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East of Eden and What I Learned from Pine Ridge

I spent last week with a group of high school students at a Youthworks site in Wanblee, SD, an Indian village on the Pine Ridge Reservation (the chief told me he prefers to be called Indian rather than Native American). This was a deep learning experience for all of us. The staff took us through The Blanket Experience created by Kairos. This video explains it.

This week Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations talk about Indigenous Spirituality. Today he said,

Primal and indigenous spiritualities are not primarily concerned with salvation as a way to escape from a sinful world and go to heaven or the next world. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon write, “They make it clear that we humans are not here simply as transients waiting for a ticket to somewhere else. The Earth itself is Christos, is Buddha, is Allah, is Gaia.” [2] As Jesus taught, heaven is here and now, within us (Luke 17:21).

A couple months ago The Bible Project did a Theme Video and a series of podcasts on Exile. Their premise was that all of the TaNaK (the Hebrew Scripture or Old Testament) was compiled and biased from the perspective of the Jews who had just returned from the 70 years of Babylonian exile. This exile shaped the creation stories of Genesis 1-11 even to the point of showing the primal humans (Adam = human and Eve = Life) being exiled “east of Eden” and the climax of the division of humanity being the tower of Babylon. Then, the primary story of the Jewish people is the Exodus in which Yahweh delivers them from slavery in Egypt in order to fulfill the promise to Abraham.

The Judeo-Christian cosmology and subsequent theological framework has been one built on the primary corruption of humanity and the separation of all our natural relationships: God/Human, Human/Human, Human/Nature, False Self/True Self, etc. This cosmology requires salvation. Luther said that we are in bondage to Sin and cannot save ourselves.

I find it interesting and disturbing that the Inigenous Spirituality did not have a sense of separation and the need for salvation before the Christian Colonization and oppression. Now the Indigeneous people are in the same kind of exile that the Jews experienced. They have the same “bias from the bottom” that the Israelite slaves experienced for 400 years in Egypt and the African Slaves experienced in the European Colonies and the United States.

There are a growing number of theologians writing from the “post-colonial” perspective. This perspective acknowledges that the European Colonizers are the Modern manifestation of the Empires of Scripture that repeatedly ravaged God’s Chosen People. What a gross reversal to realize that those of us who have thought we are “The Christian Nation” led by the Doctrine of Discovery, have actually been the Destructive Empire oppressing the people of God.

Additionally, I wonder how much of this process of the Indigenous people is one of Spiral Dynamics and the evolution of consciousness through which we must all pass. The Indigenous Spirituality is Dependence. The rise to Modern Conqueror is Independence. The humiliation of realizing our corruption and rise to Empire is the move to Interdependence.

Independence is our Exile from which we must be saved. It takes encounter with the Indigeneous people whom we have crushed to wake up to our own Exile. Perhaps it is only through the work of Justice and Reconcilitation that we can experience true salvation and the Original Creation for which and through which we live and move and have our being.

Things to ponder.

 

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