In November of 2017, several organizations collaborated and put on the Would Jesus Eat Frybread Conference in Anchorage, AK. Nations, Invervaristy, the Covenant Youth of Alaska, and Mark Charles helped create a space to discuss if Jesus would eat what has become a delicacy in Indian country, frybread.
Mark Charles, Navajo writer, speaker, blogger, activist guy in the past has said, “Absolutely, Jesus would eat frybread, and not only that, but Jesus would sit with us, he would weep and mourn with us as an oppressed people. Jesus would subject himself to things we experience on our reservations, Jesus would sit at our table and be subjected to what is killing us (frybread is not very healthy). Jesus would gladly do so in order to know us, to understand who we are, because he not only loves us, but he likes us.”
As the emcee/speaker I framed the conference around the theme of Making All Things New. As I studied the Bible and where this verse is found (in Revelation) I realized I wanted to speak about making all things new in the now or what is called renew. So, what is renew? Renew simply means making something new again. It also means to restore to freshness. I resonate with the idea of restoration, because I enjoy working with my hands. Since buying a home my wife and I have had to learn how to paint, fix drywall, change out electrical sockets, and do a lot of yard work. Except for the yard work I’ve found joy in doing the other things. I also dabble in mechanics.
During this past year I’ve had to change out an alternator bracket twice, put on new shock absorbers, get a new alternator, flush out the power steering fluid, and do the routine stuff on my 2003 Honda Odyssey. I also had replace the power steering high pressure hose, and like a noob forgot to unplug the sensor. After all my van has been through, long travels, being stuck in the mud on the rez, carrying around three young children, you could say I am on the brink of having my very own, genuine, authentic “Indian Car!”
When I asked the audience at WJEF what made a car an authentic Indian car they said it needed twine to hold it together, decorative duct tape, drove only in reverse, and someone mention a new Geo Metro. A friend of ours in Kake Alaska would drive around the village in a car with no windshield!
The song “NDN Kars” by Keith Secola is an anthem for any Native person driving around an old, beat up, but faithful vehicle on four (maybe less) wheels. Secola actually wrote the song in response to how an Indian Car was viewed as a negative thing. While Secola was traveling, he was in a gas station bathroom and heard two men make fun of Indians and how they drove around in old, beat up cars, Indian cars. Secola in response to this mockery put a positive spin on Indian cars, and made it to be something cool, hip, and something to be proud of.
Now every Native person (and even some non-Natives) wants an Indian car. They are pretty rare, and to get an Indian car there is serious amount of investment. Like changing the oil, spark plugs, alternators, broken windshields, and do them often. There’s also buying replacement parts, which easily become expensive. Having the right tools is a must, and YouTube.
Having spent so much time on my van has virtually made it family. I use van to drop off my kids every morning for school. We have power doors, and when the girls pull the handle it slowly opens up to the tune of skrreeeeech. Because of the noise my girls named the van “Skweeky.” If I am willing to invest that much time, energy, money and headaches into an old beat up van, how much more will Creator gladly invest in us? The world may see a person as a lost cause, but not in eyes of Creator.
You might feel like an old beat up car, some of you your fenders hanging low (stomach), you need new headlights every year (eye glasses), or your shock absorbers are old like mine (knees), and some of us have bigger tailgates… It doesn’t matter because Creator is in the business of restoration. He began the work with his son who came as a mechanic to work on Indian cars.
And, it doesn’t begin in our bodies, but it begins with our minds. How we think about ourselves, Creator, the world, and others. And, what I love about WJEF is how we get to see, talk and feel with our Native lenses. Some of our lenses are thicker than others, but we are free to think like a Navajo, Zuni, Crow, Blackfeet, as Tlingit, Yup’ic, Apache, Pacific Islander, First Nations, Last Nations, whatever nation.
Ephesians 4:21-24 “For surely you have heard about Jesus and were taught in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt, and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
To help myself and hopefully others understand what the verse is saying I’ve done my own informal translation. I add a lot in the beginning to add context, which is meant to be helpful for those of you who might not have read the Bible.
In the beginning, Creator spoke all of creation into existence; the stars, the sun, earth, water, our first medicine, plants, salmon, eagle, raven, and human kind. A long time ago Creator sent his only son, Jesus to the world to live among the creation. He was born to an earthly mother, into the tribe of Judah, and he grew up as a Hebrew. When Jesus was older he began to tell the people ancient stories about Creator. Jesus is the only one who can tell these sacred stories, because he was there in the beginning with Creator. These sacred stories contained sacred teachings that keep people from living as if they had no relatives. Jesus taught the people how to walk in a good way with Creator, others, and creation. Like the sweat lodge ceremony, we step in the lodge with our anger, self-indulgences, and dishonest ways, but we seek healing in our songs and prayers to Creator. And afterwards, we walk out of the lodge like a new born child with a new mind, and we can start our walk once again on the path towards harmony.
Making All Things New is the work of the Creator, and his Son, who would most definitely, absolutely, without a doubt eat frybread.