Vine Deloria Jr.,
God is Red: A Native View of Religion
(1972; Fulcrum, 2003)

God is Red is the ultimate book on Native American religion and spirituality, but it is also much more. I am reviewing the 30th anniversary edition. If you have the 1973 or 1992 editions, you should strongly consider getting this latest edition, which adds forewords by Leslie Marmon Silko, a Laguna Pueblo and the author of Ceremony and Almanac of the Dead, and George E. Tinker, an Osage/Cherokee and professor of American Indian Cultures & Religious Traditions at Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

When you begin reading this book, you will quickly find that many of the books and movies reviewed here at Rambles.NET are discussed. Vine Deloria Jr. pulls no punches as he provides his own reviews of these works. Be sure to read his notes at the end of each chapter. He offers excellent commentary, evidence and controversies.

Deloria does an excellent job of explaining the differences in Native American religious beliefs and the typical western Christianity. He puts Christianity under the microscope, breaks out the scientific fact and indigenous evidence, and blows apart all of those carefully constructed beliefs. He flips things around and applies their standards to them. The end result is that the Native Americans are the enlightened ones.

The entire difference can be summed up by two sentences found at the bottom of page 201: "In a sense then, religion must relate to land, and it must dominate and structure culture. It must not be separated from a particular piece of land and a particular community, and it must not be determined by culture."

The most powerful statement in this book has to be: "To admit that certain lands will create divergent beliefs and practices and to change to accommodate to those realities is certainly preferable to extinction."

Deloria offers brilliant insight into the problems of our world and the ways to alleviate those problems. He is analytical, sarcastic, brilliant, funny and too honest for some people ever to appreciate his work. This man has a genius that runs circles around most "thinkers."

Deloria is the author of many books, including Red Earth, White Lies, Custer Died for Your Sins and Evolution, Creationism & Other Modern Myths. He is a (or perhaps the) leading Native American scholar. He has studied, researched, taught and written about history, religion, law and political science. He was named one of the greatest religious thinkers of the 20th century by Time magazine.

God is Red was a groundbreaking piece on Native American religious views when it was originally released in 1973 and, judging by how many times I have been accused of idolatry for talking to trees, it still is today! If anything, this book is more relevant today than it ever has been. Even if you do not agree with Deloria, you will still find the book thought-provoking.

book review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

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