Vine Deloria’s “God is Red” Still Challenges

Book Review

god-is-redGod is Red: A Native View of Religion
30th Anniversary Edition
By Vine Deloria Jr
Fulcrum Publishing | 326 pp | $21.95
ISBN: 9781555914981

What we believe about religion is a personal matter. While we may want our loved ones to all believe what we believe about the Supreme Being – who we may refer to as God, Jesus or the Creator – they ultimately still have to make their own choice about what to believe.

Books, such as “God is Red: A Native View of Religion – 30th Anniversary Edition” are important to help shape, formulate and even test our personal beliefs.

When “God is Red: A Native View of Religion” was first published in 1973, it predated the American Indian Religious Freedom Act by five years. Back then American Indians were not free to practice their traditional teachings.

So when “God is Red” by the late American Indian scholar, Vine Deloria, Jr, Sioux, was first released, it was provocative and challenging to the very core of the Judeo-Christian belief system.

“God is Red: A Native View of Religion – 30th Anniversary Edition” still challenges today.

Today, American Indians are protected by federal law to practice their traditional teachings without fear of reprisal. They no longer have to fear being arrested to practice the sun dance – though it is important to note, not all American Indian tribes practice the sun dance, but maintain other forms of worship to the Creator.

In 1974 “TIME” Magazine named Deloria one of the primary “shapers and movers” of Christian faith and theology.

Deloria, who is best known for his expertise in American Indian law, received a master’s degree in theology from the Lutheran School of Theology, prior to receiving his law degree from the University of Colorado. His grandfather, the Reverend Philip Deloria, was an Episcopal priest. His father, Vine Deloris, Sr., became an Episcopal archdeacon and missionary on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Deloria passed away in 2005.

I first read “God is Red: A Native View of Religion” in 1992. I found it challenging then; it still challenges now. Reading the updated edition of the book was well worth the re-read, because in addition to the new forewords by Leslie Marmon Silko and George E. Tinker, Deloria updates the previous edition to make it more relevant to contemporary years.

“God is Red: A Native View of Religion – 30th Anniversary Edition” is a provocative book that challenges the hypocrisy of Christians who idly stood by as American Indians were mercilessly and savagely killed by non-Indians out of pure greed for land.

As it became evident that all American Indians could not be killed, there was a concerted effort to “civilize and Christianize” Indians. Deloria writes in “God is Red”:

“People are not allowed to be Indians and cannot become whites. They have been educated, as the old-timers would say to think with their heads instead of their hearts.”

As we come to full circle and attempt reconcile Christianity, which is still highly influential—on and off— Indian reservations among American Indians, “God is Red: A Native View of Religion – 30th Anniversary Edition” should be read. The book should be read by non-Indians who want a better understanding about the conflicts American Indians have with Christianity.

“God is Red” challenges the non-Indian to be more accepting of traditional Indian teachings. It challenges American Indians to reconcile how they can be Christians when we know what was done to our ancestors in the name of Christianity.

Ultimately, what we believe about religion is indeed a personal matter.



Purchasing this book here helps to support the Native News Online, an American Indian – owned business.


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