Truth Be Told

Signed copies of the book I co-authored with Soong-Chan Rah, "Unsettling Truths - The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery" are available from my website:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Reconciliation, Justice and Worship

In the books of Amos and Isaiah, God judges his people for not taking seriously his commands to live justly. He tells them that because they are not living justly he despises their feasts, he hates their festivals, and their music is like noise to him.  Also, in the book of Matthew, Jesus teaches his followers that if they are at the altar ready to give their gift to the LORD and remember that a brother has something against them, they are to leave their gift at the altar, go and first be reconciled. Then they may return and give their gift.

Throughout Scripture, God uses many gifts to call his people back to him including healing, truth, prophesy, exhortation, and preaching. But it does not appear that worship is one of those gifts. In these teachings, God seems to be telling his people that worship (specifically celebration, praise and adoration) are gifts to be enjoyed only when they are living justly and in a right relationship with each other.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The day after the Fourth of July

July 5th, the Declaration of Independence has been signed, the Revolutionary War has been won and the celebrations, complete with fireworks, have concluded. Now begins the hard work of being the United States of America. For on July 5th we must begin conducting ourselves in a manner which clearly demonstrates the truths we hold (and proclaim) to be self-evident. That ALL people truly are create equal.  And that they each been endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them being Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Please join me in praying for our nation, our leaders and even ourselves. That we will not allow fear, arrogance, or a sense of entitlement to distract us from pursuing these principals.

I love our country, which is why I humbly pray, "May God have mercy on the United States of America."

Mark Charles
(Navajo, Dutch, American)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Prayer for the Church

A few months ago a friend and colleague of mine asked me to help him with a prayer for a new hymnal he was editing. In this hymnal, titled "Lift Up Your Hearts," he wanted to include a prayer reflecting the theme of immigration as well as indigenous peoples. He was also hoping that this prayer would help those who prayed it to feel more fully a part of the all "from every nation, tribe, people and language" who are gathered around the throne of the lamb (Revelations 7:9).

The hymnal was published last week and included the prayer I worked on. I share it with you and ask you to pray that as the Bride of Christ we will learn to walk more fully in beauty with our fellow man and God.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Prayer of Indigenous Peoples

Yesterday morning I sat in my home here on the Navajo Reservation and watched a live webcast of the "Evangelical Immigration Table". I felt impotent, tired, angry and frustrated. For on my screen Christians were rallying around and celebrating the introduction of a bi-partisan immigration reform bill that was being introduced by the "Gang of 8" Senators.  I felt this way because for nearly a decade I have been talking, writing, speaking and praying about the importance of intentionally including the voices of indigenous peoples in the process to "comprehensively and justly" reform immigration law. I have walked the halls of Congress and hand delivered letters to Senators and Representatives, I have spoken on the boards of churches and Christian organizations, I have built relationships with national Christian, academic and political leaders, I have written blogs, published articles, spoken at conferences and presented seminars, all asking, imploring, our nation to intentionally reach out to, and include the voices of Native peoples in the dialogue on immigration reform.

But to no avail.  Because on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, without ever consulting members of the Native community, the Gang of 8 introduced their plan to comprehensively reform our nation's immigration laws. And I watched on a live webcast, as my non-native friends, my partner organizations, the leaders of the church, even our politicians celebrated this milestone and congratulated themselves.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Richard Twiss: Turtle Island lost a host

On Wednesday, February 6, 2013, while in Washington DC for the National Prayer Breakfast, Richard Twiss suffered a major heart attack. He remained in a hospital in the DC area for several days as friends and family rushed to his side. But on Saturday, February 9, 2013, at the age of 58, Taoyate Obnajin (He Stands with his People) crossed over to meet the Creator.  He is survived by his wife Katherine and his four sons Andrew, Philip, Ian and Daniel.

If you ever had the privilege of meeting Richard Twiss, chances are he invited you somewhere. Richard was an incredible host. I remember last summer I attended a symposium for the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS), of which Richard was a board member. No sooner had I walked through the door when I was greeted by Richard and asked if I would like to join their drum circle up front to start the next session.  I felt extremely honored by this invitation and gladly accepted. I am not a trained theologian nor am I a prolific Pow Wow drummer, but this small gesture immediately made me feel at home and communicated that I was welcome there and was given a voice should I have something to contribute.

Richard was involved in many conversations. As a follower of Jesus, President and co-founder of Wiconi International as well as an accomplished author he was a highly sought after speaker and a true bridge builder between Native and non-Native communities.

In the complex and controversial dialogue of contextualizing Christian worship for Native American cultures, Richard Twiss allowed himself to become a lightening rod so that boarding school survivors and assimilated Native American Christians could have the freedom to put on their regalia, pick up their drums, and ask the question "What does it mean to be Native American and follow Jesus?"

Richard's unique ministry gave many Native people the opportunity to experience that Jesus is not just the "White man's God" but he came for all people from every language and every culture.

There are many challenges facing Native Americans today in the United States.  Unemployment, broken families, alcoholism, diabetes, violence, poor education, and the list goes on and on. But after living with my people, on the Navajo reservation for the past decade I have come to the conclusion that the biggest challenge facing Native Americans is the reversal of our roles in this land these past few centuries.

