February 7, 2016

spiritual practice

I am mostly smiling on the outside. But I am screaming on the inside.

I have learnt to listen to this scream. Finally. It has taken me 50 years to give ‘the scream’ its dues.

I used to blame myself when I heard the scream. What is wrong with you? Why do some things have to matter so much? Why should you care? Why are you so emotional? Why do you like to argue? Why do you have to be different?

This particular scream started a few weeks ago, and has built to whistling kettle pitch.

A church friend was speaking with me about Aboriginal people. She was saying how she went to a Christian conference, and some Aboriginal Elders gave a talk about their ministry work in their homelands. She said that the Elders spoke in Language and an interpreter translated what they said into English. She realised that for many remote Aboriginal people, English is a second language or not spoken at all. She became quite passionate about Aboriginal people having access to the Bible written in their own language.

I have been becoming uneasy with the church.

I haven’t attended my local church for quite a while. One of my sons likes to attend the Sunday evening service in a suburb which is a 15 minute drive. This service is run by the young people in the church. I am not good enough to attend two church services in the one day, so I go with him to the evening service.

At this service, they frequently interview a young person about what he or she has been doing. Frequently this involves mission work. Frequently this talk about mission work makes my blood boil.

I know they have good intentions to save everybody from themselves and to follow Christ, but all I hear is the familiar tune of white colonialism. You know the one that sounds and looks like – let’s make them act like us, we know better, they are ignorant savages, they need to be saved.

Australia has a dark past and missionary work was one of the weapons of choice.

If someone asked me in a meaningful way “how are you?” I would tell them that I am struggling. No-one has asked me in a meaningful way.

I needed to talk with someone about it. I tried to talk to my husband who has a lovely way of looking at the world particularly in relation to matters of the church. He has a strong Catholic background, he is smart, he is able to look at things in an objective way, my highly emotional reactions amuse him, and he has a sense of humour. I raised the issue with him, and he didn’t engage. He usually likes a good argument, but for the first time in his working life he is in the cultural minority. A recent restructure of the work environment placed him alongside a team of Aboriginal people. It is difficult to be sure of what you think and believe when you are experiencing disequilibrium. The differences in the two cultures smack you in the face initially, and it takes a while to accommodate (and learn from) that difference. I let him be.

So many questions going around in my head. Here is a sample of the stream of consciousness…

… it is a white church; I am white, but I feel like a blackfella sometimes; what right do they have to tell people how to live their lives; I hate cultural diversity being whitewashed; maybe they don’t obliterate culture anymore; maybe Christianity becomes a part of their unique culture; it doesn’t have to be all or nothing; Aboriginal culture can include Christianity and still be Aboriginal culture; our healthiest Elders combine Christianity with Aboriginal ways of being; I appreciate what Christianity has done for me, why shouldn’t other people have the same opportunity; you can’t confuse what happened in the past with what is happening now; people are people, God is God; the church has accepted me as I am, why can’t I accept it as it is; am I being a hypocrite?; why am I so intolerant of intolerance?; I can’t be righteous about something without the perspective of those it affects; I need to find a church run by blackfellas; I need to find a church that meets under a tree.

It goes around and around.

I have a friend whom I met at the Chaplaincy course I did last year. We are email friends because she lives quite a distance from me. It is quite an uncanny friendship because we are very attuned to each other. I will randomly think of her and the next minute I will receive an email from her. She is like the sun. She shines light on my dark broodings. She is hopelessly optimistic of making me a Christian. In the midst of my private struggle with this topic, she emailed me a link to a website about Aboriginal people talking about their Christianity. How did she know?

The website is called ’40 stories’.

It helped. In one of the videos at the bottom of the page, an Aboriginal man says something that goes like this “I think that’s the problem we have sometimes, Jesus becomes the church, words, books, songs, and that’s it. But Jesus is every thing. Every breath, every step. That is life.” That is the Aboriginal world view – inclusive. An Aboriginal woman on the video says that Jesus brings healing to the Land, to people’s hearts, and to organisations. Aboriginal people have a lovely way of seeing things holistically.

Every Aboriginal person will experience Christianity in a very personal way. For me, Christianity is not a replacement of Culture. It is an addition to Culture.



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One Comment on “whitewashed”

  1. michaelwatsonvt Says:

    Ah, such a difficult subject and you spoke to it well. I’ve been struggling with this again, lately, as well. I find I do not want to be at church. There is just to much racism. As a result I am experience a great deal of alienation. One of my Amazonian friends/teachers always said Jesus was a very great shaman, a person who taught peace and respect for the environment. He said that Jesus visited the Amazon about a thousand years ago, and greatly reduced the warring between peoples. I like that version of Jesus better.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It is good to know of your travels through this life.


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