Chief Seattle vs. Jonathan Daniels

Who will face Joanna the Myrrhbearer for the Golden Halo? That's the question of the day, following Joanna's victory over Martin de Porres 58% to 42%, as Chief Seattle faces Jonathan Daniels.

To get to the Faithful Four, Chief Seattle defeated Botulph, John Donne, and Bertha of Kent, while Jonathan bested Rutilio Grande, Josephine Bakhita, and Florence Li Tim-Oi.

In case you missed the last in-season episode of Monday Madness, you can watch it here.

Vote now!

Jonathan Daniels

The Episcopal Diocese of New York, where I serve, held an official “Service of Apology for the Endurance of Slavery” a little over two weeks ago. This liturgy and institutional apology came about after years of work by our Diocesan Reparations Committee and many difficult conversations within parishes all over the diocese. 

Reactions were, as you might imagine, mixed. Many were moved by the service; by the effort at institutional responsibility for the spiritual injury of racism. Others felt it didn’t go far enough, that a white male bishop apologized in the midst of a mostly white church hierarchy that remained seemingly unchallenged and unchanged. And still others thought the whole thing was unnecessary; nothing but more talk and self-flagellation about troubles of the past. 

By now we’ve all heard countless references to a “racial reckoning” over the last few years in the United States but let’s face it…we’re always having a racial reckoning in the United States. From its founding until now, my country – and because of that, my church – has been locked in a struggle around race and racism. I don’t have the word count to do justice to the harms done to black people by a white supremacist power structure and by white people; nor to sufficiently acknowledge the incredible labor done by black leaders and their allies to move all of us forward; or the degree to which we do not yet have a free society “with liberty and justice for all.”

Within the Episcopal Church, I have been in both majority-white and majority-black spaces (and a few more integrated rooms) where people have had brave and open conversations about their personal biases and the legacy of white supremacy in the church. And I have been in all-white rooms where leaders have said, “this isn’t P.C, but…” We succeed and we fail, and over and over again we doubt one another’s motives and sincerity and struggle with our own defensiveness and pride. And we are the church! Disciples of Jesus Christ who is himself our peace and has through his very body made the two into one and torn down the dividing wall – we could and should be better at this.

I think Jonathan Daniels would understand all this. He grasped the difficulty and necessity of this whole enterprise. In his writing, no one was defined by their race, or defined by their hate; and he doesn’t seem to have subscribed to the myth of a color-blind society that makes so many people want to brush all of this under the rug in favor of some general niceness. Jonathan understood as Christians we have to thread a difficult needle; both refusing to compromise on the dignity of every human being and refusing to write off people who are mired in bigotry. He knew we have to somehow, some way, bring them along to the Kingdom.

Because the Kingdom was Jonathan’s goal. He and his friends plunged into the midst of a complex and dangerous social conflict much like Jesus commissioned the 72; they went out like lambs into the midst of wolves, speaking peace and staying wherever they were welcomed. But he never wiped the dust off his feet. He shed illusions of his own perfection and self-righteousness and became braver and more loving, and he was not afraid to take note of that inward journey; of how much he had changed and how much further he had to go to grow in the knowledge and love of God. And he knew ultimately that journey was shared.

Jonathan Daniels is a mighty witness. He lived and died by our Baptismal covenant and laid down his life for his friends. And enough of him remains with us that he feels real and alive, like the words of that old hymn really are true, that “the saints of God are just folk like me, and I want to be one too.”

— Eva Suarez

Chief Seattle

I live on Osceola Avenue. Osceola was a Seminole leader who resisted the United States’ forced migration of him and his people from Florida. He was betrayed by the United States government after coming to them under a white flag for peace negotiations. He died in prison.

