By Elesha Coffman, associate editor of CHRISTIAN HISTORY
Last week I stumbled across a rerun of the Thanksgiving episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Before you mock me, I was looking for the Cubs game. If you want to mock me for being a Cubs fan, go ahead.) The episode was actually very interesting. From what I could gather, an American Indian spirit-warrior had awakened and was avenging the centuries-old mistreatment of his people by killing folks in Buffy's town. Buffy found it difficult to slay him, because he seemed to have a legitimate cause.
Buffy's friends were divided on the issue. One girl had researched the tribe's history and unearthed the atrocities perpetrated against them: massacre, slavery, being herded into missions full of nasty European diseases, etc. She argued that the Indians had been "fluffy indigenous kittens" before whites came, and that it was the responsibility of the evil conquerors' descendents to make restitution. The male characters on the show disagreed, saying that nothing could make up for the past and everyone should just try to get over it.
The point here is not that we should all learn our history or ethics from Buffy, but that Americans—particularly those schooled with the "new" history books—have no healthy framework in which to process what we know of our nation's past. In the textbook clash of two seemingly monolithic groups (tomahawk-wielding "kittens" and shockingly vicious white Christians), nobody acts like a real person. We can't relate or understand—and there's certainly nothing to celebrate.
Into this dark drama steps Christian History contributor Mark Ammerman (see the Gallery in our current issue) with a historical fiction ...