Indigenous Wisdom Re-Schooling Christian Vision

LilyFrom the Center For Babaylan Studies, this webinar is live tomorrow at 2pmEST. Click here to register!

Is it possible to learn from indigenous wisdom and practice across the globe and then re-read the biblical writings with an eye to the indigenous traces not entirely erased there? Or is going back to indigenous ways the same as going back to superstitious belief? Does following Jesus mean forsaking all other ancestral ways? This webinar will walk through the scriptural tradition to explore a possibility of calling Christianity to depth-work in recovering some of its own indigenous, anti-imperial roots.

Climate Crisis in our time is a Voice of the land and waters demanding an urgent hearing. For Christians of most persuasions the challenge is stark. Five hundred years of European Christian settler colonialism has given birth to white supremacy and modern economy destroying Earth and Her peoples. Many would say the Christian tradition has authored so much indigenous genocide, enslavement and sexual violence over its 2000-year history that it should be abandoned altogether. There is certainly reason to take such an admonition seriously. But is it also possible to learn from indigenous wisdom and practice across the globe and then re-read the biblical writings with an eye to the indigenous traces not entirely erased when scribes first penned the texts in service of oppressive kings? Taking this kind of approach, however, generates for many committed Christians a conundrum. “Isn’t going back to indigenous ways the same as going back to superstitious belief? Aren’t babaylan rituals trafficking in evil spirits and demonic practices? Isn’t Jesus the only way?” This webinar will walk through the scriptural tradition examining all of these questions. Come and explore a possibility of calling Christianity to depth-work in recovering some of its own indigenous, anti-imperial roots.

About the Speakers:

Jim and Lily are a husband-and-wife team for nearly two decades pushing into deeper responsiveness to indigenous spirituality and struggle in the US and the Philippines, in connection with the Center for Babaylan Studies and numerous other organizations.

Jim has lived for 35 years as a settler on Three Fires land in inner city Detroit, currently teaching as Professor of Social Ethics at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary and lecturing in Intercultural Communication Studies at the University of Oakland (Michigan). He holds a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Chicago, is the author of five books including Political Spirituality for a Century of Water Wars: The Angel of the Jordan Meets the Trickster of Detroit; Shamanism, Racism, and Hip-Hop Culture: Essays on White Supremacy and Black Subversion; and White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity. He is an artist on the spoken-word poetry scene and an activist in the struggle against water shutoffs. Preferred pronouns are he, him.

Lily is a native of Pampanga, Philippines, the traditional homeland of the Ayta people. She is an Associate Professor of Culture and Communication at the Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She holds an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree in Communication and teaches courses in multiculturalism, cultural theory, and the politics of representation, all from an ecological and indigenous perspective. She is the author of Between the Homeland and Diaspora: The Politics of Theorizing Filipino and Filipino American Identities and lead editor of Back from the Crocodile’s Belly: Philippine Babaylan Studies and the Struggle for Indigenous Memory. She is currently working on a co-edited volume, titled, De-colonizing Eco-theology: Indigenous and Subaltern Challenges. Preferred pronouns are she, her.

One thought on “Indigenous Wisdom Re-Schooling Christian Vision

  1. Pardon me, but I think just in reading this article, I need to point out the defining contradiction to the sweeping ideas you are stating. Firstly, as we know it, isn’t all wisdom ‘indigenous’ and I am meaning ‘indigenous’ to earth? However it is certain tribes that call upon their ancestral relationships in the ‘stars’ that have have formed their way of living? I think the ‘wisdom of this planet’ knows better about its own needs and yet in the face of crisis, we seek wisdom from other worlds that are not of our nature. The question I have is can we discern what is the wisdom of Christianity? And what is the confusion of our interpretation of Christianity? Primarily Christianity was to unite the world under one source of Love and Wisdom. In fact originally, we are all Christian in my opinion, anointed with ‘true’ instructions from the conception of all Life. My experience of so called ‘indigenous’ medicine has been ‘enslavement’ ‘sacrifice’ ‘vengeance’ and a disconnection from thanksgiving for all that God has done for us (because growth in the modern way, is seen as an imposition, a form of slavery and a sacrifice of our roots with some vengeance tied into it). I think in reality, rather than empowering divisive movements, we should try to study with each other and not sacrifice each other, make a safe space of learning and not one of potential sabotage. I think this will take a long time, since the blood lust of the ‘indigenous’ people (and perhaps covertly found in all of us, our survival wisdom) are finding new ways to survive and devour the power they believe they need to win. I think having many minds that aren’t united in a common version of the truth can only lead to bitterness and ultimately war. The Earth as a sphere, circling the sun is an idea that certainly is hard for some to accept and those that don’t, live in some paranoid state that the whole world is enslaved in some illusion. We may live in an illusion, but that specific ‘truth’ humbled the entire Catholic Church at the time. why is it so hard for us to find humility in the face of a mystery and accept the love that wants us to feel safe together? We all fear on some level, that we are spinning yarns just to win the contest as to who’s the biggest liar, but the truth is something worthy of learning about and if you practice ruling over others without a sense of humility in the face of the actual truth (something we are all called to bare witness to) then you are just as evil as the evil that you are fighting. Is the ‘indigenous wisdom’: to eat your enemies heart, to gain it’s power? If so, then you are right, this world has been colonized by non indigenous wisdom. If those practices are old wisdom and newer wisdom would see those practices as barbaric and fruitless, then please admit that ‘indigenous’ does not mean better. In fact, let’s look to being able to access all good wisdom of all ages, in order to preserve Life here and be open to learning together. The Mystery of Christ keeps me in a certain relationship that isnt always ‘certain’ as to right and wrong, until it’s clear in my unique spirit, that indeed I agree to this and I don’t agree to that. I don’t agree to enslaving anyone. I don’t agree to killing anyone for my personal gain and pleasure. I don’t agree to stealing from anyone. I don’t agree to abusing my relationship with the natural world and yet I understand that God is in charge and this perhaps is were we split. I believe in one God and perhaps the ‘indigenous’ wisdom is to not believe in God but become the most harmonious relationship and encourage others to do the same. I think we are in trouble if this is the movement. I think we will be enslaved by God if we do that, we will become a living sacrifice for falling for a false God, that is greater than the one that loves his creation. I would have preferred finding remote places for unique cultures to exist and live in harmony together and only intervene if called upon. I think the conflict that has been ruling our lives for so long, is more dangerous to the planet than what we believe. Isolate the people who are basically ‘hating’ everything and find a way to help them live out a life that is more harmonious and then perhaps the good doctors can start to heal and protect the biosphere and her children and we can all be less afraid of each other and dreaming up good dreams and not ones that sacrifice each other for our own sense of peace. I’m getting out of the Shamans belly as we speak, one day at a time. (Forgive me for any ignorance, but I believe I do matter and I’m not just a remnant of colonial agenda and I am thankful for all of God’s love) Thank you

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