Osceola Avenue is a small residential street in Saint Paul. Saint Paul was established on the ancestral homeland of the Dakota. Saint Paul is located in Ramsey County, in honor of Alexander Ramsey, the first territorial governor of Minnesota. Ramsey mobilized a volunteer army and militia against a collection of Dakota tribes, culminating in the largest mass execution in United States history (approved by the great emancipator, Abraham Lincoln) when 38 Dakota natives were hung in Mankato. Their land had been taken from them and they had been defrauded of millions of dollars by corrupt bureaucrats, so they fought back. We kept records of the white settlers and soldiers killed in the conflict. We have no idea how many Dakota lives were lost (nor how many had starved and died of various diseases after being forced onto a reservation that could not sustain them).

Stories such as these reverberate throughout the history of the United States, even to the present day.

Chief Sealth was forced to agree to a treaty that would not be honored, his people exiled from a land they had long inhabited. His famous speech (found here) offers a brief theological reflection that should give us pause:

The white man’s God cannot love our people or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help. . . If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial . . .

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more perfect articulation of James Cone’s notion of white theology, a theology that justifies oppression and divinely sanctions egregious acts against those who are marginalized.

Sealth is a challenging saint for me to reckon with. His words and witness force me to confront my own apathy and grapple with the messy intertwined histories of colonialism and Christianity. He boldly spoke truth to power and advocated for those who were being crushed under the inexorable advance of the “manifest destiny.” Foreseeing the human and environmental devastation, he reminded the colonizing powers of the cost. It was to no avail.

Winning the Golden Halo in this absurd and beautiful competition will not rectify the wrongs. But maybe it can remind us of God’s own self-revelation as an emptied and broken human being, one who was crushed by a cruel and unforgiving empire, only to be raised on the third day as promise that one day God would make right the many horrors suffered by people like him. If that hope is not Lenten madness, I don’t know what is.

David Creech

 

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96 comments on “Chief Seattle vs. Jonathan Daniels”

  1. Another excellent post by The Rev. Suarez about Jonathan Myrick Daniels: a martyr for our time. Timely and timeless. I hope he will go all the way to The Golden Halo! He has my vote.

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  2. What an amazing set of Faithful Four! Even as I vote to narrow them down to two and then one, I can see any one of them wearing that Golden Halo.

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  3. Another tough decision. Both individuals were lobbing for cultures whose existence were threatened.

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  4. Both write ups are thought-provoking. A pity we can only choose one.
    I love the new insights and appreciate the pain (of some of the stories and some of the choices) that come to us through Lent Madness. Well done, Forward Movement!

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    1. Eventually it does come down to a face off, if not in the early brackets then in the penultimate or ultimate one. Choose or abstain, that's the choice.

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  5. Both saints call us “to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” I voted for Jonathan Daniels because his example is what I need. I can’t aspire to speak courageously as a leader of an oppressed people. I can aspire to lay down my privilege and join hands with those who are oppressed.

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    1. The outcome of that thinking is that you voted for a white male. You voted by your race and class.

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      1. That’s not a thing you can know though, is it? We all bring our innate biases to this ultimately transient annual experience. Mine was forged in the late 1950s and early 1960s segregated South, so it’s Jonathan for the Golden Halo for me.

        Much as I admire the blessed Sealth, he was, in the end, a collaborator with the colonizers: for worthy reasons, but. He sublimated his own much older, beautiful, and our continent’s original, culture in order to access decision makers and to attempt to save his people. He sacrificed his identity in a fruitless endeavor to stop the destruction. I can’t say if his conversion was a mostly strategic; perhaps it wasn’t. He did the best he could with what he had, as leaders do.

        It doesn’t make him bad, but nor does it make all “white male” humans bad either. I understand your choice but please don’t reduce mine to an epithet. I get enough of that mindset with my Christian name. May God bless your vote, and all of us.

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  6. Greater love hath no one than those who lay down their life for another. For that reason I must vote for Jonathan Myrick Daniels.

    And for those of you just leaning about 38 members of the Dakota tribe that were hung in Minnesota during the Civil War, and the rest of you too, I recommend reading Lincoln's bishop : a president, a priest, and the fate of 300 Dakota Sioux warriors - https://www.worldcat.org/title/857966850

    If not for the intervention of the first Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota, the Rt. Rev. Henry Benjamin Whipple, that number could have included 265 additional members of the tribe for a total of 303 executions.

