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  • Writer's pictureBlake Barbera

John Wesley, Quanah Parker, and the Motivation Behind Our Use Of Technology

How Horses Connect John Wesley to the Most Powerful Native American Tribe Ever

I was recently on a walk when something I absolutely had to share hit me like a freight train.

I'm currently reading two books. One is a biography of John Wesley called The Burning Heart (highly recommend, although tedious at times).[1] The other is on Quanah Parker and the rise of the Comanche Tribe during the 18th/19th centuries (Empire of the Summer Moon – also recommend, but BEWARE, the historical descriptions of war on the Frontier are not for the faint of heart).[2]

While these books are unrelated, I happened to be reading them simultaneously and came across a fascinating connection.

Unquestionably, the most significant piece of technology that elevated the Comanche People from being a powerless, small, unknown, and nonthreatening tribe of hunter-gatherers to the most powerful and feared Native American tribe in history was the horse. Having been brought to the Americas by the Spanish in the 15th century, horses were present in North America starting in the late 16th/early 17th century. Their appearance benefited many Native American tribes occupying the continent at that time. For the Comanches, they were transformative.

Something about the Comanches made them absolutely brilliant with horses: catching them, taming them, breeding them, and most of all, fighting on them. S.C Gwynne, the author of Empire of the Summer Moon, believes that the Comanches became the most excellent cavalry of mounted warriors to ever exist alongside the Mongols and the Magyars. Shortly after the arrival of the horse in North America, the Comanches became the most dominant and feared tribe on the western plains. Their skill and brutality while fighting on horseback were the stuff of legends.

Comanches On Horseback
Comanches On Horseback

Only it isn’t a legend at all. One could argue that using horses as a powerful weapon of war only increased the suffering and violence that existed on the American plains in the 16th-19th centuries.

Amazingly, during the same century that the horse was being used as a highly effective piece of war technology in the Americas (by both natives and settlers), John Wesley was using the horse to bring the Gospel all over Europe. From the late 1730s-1780s, he traveled over 250,000 miles (!) on horseback, preaching the Gospel and igniting revivals.

One tool being used both for good and evil; to advance God's kingdom on one continent and the kingdoms of this world on the other.

Every technological advancement and instance of human ingenuity (including how we train and use animals) can be employed either for good or evil. It all depends on the person/people and their motivation. We can use what we’ve been given to glorify God and advance his kingdom or accomplish our ends and build our own little empires. One purpose will surely bring destruction, harm, and chaos to the world around us: the other – life, peace, and redemption.

The difference is astounding.

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John Wesley On Horseback
John Wesley On Horseback

[1]Wood, Arthur Skevington. The Burning Heart.: John Wesley, Evangelist. Lexington, KY: Emeth Press, 2007.

[2] Gwynne, S. C. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. Scribner, 2011.


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