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UM Pastor To Celebrate Christmas Story With Pagan Totem To Other Gods

From: Wes Stanton wstanton@nwrain.com
Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2000 11:36 AM
To: ucmpage@ucmpage.org
Subject: UM Pastor to Celebrate Christmas Story with Pagan Totem to Other Gods

John W.,

I already knew that you play fast and loose with your headline writing, and that you have no sense whatsoever of journalistic responsibility. But as one who remembers Dave Fison during his ministry in Ketchikan, and the history of missions in Alaska, growing up for part of my childhood among Tsimpshian people in Metlakatla, Alaska, and being singularly aware of that community's intense Christian faith, I have got to say that your headline on this one is the stupidest in a long time.

Wes Stanton

Tacoma WA

Editor's Note:

"When I came to do the pole, I did the research in (the Tsimshian) culture for it," Fison said. "The images we have of the Christmas story wouldn’t fit into their culture, so I found the nearest equivalents of the things in the story."—UMNS article about totem

(Galatians 6:14 NIV) May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Most Christians have never seen a manger or a crucifixion, either.

The angel Gabriel is portrayed as Raven, emissary of the Great Chief of the Heavens, the Tsimshian term for God, Fison explained. Raven, sitting atop the pole, carries the Star of Bethlehem in its beak.—UMNS article about totem

(Exodus 20:3-6 NIV) "You shall have no other gods before me. 

[4] "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 

[5] You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, [6] but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Raven is a graven image to a pagan deity and the totem is used as an object of worship.

Early Christian missionaries to the Pacific Northwest viewed totem poles as pagan idols and encouraged new converts to abandon their symbolism, Fison said. "The old way was, ‘you have to give up your traditional ways and be like us.’"—UMNS article about totem

(Romans 12:2 NIV) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

I think the "[e]arly Christian missionaries" were correct.

–John Warrener, editor

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