The Church has had some enormous blind spots over the centuries. It takes quite a blind spot to imagine you are serving the Prince of Peace by burning witches - or that you are upholding the purity of the Church by prosecuting heresy. In every era the Church has been blinded, as well, by the prevailing culture into drawing boundary lines between people who we should be proclaiming have been made one in Christ. We draw lines to exclude women, or savages, or homosexuals. While we proclaim liberty with one breath, in our next we are keeping certain people in captivity.
A truly remarkable example of how destructive these blind spots can be is the life of John Milton Chivington. He is rightly excoriated in the history books as the man responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre. After encouraging a group of peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho natives to treat with him under the American flag, he led 700 US Soldiers in an attack on the unarmed encampment murdering around 400 women, children and elderly Native Americans. The victims were scalped and mutilated, and soldiers were seen later showing off "trophies" - scalps, fingers, and genitalia.
We would assume that a man guilty of such an atrocity must be deeply violent, and probably harbor beliefs of his own racial superiority. He never demonstrated remorse for the massacre in his life, and even threatened people who testified against him in congressional hearings about the event. One man, Captain Silas Soule, who served under Chivington and was present at Sand Creek, refused to follow Chivington's order to fire on the encampment. Soule testified against Chivington in the hearings and was later murdered by a soldier loyal to Chivington. So we are dealing with a guy who was absolutely convicted that his actions were justified.
So here is the twist - Chivington was an ordained Methodist minister and a committed abolitionist who had received death threats, and been moved for his protection, because of his preaching and acting on behalf of slaves.
How could a man committed to the gospel, who indeed gave his life in service to the Church, and clearly understood that service to mean risking his own life to free others from oppression and violence, then turn around and feel justified in murdering hundreds of unarmed human beings?
One parishioner remembers hearing John Chivington in a sermon, say:
It is an abuse of the dignity of God's children, an abuse of God's son Jesus Christ, to keep any human being in bondage...Compare that with these words from the same man:
Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! ... I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians.