June 16, 2002

Proselytizer fires up Potter


AUTHOR: John Potter, Columnist for The Billings Gazette

Well, whatever…

I’ve moved again.

Yeah, my wife and I decided that our lives were seriously lacking in stress and frustration – not nearly enough pain and agony – so, rather than pound nails into our heads, we moved.

Next time, I’m gonna pound nails into my head.

Actually, the real reasons we moved are a lot less complicated than that. Much like the Pilgrims, we moved because of religious persecution.

Some folks just keep trying to shove their religious beliefs down my throat. How arrogant.

How insecure.

Get this: I recently received a book, entitled “The Conquering Indian,” sent to me by a certain reader who believes that I’m on the road to eternal damnation simply because I’m not a Christian, and because I choose to follow my Native beliefs. This is, no doubt, the same woman who wrote to inform me that unless my wife and I pick up a Bible RIGHT NOW, we’re going to hell in a flamin’ handbasket.

Let me say this again, as politely as possible:


Again, as I’ve said so many times, I don’t believe in hell – although, I have spent a few enchanted evenings at the old Arcade Bar.

Look, can I be frank? Can I just be whoever I want?

This book ticked me off.

“The Conquering Indian” is a compilation of “70 personal stories of Faith and Victory from those who conquered 10 problem areas that Native Americans face.”

The “problem areas” addressed in the book include “Alcohol and Drugs,” “Sexual Sins and AIDS,” “Anger and Abuse,” and, my personal favorite “problem area” – “Spirits and Superstitutions.”

I honestly don’t know what a “Superstitution” is – maybe you have to be a Christian to gain access to that kind of knowledge – but I do know that I resent having my religious beliefs referred to as such.

Here’s what else I resent:

Holding Native beliefs

The book’s “stories of Faith and Victory” all carry the implication that Indians are suffering from these “problem areas” BECAUSE they were holding onto their Native beliefs. In one testimony that I read, everything finally turned just rosy for this one Indian couple only when they “destroyed the religious items of their pagan native beliefs” and accepted Christ as their savior.

In a nutshell (which is perhaps where this particular reader belongs), the book says that the only way Indians will ever have a decent life, and afterlife, is if they turn their backs on their Native beliefs and turn to Christ instead.

Whatever, man.

Look, if you’ve got a “problem area” in your life -and who doesn’t – go to the source, whatever source you believe in, ask for help, and deal with it.

If it’s the Bible, more power to ya. If it’s the Koran, go for it. I don’t care if it’s Martha Stewart, just do it.

‘Settling problems’

Now I’ve got nothin’ against Christianity, mind you, some of my best friends are Christians. Real ones. But I submit to you that Indians, in general, might not even HAVE these “problem areas” in their lives were it not for the religious zeal with which this land was “settled.”

And, I submit further, that certain “problem areas” in my OWN life were resolved BECAUSE I turned to my Native beliefs.

Even so, my dear concerned reader, if you come to my house, I won’t urge you to take up the Sacred Pipe. I won’t insist that you go fasting alone in the mountains, or even that you vow to Sun Dance. I would rather pound nails in my head than shove my religious beliefs down your throat.

I will, however, highly recommend “The Conquering Indian” to all my friends, thank you very much. They can use it to start their Sweat Lodge fires.

I've seen the light.


John Potter’s Whatever column appears in The Gazette every other Saturday. Readers may contact him at

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