Thursday, February 01, 2007

Native American Teachings vs Christian Beliefs

This is from a recent interview...a reprint:

Can a Native American be true to their heritage and at the same time, a devout Christian? How do the worlds of Christianity and Native Religion connect? Do the sacred writings of Christianity cross the lines of understanding with Native American thought?

In a recent interview with Dove Award winning songwriter, Kim McLean we brought up her lineage of Native American blood. As a hit Gospel/Christian songwriter pursuing graduate studies in religion and part Native American, how does one live in both worlds? First, where do your Native American roots begin?

KM: Two of my grandmothers were half Cherokee, from the mountains of Virginia.

Do the two worlds of Native American beliefs and Christianity ever walk the same road?

KM: A deep spirituality was passed down from my Native American heritage. All the stories that I hear, I find no tension between the spirituality of the Cherokee and my personal Christian faith. If anything their faith is even stronger, seeing with a stronger vision. I get the feeling that when they feel the wind blowing in those Smokey Mountains; they know it’s the spirit. And when they have a dream, they know when God’s voice is in it. I love the way they learn from all of creation, not just humanity. That’s the way I’ve always felt, even as a small child. (Not that I’m pantheistic or anything!). There is a difference between making all of creation God, and knowing who the God of all creation is.

Do you believe there are things that modern Christianity can learn from Native American teachings?

KM: Though I have a great love for my Christian beliefs, sometimes they can be very limiting. It can sometimes box God in. From what I have read from my Cherokee roots, there is no limitation on God. He is why the sun is warm and the fire, hot. There is no doubt from my Cherokee relatives that God heals. There are so many stories of healings and miracles in my family. Broken bones were healed. Illnesses were healed. These were stories passed down through my family and I believed them. One particular story was of my great-grandmother who was said to ‘wash her hands’ in the flames of the wood stove and then perform healings on ailing people who came to her. A little boy was brought to her after falling off his bicycle and breaking his arm. The arm was visibly broken, dangling. My great grandmother laid hands on the little boy’s arm, prayed, and it was healed right then and there. He ran off and played, and you could never even tell there had ever been a problem.

You are a Christian, no doubt about it. You also have medicine cards that you draw. Is this part of devotion or are they ‘for amusement purposes only’? Do you find any validity in animal medicine and find connection in the Scriptures? Do you blend the two worlds in your devotion time?

KM: I would never say there is any blending of animal medicine, medicine cards, and my Bible and prayer time. The medicine cards are just part of an inspiration I use every day. They are cards with pictures of animals like dolphin, dog, mountain lion, and eagle among others. I don’t try to find any Scriptural correlation in them. I shuffle them and get wonderful positive thoughts for the day, based on the animal card I draw. They aren’t superstitious at all. They encourage me. For instance, I love drawing the eagle which reminds me that the Great Spirit is guiding us all. He is providing the wind for us to open our wings to. He is in charge of everything. This doesn’t substitute for my Scripture reading, however. I open my Bible first thing…every day. I pray and journal. The medicine cards are an interesting way to finish everything up.

Your most recent project is called, “God’s Lyrics”, a Scripture set-to-music collection that you did with your ten year old son, Will McLean Johnston. He reads the Scripture and plays the drums/percussion for the project. You created and perform the songs. Why this project?

KM: God’s Lyrics is a project that I felt a need for because I believe in the power of the Words contained in the Scriptures and the Spirit that’s in them. It’s the power to heal, to bring peace, forgiveness, and life.

Why did you choose the Scriptures you did?

KM: I chose an array of Scriptures beginning with verses that would introduce a person to the Bible that may have never read it, and hopefully the songs will compel them by the love contained in these words…to want to read more. I chose verses for those who already love the Bible and just want to be blessed by the beauty of hearing the words again. I chose verses that help paint a complete theological picture, that is, the love of God and Jesus Christ. There are many theologies in the Bible. I wanted to emphasize THAT one. I prayed over every verse, and believe that God guided me by His spirit, which verses to write music to. There will be many more of these projects.

Why did you choose to do this album with your ten year old son?

KM: I want to instill a love for God’s Word in his heart. And I want to teach him to use the gift that God gave him for God’s glory. And…he’s good. And…he’s cute.

How do you handle teaching your son about his heritage?

KM: His understanding of Native American heritage has been taught to him as it was to me, that we are all related. That’s said to be a Native American touchstone. But Jesus taught that. God is sad when people don’t run to His loving arms. We are all His children, and in that sense, all related.

“God’s Lyric’s” is a CD project by Kim McLean and is available on, , , and

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