MONDAY’S COLUMN: NEAL AT THE CROSS
In the wake of James Polk’s vision for “manifest destiny,” the United States purchased and/or fought for the territory that gave us the current boundaries of our nation. To maintain and protect this newfound territory, one of the military strategies included the building of forts throughout the west to protect settlers from especially the Native American tribes who were reacting to the invasion of their ancestral home. Kit Carson, former fur trapper, explorer, and extraordinary tracker, was a civilian ultimately urged into serving out west in a military stretched thin back east by the Civil War. He was appointed by General James Carleton to round up 9000 Navajo and 500 Mescalero Apache and place them in a reservation Carleton dreamed up. From the time he visited there, he was enamored with the terrain, trees, and beauty of the place. So the nearly 10,000 Native Americans were detained and displaced and forced to settle at Bosque Redondo.
While it was a disaster on paper, it was even worse in real life. Neither the Navajo nor Apache were agrarian people, but both were forced to farm. They were enemies of one another, but they were forced to live together at Bosque Redondo. The crops were destroyed by cut worms and hail storms, and the army rations inadequate. The water was alkaline, making them sick. Smallpox decimated their numbers. Winters were bitterly cold and the inhabitants were ill-prepared and ill-equipped. They were forced laborers, slaves ironically settled at this reservation by the U.S. Government and President Lincoln the very year of the Emancipation Proclamation. It was as much a failure for the government. It was an exorbitantly expensive venture, costly to start and even more to maintain. Beyond the inhumanity and immorality of the venture, it was inept and inane. Carlton envisioned paradise, but delivered purgatory (information a summary of content in Hampton Side’s book, Blood And Thunder).
Bosque Redondo is but one example of the disaster which follow’s man’s attempt to create what he vainly sees as either utopian or idyllic. Contrast that with some of God’s plans. First, He put man and woman in a perfect paradise wherein He supplied their every need (Gen. 2:8-14). Later, after they sinned and were expelled from there, God promised a land which flowed with milk and honey. It was a good and spacious land (Exo. 3:8). While sin tainted their existence there and ultimately cost them ownership, the provision was not the problem.
Along the way, God promised the creation of a domain unlike any other. It would be for all nations (Gen. 22:18; Isa. 2:2). It would never be destroyed, nor left to other peoples (Dan. 2:44). It was the result of the eternal planning and purpose of God (Eph. 3:9-11). God left a perfect blueprint for its creation and for the citizens’ conduct (Isa. 2:3; Mic. 4:2). We know it as the church (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4). It is described in that epistle: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (2:19-22).
In this divine institution, God has brought together people diverse and unlike each other and united them through His Son. He has taken spiritual slaves and gave them freedom. He has taken those poor and emaciated by sin and made them rich (Eph. 2:7; Phil. 4:19). He has given them boundless blessings by His Son (Eph. 1:3). His church is right in design, discharge, and destiny. Far from a blunder, His body is a bountiful blessing! Only God could take a people besieged by sin and dysfunction and give us something infinitely better. Just imagine what our eternal home is going to be (Rev. 21-22)!