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. I appreciate all the thoughtful comments today.
    Lent Madness today has done the serious business of revealing the world’s madness while at the same time offered us beautiful testimonies of lives lived in the footsteps of Jesus.
    Examples for us all.

  2. Thank you for the moving writing on behalf of both saints. As an Anglican in a church wrestling with the legacy of it's involvement with the slave trade my vote goes to Jonathan Daniels who put words into action.

  3. Both essays are inspiring and beautiful statements of the justice and love we are called to live as Christians. Thank you Eva and David.

  4. This was the toughest call of all for me. Both stories point to the church's history of failure to live up to the promise to "respect the dignity of every human being." We still have work to do. Whoever wins today will be my choice for the Golden Halo.

  5. I didn’t vote for either of these men in previous rounds & don’t want to ️ for one in this round either. The write ups today show both are worthy since both lost all they had Chief Sealth lost his land but Jonathan Daniels lost his life.
    Joanna could probably beat Seattle easier tomorrow but Daniels gets my vote today being braver than myself.

  6. In addition to the bloggers and all who put together this Madness, I want to thank those who write thoughtful comments and provide links to go deeper into the background of the saints. Your thoughtful comments fuel deeper thoughts on my part and expand my spiritual growth.
    Thanks to you all.

  7. Thank you to all for another awesome Lent Madness of learning and decision making
    Blessings for a wonderful Holy Week and Easter to everyone✝️

  8. Still think this is another year for the Silver Halo to make another appearance.

    1. Patricia is right- this is a good year for a Silver Halo cup. I would buy one for either of these saints. My favorite coffee mug is my Silver Halo Julian of Norwich mug, because it has her famous All Shall Be Well quote and it holds two cups of coffee. How about it??

    2. I second the motion! Both of today's saints deserve all the halos they can wear.

  9. I think both candidates have merit, but, since I can't vote for both, I had to make a choice. I chose Chief Seattle thinking that his attributes covered both the issue of the treatment of Native Americans and the treatment of Africans and others of non-white people.

  10. I seem to be in the minority here but it wasn’t difficult for me to choose Jonathan Daniels especially on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Greater love…..”

  11. Native Americans are often left behind. They don’t have the voice that other minority groups have. We often acknowledge the injustices to the black community, but very seldom do we recognized what happened to the original residence of our country!

  12. Eva Saurez,
    What an amazing essay about the truth of it all,
    describing the reality of how things were, and the
    will of one man to make a difference in the world.
    Thank you!

    Rob O.
    CTK Yorktown VA
    Yorktown VA

  13. Both of these men could/should wear the Golden Halo! Excellent write ups for both! I pray that I and the whole church would not forget that racism in all its forms is still with us and that we would find ways to make Gal. 3:28 a true reality!

  14. Of all days for a glitch in the system! There is no place for me to vote. The screen went directly from the end of Chief Seattle's write up to the Comment section. Help!

    1. Try another device -- phone, iPad, someone else's computer, or even the library's computer.

  15. My vote is for Chief Sealth. Not just for the symbology, but also for his example, as someone who came from a warrior tradition, and had enslaved people, and turned to peace and freedom for all.

    Also, I believe that with talk of reparations, we must also speak of reparations to the remnant of the indigenous peoples of this land.

    I applaud Jonathan Daniels for his witness, his devotion, his courage, and his sacrifice. He would be a fine winner of the Golden Halo. But Chief Sealth, an indigenous person who also bravely walked the Christian walk, even when others of his people opposed his choice, is the one I'd like to see awarded the Golden Halo this year.

  16. And, of course, no sooner did I post a comment about no ability to vote than the voting option finally popped up! Such good, thoughtful, write ups on both -- I could be happy with either winning.

  17. I participated in This is Sacred Ground program offered by the Spokane episcopal diocese and it opened my eyes to the injustice the privilege white populations invoked on those who were not white. If you have not participated in this program I strongly recommend it as has Bishop Michael Curry
    Voting today was challenging since both the Black and Indigenous races were treated unjustly I ended up voting for Chief Seath because the privilege white took what belonged to the Indigenous people first.

  18. Another tough matchup (Jon has faced some tough ones this year!—no easy path). Two excellent, heartfelt reflections today, too. I have to go with Jon as he was my parents’ friend in seminary, and it was my parents, Jack and Nancy Lawton, who organized that first trip from Boston to Selma in March, 1965 to respond to the Rev. Dr. King’s call after Bloody Sunday. My mother’s last public act was to testify at General Convention in 1991 to add Jon to our calendar (both my parents tragically died a few days later—another story). Oh, my mother would be moved to see her friend so honored and remembered all these years later! — she described it in her testimony then as “efficacious remembering.” Anyway, I vote in honor of my parents as much as Jonathan, and in honor of that Civil Rights generation, led by our Black siblings always, but joined by people of all races and ethnicities in a taste of God’s beloved community. I pray we we continue their work, knowing this will not be completed in our time, either, but knowing that racial justice, reckoning, healing is the work of many generations. Grateful to have this great cloud of witnesses, including Jonathan, to strengthen and guide us on the way.

