Ko tō ngākau ki ngā taonga a ō tupuna
In your heart lie the treasures of your ancestors
As people of biblical faith, we have a foundation that is not in fact the mainstream of the world-view called “Western”. Drawing on the traditions of the Hebrew ancestry, and interpreted and deepened by the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, our foundational culture is not white. If you wanted to give it a colour, I’d call it “olive”. Which has a nice association, given the olive tree is a symbol of peace.
Within the Bible, when it’s not going off on human driven tangents, there are insights into the nature of life and humanity that have been invaluable to me as a white skin person (kaikiri) in my endeavours to uncover my own inclinations to kaikiritanga – racism.
You may have heard me talk of the opening verses of Genesis and how the ancient Hebrews understood the nature of human beings and our interconnectedness to the whole of the cosmos. This is not the dualism that has pervaded the thinking brought here from Europe (and which I studied extensively as mainstream university philosophy in the 1970s). This is not the black and white thinking that dualism breeds, but earth and living breath thinking. That is, reality is physical and spiritual and human beings an integration of physical, mental/emotional, relational, and spiritual. If that sounds like the Māori Te Whare Tapa Whā – tīnana, hinengaro, whanau, me wairua – then you are right. These ancient cultures, olive and brown, hold a similar world-view.
The original vision as given in the Creation narratives is of an interconnected whole, with the Creator envisaging life-giving and life-proliferating relationships for all things, all species and within the human species.
We know it goes awry as that is the ongoing biblical story, the Creator endeavouring to get humanity back on track. Within the stories of the ancestors handed down in the Bible, there are stories of connection as well as stories from when concerns for power and control held sway, usually with fear and hurt at the root of it all.
One story of connection is very important for us right now. Ancestor Abraham was promised to become a great nation – descendants as many as grains of sand – but his chief wife Sarah remained childless. She suggested he have a child with Hagar, her slave-maid. It happened and Ishmael was born. Later Sarah did get pregnant and Isaac is born. If we ever imagine this might have been a happy, diverse family (Hagar’s origin was from another ethnic group), the truth is it was a real family and things did not stay happy, even if the children wished they could.
Hagar was sent away with her son, sent out into the desert with some food and a skin full of water. Most likely they would die – unless someone found them and was kind enough just to enslave them not kill them.
When the water had run out, Hagar put Ishmael under a tree and sat down at a distance where she would hear less of his whimpering. She sat down and cried. Then
God heard the boy’s cries, and God’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “Hagar! What’s wrong? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy’s cries over there. Get up, pick up the boy, and take him by the hand because I will make of him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well. She went over, filled the water flask, and gave the boy a drink. God remained with the boy; he grew up, lived in the desert, and became an expert archer. Genesis 21:17-20
Ishmael is the son of Abraham named in the Qu’ran. Hagar is the mother of Islam.
Abraham unites the three faiths of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
We are whanaunga. We are brothers and sisters.
The blessing of the God of Sarah, of Hagar,
as of Abraham,
the blessing of the Son
born of the woman Mary,
the blessing of the Holy Spirit,
who broods over us as a mother
over her children,
be with you now and always.
By the way, Jesus continues to call us to be counter-cultural. The gospel we are to live is the good news of life as an interconnected whole, working towards the Creator’s original vision of life-giving and life-proliferating relationships among all peoples and all things.
Anything else is not gospel.
Rangimarie Peace Shalom, Robyn