    And if you want more reading about unjust executions, see this New Yorker article from 8/31/2009 . . . https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/09/07/trial-by-fire . . . least you think that unjust executions are a thing of the distant past.

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  7. David Creech’s writing about the institution (the white church) justifying any crushing act to maintain those already in power reminds me of the ongoing discrimination being legalized in Florida and other right wing states.
    We must keep fighting. We must be witness to the Jesus movement everyday as Daniel’s did.

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  8. It is hard to vote against saints I voted for earlier and who I honor so much.

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    1. I prefer to think of it as voting for a Saint. And far better to have a hard choice between two worthies than to hold one's nose and vote for the less repellent as we have to sometimes in secular elections.

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  9. I came into today’s match up thinking I’d probably vote for Jonathan - and was so impressed with the power of Eva’s words about him. And then I was brought to tears by David’s words about Chief Seattle.
    I may have to think on this a while. Thank you Eva & David for your thoughtful and challenging summaries.

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    1. I feel the same. I voted for both all along and had every intention of voting for Jonathan Daniels. Then I read the write up on Chiefs Seattle and now I’m not sure. Both right ups were excellent and I think it’s going to take me some time to decide. Reading the comments hasn’t really helped; I agree with all of them. But I will make a decision and vote.

  10. Wow! Tough choice…. each advocating for all races be treated as God’s children. I am reminded of Jonah sitting under a tree which God provided in order that Jonah have shade. Jonah becomes agitated because a worm ate the tree and God won’t kill ‘the evil people’. Why? God says because He has mercy within mercy, within mercy. How can God kill his children. Jonathan seems to me an example of mercy to those who are not like him or think like him. Might that be mercy, within mercy, within mercy.

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  11. Again, a tough choice. Thanks be to God for all faithful witnesses. May we do a better job of following their examples. And thanks be to God for all who have brought us Lent Madness for all many years, teaching us about these witnesses and, in the process, about ourselves. A blessed Holy Week and a glorious Easter to you all.

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  12. Seattle prophesied as a voice of the remnant, and I believe the dominant culture should continue to amplify that voice. (The Hebrew prophets who spoke as a remnant are similar.) Seattle spoke for his people as white supremacist empire destroyed his way of life. I vote on behalf of the Indigenous people who are still fighting to reclaim Native land, and to amplify Native values. I'm amazed Seattle aka Noah chose to adopt Christianity (even as I pray he was not coerced to do so). I wonder why he chose the name Noah for himself?

    If Daniels wins this round, it will still be cause for rejoicing, as the dominant culture should take note of and strive to be more like his excellent example.

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  13. I have hoped for Jonathan All the Way during this Lent Madness, with his courage, his wisdom, and his martyrdom to save another. After reading his speech linked in this write up in its entirety, I am moved to tears, and feel the crush of our incredible inhumanity. My vote today goes to Sealth. As a side note, I did buy a t-shirt from the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, and it is of excellent quality rare in women's t-shirts these days and awesome in design, longer than most t-shirts but not too long.

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    1. They have women’s t-shirts? Which style? I was looking at them and I wanted one but I didn’t think they came in women’s.

  14. Like all Episcopalians, I love Jonathan Daniels. We need more like him today: people who stand up for what is right because conscience is more important than consequence. But in the end I had to vote for Chief Seattle. Jonathan Daniels will always be a member of the extremely privileged elite. It is admirable that he chose to surrender that privilege for a time--he was not forced to withdraw from seminary, or forced to choose between his calling and his response to King, nor was he threatened with being disinherited by his family. By contrast, Chief Seattle had nothing to return to. He had no members of the privileged elite standing with him. His choice was not to delay his career, or sacrifice a season of his life, or even to sacrifice his own life. His choice was whether to sacrifice the young and strong of his nation, to fight a losing battle that would result in the elimination of his nation from the face of the earth, or to give up everything to save a few lives. Jonathan's action resonates through to us today as individuals, Chief Seattle's words are prescient and vital for all of us in every generation to heed if we are to survive as a species.

