Healing Haunted Histories

In Healing Haunted Histories, Elaine Enns and Ched Myers invite readers to consider how the call to follow Jesus is also a summons to racial justice and decolonization. They chart a path for how we can dig into our family histories to face our own “ghosts” of settler colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and white supremacy.

This 400-page book is equal parts: memoir (mostly focusing on Enns’ Mennonite family and community, who endured the Russian Civil War, fled the Soviet aftermath, and settled on Indigenous land in Saskatchewan in the 1920s);  social analysis; theological reflection, and workbook for those ready to “do their own work.”

Healing Haunted Histories explores how the history of genocide against Indigenous peoples continues today in racist and inequitable practices and policies. It urges readers to learn their own family and community stories of complicity, and models how to navigate these difficult waters. And it calls Christians (and other people of faith and conscience) to build solidarity with Indigenous communities, including experimenting with practices of reparation.

The story of Elaine’s family and community’s experience as refugees, as settlers on the Canadian prairies, and as neighbors with Cree communities invites readers to consider:

  • Landlines: Where did our families come from, and how did they get here? Were they forced or pushed from their places of origin? Who was displaced by their arrival in North America, and how does the land hold these stories? 
  • Bloodlines: What do we know about our family immigrant and settler histories? How might our communal stories be devised or distorted? What traumas or privileges have we inherited because of their experiences?
  • Songlines: What faith traditions and/or cultural practices fostered resilience in them, and which have been passed on to us? What touchstones feed our spirits, minds, and bodies today, and inspire our commitment to work for justice and healing? Interrogating our own communal past and present takes us into often painful and complex terrain, challenging us toward personal and political transformation.

In Healing Haunted Histories, readers will find a faith-rooted approach to facing the violent and tragic history of settler-Indigenous relations, and what faithful responses for justice might involve, including:

  • How Indigenous dispossession — of land, culture, language, and family ties — is the “primal sin” of settler colonialism, and how it still haunts us today;
  • Why Christians’ failure to follow Jesus’ “missionary Instructions” in Luke’s gospel has led to a pattern of domination and genocide around the world;
  • What settler Christians can learn about the Bible’s prophetic critique of systems of “murder and dispossession” from the ancient tale of Naboth’s Vineyard in 1 Kings 21;
  • How North American settlers can live out a covenantal faith by seeking to become “Treaty People” committed to making things right with those ignored, marginalized or oppressed by our settler institutions and habits.

Healing Haunted Histories outlines a “discipleship of decolonization” — practices that people of faith can embrace in order to build solidarity and partner in justice for and with Indigenous people and the land that hosts us all. It calls and empowers us to:

  • Claim restorative justice as a core value and reconciliation as reparation (as argued by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 and Mark 10); 
  • Commit to an ongoing “re-schooling” process, including a “pedagogy of pilgrimage,” to overcome our denial and “unknowing” and learn the stories of transformative movements past and present;
  • Heal hauntings by building “response-ability” and respectful relationships of restorative solidarity with our Indigenous neighbors and other marginalized communities.

With its deeply personal storytelling, wide-ranging historical and social analysis and engaging theological reflection, Healing Haunted Histories is a companion for the Way of decolonization.

What people are saying about Healing Haunted Histories

“Healing Haunted Histories is a powerful testimony, a prophetic witness, and a humble gesture toward ‘saving the soul of America’ through deep engagement with our own family stories.”

—Rose Marie Berger, Senior Editor, Sojourners magazine

“Enns and Myers excavate the traumatic impact of settler colonialism and reckon the resulting settler amnesia with a Christian model of restorative justice that foregrounds Indigenous perspectives, experiences, and histories.”

— Jonathan Cordero (Ohlone and Chumash), Assistant Professor of Sociology, California Lutheran University

“Rarely is a book so timely, urgent, and compelling. I believe people will feel their hearts woven into the stories, the healing, and the challenge. . . . This book of discipleship, filled with knowledge, insight, and information both practical and revolutionary, has quite a few artifacts from the world to come. I hope that many will be read by it.”

— Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop for that part of Turtle Island often called Canada

“Intimate, rigorous, accountable, and transformative, Enns and Myers offer both challenge and accompaniment to white settler Christians striving to bring their whole selves to the necessary work of deep, authentic, and radical solidarity with Indigenous peoples.”

—Jennifer Henry, Executive Director, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
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