Turtle Island (ie. North America) is our home and we are indigenous to these lands. We can tell you stories about why this mountain is here or why that river flows there. Our Creation stories take place in this land, and for centuries we did not see ourselves as its owners, but rather as its hosts.

That role began to change about 500 years ago when a European explorer named Christopher Columbus got lost at sea. He was met by our ancestors, but then promptly returned to his home claiming to have 'discovered' a new land, minimizing the fact that it was already inhabited by millions. He was soon followed by wave after wave of pilgrims, refugees and immigrants, who flocked here, fueled by a Doctrine of Discovery and driven by a presumptive sense of manifest destiny. The result of this history was that the indigenous peoples of North America were either killed, assimilated, or marginalized.  Those who survived were stripped of their role as host and instead made to feel like unwanted guests in someone else's home.

But there is a remnant, a precious few, who do not believe, or live into, this lie. They are not driven by anger, resentment, or even bitterness but by an understanding that as Native peoples, we are the hosts of this land. And they conduct themselves as such. Richard Twiss was one of these people.

Throughout his life Richard joined, participated in, initiated, and invited people to many conversations. He traveled around our nation and the world investing freely in relationships with people and leaders from various ethnic communities, churches, denominations, academic institutions, and governmental agencies. In every instance that I observed, he brought an increased awareness of Native peoples and invited our “nation of immigrants” to take further steps into an understanding of, and relationship with, their indigenous hosts.

Saturday, February 9 was a sad day for me personally. I lost a friend, a colleague, and a brother that day. But it was also a sad day for our nation because with the passing of Richard Twiss, Turtle Island lost a leader. Richard was not an elected official, nor was he the head of a huge institution. But he was a true host of this land: building bridges, starting conversations, increasing understanding, and inviting nearly everyone he met into something new. He conducted himself in such a manner that many who met him, walked away from the interaction feeling a little more at home.

It is my hope, that as Native peoples, we can follow Richard’s example and re-embrace our roles as the host people of Turtle Island.

Mark Charles

Friday, February 22, 2013

Proposing a 28th Ammendment allowing Congress to REDUCE thier compensation immediately.

A few thoughts on the upcoming sequester being imposed on our country by the 113th Congress:

The impending sequester does NOT reduce congressional pay because the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits Congress from varying it's own compensation until the seating of the next Congress. 

"No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened."

Unfortunately this amendment is preventing the 113th Congress from leading by example in experiencing the pain of the sequester which they are imposing on the rest of the country. Therefore I propose created a FB page proposing a 28th Amendment to the US Constitution that would allow Congress to REDUCE their compensation immediately.

"Any law REDUCING the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect immediately."

Please visit and LIKE this page if you support such an amendment.  Maybe it will gain enough steam to get their attention.  Let's give our leaders an opportunity to demonstrate some integrity.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Richard Twiss: A life of Conversations

On Saturday, February 9, 2013, surrounded by family and friends, Richard Twiss (Taoyate Obnajin - He Stands with his People) passed away after suffering a major heart attack 3 days earlier while he was in Washington DC to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. Richard was the president and founder of Wiconi Ministries based in Vancouver, Washington. He was 58 years old and is survived by his wife Katherine and his sons Andrew, Philip, Ian and Daniel. 

I wish I could have been there with him, and his family, during those last few days and hours. But unfortunately I was 2,000 miles away at my home on the Navajo Reservation. I have had the privilege of knowing and working with Richard for the past 10 years. Most recently he and I served on the Board of Directors for the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) together.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Biblical Response to Poverty

Recently, in a sermon titled "More than survival" I preached on the issue of poverty. Most people define poverty in financial terms. I define poverty as the inability to make choices. The wealthy believe they are 'in control', and have options while the poor believe they are 'out of control' and have no options. According to the Scriptures, both of those beliefs are wrong but I would argue that the prior is more Biblically inaccurate than the latter.

So what should the response of the church be to poverty? Do we preach justice to the rich and exhort them to act rightly? Absolutely. Do we speak prophetically to our leaders and challenge them to hear the cries of their people? Without a doubt. Do we hold our own wealth with an open hand and give freely to those around us who are in need? Yes.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Idle No More? Then we need to think big.

It has been exciting to watch this past month as indigenous peoples from around the world have rallied around the commitment of Chief Spence and the cry to be "Idle No More." It has been wonderful to read about, watch, and even participate in events around Indian Country and to hear the desire of native people, especially our youth, to be more directly involved in the governance of our lands and the ruling of our people.  

But if lasting change is to finally take place, then this cannot just be a movement. The energy behind "Idle No More" cannot end with a meeting between Chief Spence and Prime Minister Harper. And here in the US that energy cannot end with the settling of a lawsuit, or the Presidency of Barack Obama. This conversation is about so much more than just this moment in time and these particular events.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Conversation for Reconciliation

Reconciliation is never easy, which is why it doesn't happen very often. Reconciliation is not something that can be checked off of a list. It is not a single event encapsulated in a moment of time. Reconciliation begins with a conversation and ends with a relationship restored.

It was the morning of December 19, 2012 and I standing in front of the US Capitol building in Washington DC. I had reserved that space months in advance so I could host a public reading of H.R. 3326, the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act.  I did this because page 45 of this 67 page document contained an "apology to native peoples of the united states." In three years this apology had not been announced, publicized, or read by either the White House or Congress.