In this edition of the Beloved Community, we focus on the Doctrine of Discovery. Although we have focused on the Doctrine before in worship, in other editions of the Beloved Community, and now in our October Wise Wednesday series (check it out this Wednesday, October 26 at 11:30am), the impact and legacy of the Doctrine remains complex and layered, and we need to keep awakening to its power.
The Doctrine of Discovery continues to shape national, sociopolitical, and church structures, including our theological perspectives and interpretation and application of the scriptures. Its legacy lives on in our denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), due to the profound influence of the Doctrine throughout the history of the movement upon concepts of church growth/evangelism, and attitudes and beliefs toward Indigenous people and People of Color, among other areas. Its legacy lives today in every exhibition of white supremacy, racist structures and systems in societies around the globe, US Christian nationalism, and the current ecological crisis.
Fundamentally, the Doctrine of Discovery uses scriptures to support the categorization of human beings on a spectrum of humanness, with those of light skin and European descent (and Christian) as more valued/human than those with differing characteristics. Because the Doctrine of Discovery is based on principles that originated with the church, the church has a special responsibility to dismantle this unjust structure.
The summary of the Doctrine of Discovery from the Upstander Project offers a short description of the Doctrine. The basics of the Doctrine of Discovery (from the Mennonite coalition, Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery) contains several helpful resources. The following resources are valuable as well:
- Doctrine of Discovery Fact Page (from Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery)
- A virtual display of the Doctrine of Discovery through the centuries and today (from Beloved Community Initiative).
- An overview of the Doctrine of Discovery in international and US law: Wikipedia article of the Doctrine of Discovery.
- An interview with Sarah Augustine: “CURRENT & HISTORICAL HARMS FUELED BY THE DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY: Breaking the Chains of Indigenous Peoples” from breathingforgiveness.net
- VIDEO (long): “Race, Trauma, and the Doctrine of Discovery” (currently being used for our October Wise Wednesdays).
- VIDEO (short): Doctrine of Discovery This short film is part of 8 short, testimonial films, on the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois).
- VIDEO: Document of Discovery Documentary from Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery coalition.