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    1. Wow. Well prayed. My heart is wrung by Sealth and you expressed it powerfully.

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  15. WOW. I am moved to tears with these 2 write-ups. Both equally powerful. Thank you Celebrity Bloggers!!!

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  16. This is my first year at this Madness. And I come from a tradition that rarely considers the saints. But I have loved this process. It's made me laugh at some of the absurdities (the Saintly Tat round was brilliant!), reflect and challenge myself all in one swoop. I have learned a lot more than I thought.

    The authors of each post have been brilliant. Thank you.

    And as for today's vote... this is a difficult one! Both could easily be Golden Halo wearers!

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  17. Today is the 55th anniversary of the assassination of MLK Jr. I thought it was prophetic, so Jonathan got my vote.

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  18. This is a difficult choice. Both men fighting for freedom in their own way. So much pain in Lincoln's time with the punishment of our Native and African Americans. Both are still struggling for freedom. Chief Seattle and Johnathan proved to be leaders of faith. My path moves to Chief Seattle and his trust and faith of the human race and love of the earth

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  19. Magnificent write-ups, both authors. They are each pure oratory, and I mean that in the finest sense. Both of these homages constitute prophetic witness. The images you have chosen are particularly beautiful. My favorite is the one of Jonathan Daniels reading with the little black girl. I voted for Jonathan Daniels, and I hope he will be named to the Golden Halo this year, but David Creech's homage to Sealth reminds me that "this absurd and beautiful competition" is for us and not for the figures we discuss each year. The penultimate round this year feels particularly weighty to me, I think because we are touching on the deepest vein of contradiction in U.S. culture: the colonial heritage that fuels so much pain and hate. “Freedom” in the U.S. has always embraced slavery, segregation, domestic terrorism, inequality, and ecological depradation. Every year we weigh contemplation against good works; today’s set of reflections makes me feel, poignantly, that they are the same, that contemplation and activism bubble from the same source, that our hope and the race we run are the same. Thank you, bloggers, for your commitment to, and dedicated witness on behalf of, this inspired, “mad” Lenten devotional, which has proved to be utterly life sustaining.

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  20. I was leaning toward Jonathan, but then David's final paragraph about Chief Sealth carried the day. A powerful piece of writing!

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  21. I've been voting for Jonathan Myrick Daniels consistently this Lent, so it is no surprise I voted for him again today. Eva Suarez's eloquent argument only bolstered my inclination. But David Creech's strong defence of Chief Sealth/Seattle certainly made me reconsider my decision. And it goes without saying that all the contestants are worthy of the Golden Halo!

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  22. Torn again, I resorted to the coin toss. It fell in favour of Jonathan, but I will not be sad if Chief Seattle edges him out. I can only wish that there was more than one Golden Halo!

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  23. Beautifully written David Creech. I was brought to tears by both saints. The pain evoked by Chief Seattle is more piercing. Jesus still weeps.

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  24. I stopped getting an email last week. Still none even tho I have signed up on Lenten page.

  25. This was a hard one! I was all the way for John Daniels but Mr. Creech makes a good argument.

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  26. Proposal for Lent Madness 2024: end the madness with the Final Four. Why do we need to to winnow it to one so-called champion? A clear example for this change is the 2023 Final Four. They are each true saints - clear and bold teachers, North Stars who guide us by their lives and what they left for us to know.

    Choosing one over the other yesterday, today, or tomorrow is clearly madness.

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    1. Yes, the final four should at least be a 'round-robin' vote to see how each does against the other three. But what great write-ups! I man still have to abstain today, but not for my original reason of going with Joanna or Martin.

  27. I think Jonathan Daniela—who I would ordinarily vote for— would encourage us to vote for the non-white guy who struggled to save his people and their home and livelihood

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