The Four Vision Quests of Jesus

Steven Charleston

May/2015, 176 Pages, Paperback, 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN-13: 9780819231734



A unique look at Christian biblical interpretation and theology from the perspective of Native American tradition.

This book focuses on four specific experiences of Jesus as portrayed in the synoptic gospels. It examines each story as a “vision quest,” a universal spiritual phenomenon, but one of particular importance within North American indigenous communities.

Jesus’ experience in the wilderness is the first quest. It speaks to a foundational Native American value: the need to enter into the “we” rather than the “I.” The Transfiguration is the second quest, describing the Native theology of transcendent spirituality that impacts reality and shapes mission. Gethsemane is the third quest. It embodies the Native tradition of the holy men or women, who find their freedom through discipline and concerns for justice, compassion, and human dignity. Golgotha is the final quest. It represents the Native sacrament of sacrifice (e.g., the Sun Dance). The chapter on Golgotha is a discussion of kinship, balance, and harmony: all primary to Native tradition and integral to Christian thought.

Steven Charleston currently serves as visiting professor of Native American traditions at the Saint Paul School of Theology at Oklahoma City University. From 1999-2008, he served as president and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Holder of numerous degrees and a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, he is recognized as an authority on Native American spirituality and as a leading proponent for ecology, justice, and spiritual renewal in the church in both the United States and Canada. He has written multiple books and been called "one of the best preachers in the Episcopal Church." He lives in Oklahoma City.

"In a time when there is a famine of hearing the words of the Lord, Charleston makes an instructive and provocative offering for all on the spiritual journey. The Christ is to be found in every context, and Charleston shares an indigenous encounter with the word-thought-logos of God. This is a deeply significant contribution to Anglican theology through a lens that is likely more congruent with biblical roots in the tribes of the Middle East than currently understood in the West." — The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church

"The Four Vision Quests of Jesus is a startling synoptic vision into the heart of a Native American Testament that will stand alone for years to come. Charleston has captured both the essence of Native American traditional theologies and the power of the Native Jesus in a spiritual quest that draws peoples and nations into common kinship. From the sweat lodge to the cross—a sacred giveaway, a holy dance, poetry of faith clothed in Native American experience."— Thom White Wolf Fassett (Seneca), author of Giving Our Hearts Away: Native American Survival

"Compelling, compassionate, consummate—this is among the finest articulations of episcopal wisdom I have ever read. With principled clarity, Bishop Steven Charleston lays bare the tragic facts of indigenous experience even as simultaneously he weaves with prophetic courage and deep love the enduring message of Christian hope. In this book, his best yet, is contained inestimable riches for those seeking for a dignified and faith filled way through the personal and political dilemmas inherent in contemporary identity politics."— Jenny Te Paa Daniel, PhD, Theologian, grandmother, and fisherwoman (Maori)

"Steven Charleston, both a Choctaw Indian and a Christian bishop, gives the reader an engaging journey through the Gospel of Matthew. You are drawn into successive visions of Jesus as interpreted from a Native American perspective. The work is an evocative combination of Christianity and Native American tradition."— Blue Clark (Muscogee/Creek), Professor, Oklahoma City University

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