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  • Writer's pictureBroadway Church

What is the Doctrine of Discovery?

At our last Congregational Meeting, we got to check in with one another and talk a bit about worship. The consensus in the group was that it would be helpful to get some information about the week's teaching ahead of time. Without being able to feel the energy of the group, like we do in person, it can be challenging to respond to discussion questions.

And so, in support of everyone's participation in discussion, I'm sharing some basic information about the teaching this week, with some questions to consider between now and then.

Over the past several weeks, we have been exploring the ways that supremacist characteristics and mindsets have developed, escalated, and solidified throughout Christian history and theology. This week, we are focusing on the escalations inherent in the Doctrine of Discovery. 

Formalized during the 1400s, the doctrine expanded the jurisdiction of the Pope to include the entire world. Any people, goods, and land that were not under Christian rule were considered empty, and once "discovered" by Christians, could be possessed on behalf of God.

Christian "explorers" were sanctioned to "invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens [Muslims] and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit." (Romanus Pontifex, 1455)

The Doctrine of Discovery escalated the weaponization of Christianity, building on the actions of Charlemagne and the Inquisition. The focus expanded from rooting out incorrect Christians, Muslims, and Jews toward establishing Christian dominion over the entire world. 

Can you think of any Bible verses that could support such doctrine?

How does this doctrine compare with what you know about the teachings of Jesus?

In what ways did the doctrine shape our own nation's history?

What evidence of this doctrine can we see in current American culture and practices?

We'll explore these questions and more in our time together Sunday.

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