photo by Tischenko Irina/

Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. 

Here are my picks in this week’s books of interest:

Julie Clawson 08-01-2011

1100801-cowboysandaliensAmericans have a hard time knowing how to respond to the sins of our colonial past. Except for a few extremists, most people know on a gut level that the extermination of the Native Americans was a bad thing. Not that most would ever verbalize it, or offer reparations, or ask for forgiveness, or admit to current neocolonial actions, or give up stereotyped assumptions -- they just know it was wrong and don't know how to respond. The Western American way doesn't allow the past to be mourned or apologies to be made. Instead we make alien invasion movies.

Gareth Higgins 06-29-2011

1100629-gandhifilmAh the joy of watching movies in the summer! Of course, there are a number of summer blockbusters coming out that will woo crowds to the theaters, but with the sky-high prices of theater tickets these days, nobody will fault you for wanting to stay home and kick back with a rental. If you're looking for a film that will entertain and inspire you, consider adding some of these excellent films about social change to your online queue. If you have any other films to add to this list, please contribute your favorites in the comments section below. (To read more of my film reviews, check out my monthly column in Sojourners magazine.)

Aaron Taylor 06-01-2011
I was raised in a charismatic megachurch that prided itself in being "non-religious." Our pastor thought of himself as a grace preacher, and in many ways he was.
Becky Garrison 03-17-2011
In the documentary Earth Made of Glass, director Deborah Scranton weaves together the stories of Rwandan President
Lori D. Wilson 09-27-2010
For most of us, the term "colonialism" conjures images of palm trees, pith helmets, and mosquito nets.
Brian McLaren 09-15-2010
[Editor's Note: Emergent Village will be hosting its annual Theological Conversation this year in Atlanta, Ge
Julie Clawson 09-15-2010
We live in a world full of pain and injustice; there is no getting around that fact.

[Editor's Note: In anticipation of the anniversary of the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, God's Politics will feature a series of posts on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Kimberly B. George 06-10-2010
I won't forget the day the 15-year-old Korean exchange student I tutored informed me she needed surgery to "correct" her eyes. I stopped my grammar lesson and had her teach me about racism.
Hayley Hathaway 05-19-2010
Do secondary debt markets, hedge funds, and offshore banking make you want to dance? Probably not.
Nontando Hadebe 04-20-2010
Thirty years ago on April 18th, Zimbabwe celebrated independence and started a new chapter in its political history, full of promise and hope.