Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys
The gospel of Jesus has not always been good news for Native Americans.
The history of North America is marred by atrocities committed against Native peoples. Indigenous cultures were erased in the name of Christianity. As a result, to this day few Native Americans are followers of Jesus. However, despite the far-reaching effects of colonialism, some Natives have forged culturally authentic ways to follow the way of Jesus.
In his final work, Richard Twiss provides a contextualized Indigenous expression of the Christian faith among the Native communities of North America. He surveys the painful, complicated history of Christian missions among Indigenous peoples and chronicles more hopeful visions of culturally contextual Native Christian faith. For Twiss, contextualization is not merely a formula or evangelistic strategy, but rather a relational process of theological and cultural reflection within a local community. Native leaders reframe the gospel narrative in light of post-colonization, reincorporating traditional practices and rituals while critiquing and correcting the assumptions of American Christian mythologies.
Twiss gives voice to the stories of Native followers of Jesus, with perspectives on theology and spirituality plus concrete models for intercultural ministry. Future generations of Native followers of Jesus, and those working crossculturally with them, will be indebted to this work.
"In Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys, Dr. Richard Twiss is articulate as usual. He has an assertive and yet gracious ability to help non-Natives change their minds about Indigenous issues. I'm grateful for Richard's strong voice that is still resounding among us for our Indigenous people."
"Richard Twiss's Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys provokes and challenges while leading readers into a Native American understanding of the 'Jesus Way.' The reader is confronted directly with racism, oppression and pain in Twiss's own personal narrative as he sought to express a contextualized indigenous Christian theology that extended far beyond the limitations of 'white man's religion.' This indigenous account of decolonization of the gospel presents profound truths about the person of Christ and significant historical lessons from indigenous believers."
"Dr. Richard Twiss is an irreplaceable voice for all peoples. His work is academically astute. His prose is inspiring and articulate. This work stimulates the mind, woos the heart and ultimately transforms faith."
"Richard Twiss was one of my most formative and important mentors in the Jesus Way. His words, life and ministry left an indelible mark on all who knew him. Now in this book, we are able to sit and learn once more from one of the most important voices in American Christianity. This text serves as a necessary prophetic critique of culturally captive Western Christianity but it also provides a redemptive way forward. Richard's words once again call us to a joyous and infectious hope that can arise from honesty."
"A compelling witness and call to acknowledge the power of the gospel across cultural lines, in spite of colonial and neo-colonial oppression and distortion."
"I wish I had this book a decade ago when I started in Native ministry, desiring to create a fellowship where Native American students could meet Jesus without being required to cross cultures. Twiss challenges those who long to see an indigenous Native American church that contextualization must go beyond initial changes in music and language and 'address economic, political, legal, health, agricultural, etc., issues as well.' I can't wait to have the conversations Twiss starts in this book with my coworkers and others who long to see Jesus' church thrive in the Native community."
"Wow! Finally, a book that is refreshingly honest, profoundly spiritual and historically accurate about God's love for the First Nations people from an indigenous perspective! Richard Twiss challenges us to take Jesus out of the box of tradition so we can see and celebrate the wonderful work of God in every tribe and nation. Bravo! I highly endorse this book and wholeheartedly agree that it's time to rescue the gospel from the cowboys."
"Having sat at the feet of Richard Twiss, known the warmth of his friendship and grieved his passing, I was thrilled to learn of this volume we now hold. Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys is a significant book for all who seek to live in the way of Jesus. Speaking honestly and respectfully in the face of oppression and violence perpetrated in the name of the good news, Twiss invites fresh and real ways of following in the way of Jesus without preference to any one cultural frame, and therefore opens the way to be who you are, as a particular person, of a particular culture, and to do so in the shambolic way of the Creator. This book accomplishes a vital task that should be self-evident: a person can be fully Lakota and fully Christian—in fact, there is no other way to be fully Christian. Twiss throws open the door for all indigenous churches to wrestle afresh with the fact that the gospel is at home in every culture and simultaneously alien to every culture."
"Richard Twiss's legacy is to challenge the distinctions cowboys have made much of to explore how a more faithful life on the Jesus way can be forged. This message is important not only for cowboys and indians but for all who are committed to the cause of the gospel in our twenty-first century global context."
"Richard was enigmatic. On the one hand, as he made clear in the closing years of his life, he was a common man. Yet undoubtedly in many ways, he was not. He became, for many in the wider Indigenous community, 'the voice of one crying in the wilderness,' inviting believers to make straight paths for people to find Jesus. . . . Richard was a foil to anyone who encumbered the message of Jesus with culturally-bound prejudice. He presented a simple path to faith—inviting people to be all they could be through a renewed relationship with Creator's son. He welcomed everyone to be a part of what Creator was doing among us, making everyone feel special in the process."
"Although Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys is primarily written for a Native audience, Christians of all ethnicities ignore books like this at our own peril. Twiss and other Indigenous theologians are important prophetic voices to Christianity in America. The integrity of the Church—as well as the effectiveness of our participation in God's mission of reconciliation and redemption—is severely diminished by ignoring the theological contributions of our Native brothers and sisters."
"Christians and ministry leaders, both Native and non-Native alike, will find Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys a relevant text. . . . Twiss calls us to seek dialogue over judgment and control by pursuing authentic worship. If we are Christians committed to corporate enactment of the story of God in worship, then we must be open to relating that story in ways that bring the fullness of who we are to God and to one another. Richard Twiss was also called Taoyate Obnajin, 'He Stands with His People.' In this good work, he has lived into his name."
"An eye-opening viewpoint from witnesses too seldom heard, this volume should be salutary for many pastors and administrative leaders."
"This is a provocative, engaging book. It brought me to tears. It challenged many of my assumptions. I did not agree with every jot and tittle of Richard's approach to contextualization, but this is a book every thoughtful Christian should read. Pastors, missionaries, and educators in particular need to chew on the issues Richard raises about contextualizing the gospel in light of the many cultures and peoples in the world, not least those who have been condemned and silenced and forced to 'unbecome' themselves, whether under the authority cowboys or others."
"The late theologian Richard Twiss (1954–2013) makes a powerful case that Native American Christians can pursue their faith 'while still fully embracing (their) tribal identity, traditional customs, cultural forms, worldview and rituals.' . . . Twiss's book offers valuable lessons for those struggling with decolonization in a religious context or any other. . . . Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals."
"This is an important book for non-Natives. We can and must learn the Native story, as we did that day sitting between Luther and Wesley at Gary Church. But we need to walk further by going into Indigenous communities, waiting humbly to be welcomed into their circle and story. The way to learn and restore a shattered relationship is by deep listening as we sit among Richard's oyate, his people. And at that moment a realization will dawn on us; we all are deeply embodied in the story. As Richard said at the end of each address, Mitakuye Oyasin, 'All my relatives.' This is our common story, but we hardly recognize it."
"The late Richard Twiss here offers both a powerful and dangerous gift to the church. For anyone who has wondered why so few Native Americans follow Jesus, this work reminds us how painful our history is when missionary efforts are wedded to colonization. Be prepared to have your assumptions challenged as you work through this important book chronicling the church's oft tense relationship to indigenous people."
1. The Creator's Presence Among Native People
2. The Colonization, Evangelization and Assimilation of First Nations People
3. Sweating with Jesus: Stories of the Native Experience
4. A View from the Hill: Emerging Native Expressions of the Jesus Way
5. From Colonization to Contextualization
6. Looking Down the Road: The Future of the Native Church
Editor's Tribute to Richard Twiss
Appendix A: Final Words on Indigenous Education and Theology
Appendix B: What Should We Call You?