  19. What sorrow that our country -- and, as Eva Suarez says, therefore our church -- should have such a long, bitter history of white supremist oppression. Over against the natives of the land where we came as refugees and then became conquerors. Over against the African people we brought here as slaves. Over against the Asian people whose labor we exploited but whose humanity we denied. And then we can talk about male over female, rich over poor. So many "isms" that divide people who are called to live as one in community.
    Maybe it's some sort of sign of hope that these two men have been recognized by thousands of Lent Madness participants as worthy of our respect called the Golden Halo.
    I am part of the white society that has benefited all my life from racist privilege, so I feel compelled to vote for my brother Jonathan who was part of that same society but who stepped out of his privilege to serve the oppressed and ultimately died in that service. I honor Chief Sealth and all of the people he represents, and should he win our LM Golden Halo, I will be very pleased in spite of my own vote.

    1. I seem to have written this with my mind thinking it was already tomorrow. No offense to Joanna for whom I have voted three times out of four! Whichever man wins today, tomorrow will be an exciting race.

  20. ʔíy ɬ tit sqʼíx̣! - good day, I come to you speaking a different coastal Salish language than would have been spoken by Chief Sealth - but one likely at least partially understandable to the Lushootseed speakers of the Seattle area. Our languages have been decimated and mostly forgotten. Much of this was due to the boarding schools often run by churches (including the one to which I belong). So many of my fellow tribal members want no part of the "white man's church". ɬit kʼʷənámʼɬ kn Sealth, I will vote for Chief Sealth today, to remind others of the injustices done to the Natives of this area and that Natives can be followers of Christ and still be Native.

  21. I voted for Jonathan each time. I voted for Chief Seattle each time. Each of them worked and sacrificed for others. Each is a saint worthy of the Golden Halo.
    This time I voted for Chief Seattle, and I'm not exactly sure why, perhaps because I feel we've been even more cruel to Native Americans than to African Americans?

  22. These two biographies today were beautifully written and gave us much pause on the real meaning of Lent. I am grateful to the two writers who turned this fun and enlightening exercise into something meaningful and thought provoking.

  23. Both Eva Suarez and David Creech were outstanding today. Both write-ups brought an ache in the throat and tears to my eyes. Thank you for this positive madness.

  24. This is what has confused me about Seattle in this competition: if he really believed that the white man's God didn't fully love him, why was he baptized a Christian?

  25. Chief Seattle for me. The fact that so many are voting for Jonathan Daniels, a worthy person for sure, just feels like white supremacy at its best. Yes, Daniels gave his life for his friends, but didn’t Sealth also give his life for his people? Did he not rightly call out the hypocrisy of the “white man’s God”? Yet he has been called out on most of these pages for not “being Christian enough” to win a halo. I would suggest those who feel that way re-examine their definition of “Christian”. And, while both are worthy, isn’t it time we raise up someone who fought for his oppressed people, a people who have yet to be recognized as a people grievously harmed by the white patriarchy? When will we start to recognize their heroes? I say today!

  26. Where is the Episcopalian service apologizing for the Native American Slaughter, enslavement, treaty violations, murder and forced migration. The New York cathedral is built on Native Lands inhabited by my people the Lenape and others before the Europeans arrived. Where is my service of apology and Healing? It inflames Mr that only African Americans get apologized too. Your trading companies gave us small pox and wiped out a majority of my people before finishing then off on the trail of tears and forced into reservations to starve and become dependent on the Government. This match up today disgusts me in the write up of the cathedral and their “healing” service. It has not healed me it my people.

  27. we must be aware that racism is not a uniquely American sin, slavery is not a uniquely American sin. Our fundamental sin of denying the precious belovedness of every one of God's children is a universal sorrow and shame of humanity.

  28. Today I went to vote for both heroes. Workers for GOD, apostles of modern time.
    People came here for freedom. Where did the love of mankind go? When did they loose the God given teachings that we are all one and the same. God created us all. The differences are the beauty. Think of all the things we could have learned by opening up our hearts and minds. We can still learn and care for our brothers and Sisters In Christ .

  29. What thoughtful and good essays about how the lives of our saints have an enormous influence of our current situation!

  30. I truly thought I'd be taking Chief Seattle all the way; then today's write-ups stirred something else in me I couldn't ignore. Not only that, but I'm not certain I could coherently explain my vote. I am calling my vote for Jonathan Myrick Daniels a welcome mystery.