One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indian Jokes

Warning: Below I’m going to say something crude, socially unacceptable and politically incorrect.

First, some background.

A few days ago I went to one of the sessions of the missionary conference at church. They had an international banquet, and the speaker was a man whose last name starts with W. He and his wife were going to an Indian reservation in South Dakota to spread the Gospel there.

I expected W. might have something interesting to say about ministering to Indians. (Or Native Americans, for those who think I’m being politically incorrect already.)

He didn’t say much of anything I didn’t already know. He quoted numerous Scripture verses, but I believe many were misapplied. And I didn’t sense much depth in him. Although I’m sure his question and answer session impressed an ignorant audience.

W. is 70 years old, but I got the impression he’s a novice when it comes to ministry to Indians. He was saved at age 36 and has held a number of ministry positions. His interest in Indians came about within the past 5-6 years.

It’s wonderful that a senior citizen became saved sometime along the way and is zealous about spreading the Gospel. On the other hand, it may sound harsh, but my first thought when I heard him lay out his resume is that he’s a kind of ministry butterfly.

Does he stay at anything long enough to take it seriously? Why should I or anyone else take him seriously?

OK, enough skepticism about this man for the moment. Allow a brief, but relevant diversion.

Several years ago our children went on a brief summer missions trip with church people to the Crow Indian reservation in Montana. My daughter was sure she wanted to go back and minister to the children there. Events of life, including upcoming marriage, have nearly snuffed out that ambition.

In an effort to educate myself about our Indian friends, I’ve read the books by Crying Wind as well as those of Kent Nerburn about his travels with an Indian elder.

Thus, I felt well informed when listening to W.’s missionary conference presentation.

W. started out by telling three jokes about Indians. I won’t bother to relate any of them here. They seemed innocent enough, but they reinforced stereotypes about Indians and white people’s relationship to them.

The audience laughed. I’d heard the jokes before and found them boring. I also found them offensive.

It’s hardly culturally sensitive for W. to tell such jokes. Does he respect Indians? Did he hear the jokes from Indians? Do they laugh when they hear them? I’d feel better if the answers to those questions was affirmative.

Call me politically correct or even liberal if you like. But this isn’t about that. I thought W. came to talk to us about precious souls. Maybe he’s more sensitive than I give him credit for. But why didn’t that come through to me?

He says he and his wife love the Indians the same way Paul loved Israel, as expressed in the first few verses of Romans 10. I find that difficult to believe.

Nonetheless, the comparison to Paul brings up the question: What joke book did Paul use?

I had hoped W. came to us with a more serious view of both God’s word and the people he and his wife were intending to minister to.

Instead, W. strikes me as an insensitive Baptist rounder.

Oops! I let his denominational affiliation slip, didn’t I? My bias is showing. And we haven’t even gotten to the politically incorrect part of this post.

Why is it that nearly every preacher and special speaker feels the need to tell jokes before getting into the subject matter? Why must they treat the handling of God’s holy word as if they’re stand up comics warming up the audience?

If W. were seeking to raise support to minister to inner city blacks in a major metropolitan area, would it be acceptable if he told “n i g g e r” jokes?

(I spread out the spelling of the word so WordPress doesn’t take offense and shut down this blog. What that says about our sensitivities is another story in itself.)

So, yes, I was both offended and bored by W. It’s not the cross which strikes me as foolish. It’s the fools who talk about it that bother me.

But here’s something in his defense.

He and his wife may do a mighty work for the Lord among the Indians they minister to. They may accomplish a hundred times more than I could if I were in his position.

I don’t know that. I’m only speculating.

A friend rebuked me years ago, telling me not to question what the Holy Spirit can use.

It’s strange to me what the Lord can do. I marvel at it.

I only wish those who go forth in the name of the Lord to spread His Gospel would have a much greater respect for both His word and the people they minister to.

Is that too much to ask?

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