*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 1st of July 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
It’s been a wild week here on the Almanac- we had the Pope getting involved in Hollywood, a presidential assassin who believed he was an evangelist… and this weekend keeps the ball rolling with an amazing story brought to my attention recently by a friend. Today is no exception to the collection of wild, maybe a little off-beat story this week.
When you were a child, let me ask if you were about to make a dramatic leap off something and, say, into a pool. What might you shout? Geronimo? And you might know that Air-force paratroopers began shouting that in World War 2 after watching a movie about the famed Apache shaman known for his daring raids. But “Geronimo” was not the Apache’s real name- he was called (phonetic: goyahkla) but was called Geronimo because that’s what the Mexican soldiers he attacked would shout before they died. Crying “Jeronimo” was their plea to St. Jerome. SO- the dude responsible for the Vulgate bible that became the basis for the King James Bible gave his name to the Apache, feared as one of the great rivals of the American and Mexican armies.
To keep everyone on the same page- Geronimo lived from 1829-1909. After Mexican armies murdered his wife, mother, and three children, he became a vigilante for native justice and a terrorist.
He finally surrendered in 1886 to the American army; he spent a few years in prison before being allowed to live the rest of his days in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. While in prison and on the fort, he was used as a token by Buffalo Bill Cody at the Worlds Fair and the inauguration of Teddy Roosevelt. He lived out his life selling autographed postcards and trinkets to curious observers. But amidst this, something curious happened, and the New York Times was on the scene.
There was a Dutch Reformed mission church on the Fort Sill reservation, and Geronimo was approached by the ministers and invited to a service.
Geronimo is said to have responded to the first service by saying, “The Jesus road is best, and I would like my people to travel it.” He later said, “My body is sick, and my friends have thrown me away…I have been a very wicked man, and my heart is not happy. I see that white people have found a way that makes them good and their hearts happy. I want you to show me that way.”.
And so, on this day, the 1st of July in 1903, Geronimo was baptized at the Dutch Reformed Church on the Fort Sill reservation in Oklahoma. As you might imagine, much hay has been made over whether or not this was a legitimate act of faith or a ploy by Geronimo to ingratiate himself to President Roosevelt, also in the Dutch Reformed Church. Reports he told his Apache friends that he did not accept the faith. There is the matter of record: he was kicked out of his church for gambling. In a brief survey of the relevant literature, I have seen historians claim that “of course, he was a Christian” to, of course, he wasn’t a Christian. This is where being a professional historian of Christianity makes me crazy.
On one level, we cannot know the status of anyone’s faith. We can understand their confession. We can also question if the repudiation of a confession is earnest, and we also know that the secrets of people's hearts can only be partially discerned. But, we know that the physical act of Baptism took place (isn’t it nice that God unites his promises to tangible things for us?), and according to the New York Times, Geronimo was baptized on this the 1st of July in 1903.
The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Psalm 30:
I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 1st of July 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who knows what Geronimo would have shouted had he jumped out of an airplane but will make you figure it out yourself. Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man solemnly observing another Bobby Bonilla day on this the 1st of July. I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.