Elizabeth Warren, the Cherokee, and Our Need to Belong

Image result for Elizabeth Warren
NYMag.com (A miscalculation. Photo: Jospeh Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

Back in 2012, Elizabeth Warren made the claim that she was part Native American, specifically that she was part Cherokee.  Her family history and lore was simply that she had Cherokee blood, a noble tribe of indigenous Americans, running through her veins.  Four years later, in a tweet, President Trump took a swipe at Ms. Warren’s naiveté, calling her “Pocahontas.” Since then he has doubled-down on this type of rhetoric when referring to the Senator, who is likely to run for President in 2020.

The controversy was revived yesterday, not by President Trump, but by Senator Warren when she released DNA results proving she had Cherokee blood. Though, she reportedly believed she was 1/32 Cherokee, it turned out she was 1/1,032, somewhere between six and 10 generations back.  In other words, she is in the same boat with any other U.S. citizen that has a long family history on this continent.  Of course, the media as well as talk show hosts, politicians, satire groups, and such have latched on to this revelation and is not letting it die.  That is the nature of humanity though; we all do it, as The Main Ingredient rightly sang, “Everybody Plays the Fool.”

That being said, this story is deeper than what most people are realizing or wanting to see. Though Senator Warren has naively stated she had Native American blood coursing through her veins for years, she never seems to have tried to use it politically from what I can find. One can argue that anything a person says during a campaign is using it for political gain; I suppose you can make your decision on that, but I would say that she was simply trying to connect not only with her audience but perhaps to her past.

There is a reason that Ancestry.com and 23andMe.com, and other sites like these are so popular.  People are longing to know where they fit in; in a nation that has become a melting pot, people are interested (and desperate at times) to know their heritage and their family story.  Ancestry.com even has a commercial where one lady apparently traced her heritage back to someone who was the aunt of George Washington.  She smiles as she holds a portrait of the President and introduces us to her “cousin.” Yes, that’s a commercial, but it works! It builds up the longing already in so many to know if they are related to someone famous or even how their family arrived in this country.

The need and sense to belong is a biblical need. There is a reason why most people skip the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles. It is the genealogy of the Jewish nation, from Adam all the way to the return of the exiles to Babylon.  Every Christmas, millions of Christians read the Scriptures in Matthew and Luke dealing with the birth of Christ, but they skip the genealogy portions. Yet, to the Jews and to Jesus, the genealogy was important.  Knowing where and from whom a person came was critical to knowing who and where one was going.  In fact, if one reads in Ezra, upon the return to Jerusalem, there were those claiming to be Levites but they could not prove their ancestry. “These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean,” (Ezra 2:52, ESV).

Part of what it means to be made in God’s image is to be relational beings. He created us with the longing and the need to belong to a people, a group, an identity.  It was not good for man to be alone and so he created woman. God did not abandon mankind, even after his sin and rebellion, but continually sought relationship with man. He walked with Enoch, spoke with Noah, called out Abraham, led the Israelites by fire and cloud, and ultimately, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14a, ESV). He dwelt among us not simply for relational reasons.  He dwelt among us to deliver us from the domain of darkness and transfer us to his own kingdom. God the Father sent God the Son to this world so that through His death and resurrection, we could once again be truly considered as God’s children. It is no accident that the Bible describes the followers of Jesus in relational terms (bride of Christ, children of God, brothers and sisters). There is a reason that we are called to assemble together: there is a real need to belong, to have community, to have relationship, and even to know one’s identity.  Paul even states that there was a time his identity was in his past, but finds it in something and Someone new.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:4b-11, ESV; italics mine)

Everyone, even Elizabeth Warren, has a need to belong. We want to be accepted, loved, and identified by someone or some group.  It is in us.  Some of us may be a bit more naive than others, but it only goes to show how desperate we are to believe we belong.  If you are a believer in Christ Jesus, understand you belong. You belong to the greatest Tribe and the greatest of kingdoms.  Your Father is God, your Brother is Christ. Your identity is wrapped up in Christ. You belong to the family of God.

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