Ethnic Labels

Category: By Christian
The thing I most value about my seminary is the diversity we have. I visited a seminary across town for a class once, and it was kind of like the Twilight Zone. Everybody had the same extreme views and I was always a little afraid to open my mouth because I knew I'd get unceremoniously blasted behind my back. It was a little freaky.

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks Central Baptist Theological Seminary is homogeneous. Ok. I think we're all Christians. But racially and theologically, we cover a pretty broad spectrum. People who will only use the King James are able to sit down with hard core NRSV proponents and talk about all things God. It's cool.

One of my favorite students is a gentleman who is part Cherokee. He ministers to Native American populations in Oklahoma, and I always find his theological, spiritual and sociological insights fascinating. So in class yesterday, he introduced me to the acronym NDN. It sounds like "Indian", but he informed us that it stands for Non Dominant Native.

At first I thought it was just a cool label. But as I've thought about it over the past day, I have found it to be both scathing and creative. You know that I have come to a point where I find the use of any derivative of "Nigger" unacceptable regardless of the color of the person using it. Not that adopting racial slurs and laying claim to them is a new idea. Some historians think the term "Hebrew" was a slur used by the Egyptians to disparage the Jewish people. There are other countless examples. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

What I found to be refreshing about NDN is that it seems to speak a poignant truth. There are a group of people in this country whose history in this place is much deeper and richer than ours. And yet, this group does not have a dominant voice. That is one powerful acronym, using sounds that were actually a misrepresentation of who this group was thought to be. It's a statement that is not overly pugnacious, nor is it hollow and destructive to the community. It certainly will be stored away in my mind as a reminder every time I hear someone use the term "Indian".

Fair Dinkum

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