I have recently become aware of how many (maybe all) religions of the world have a colonizing ethos; they think they have the ‘truth’, the ‘whole truth’ and ‘nothing but the truth’ so help them god! And some of them believe that their deity will help them … but only them, not the ‘infidels’, the ‘unenlightened’, the ‘low castes’, the ‘pagans’, the ‘heretics’, the ‘unbelievers’. Some such believers cross oceans and land to share the ‘truth’ of their deity(ies). Christianity, my chosen and inherited faith practice, possibly trumps most of the others in that it has moved around the globe declaring all sorts of ‘truths’ regarding culture, life-style, dress-codes, beliefs, values, ceremonies and deity definitions. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally enamored with the possibility of a deity that is defined by love; who came to validate our humanity by living as one of us, and secured our spiritual freedom by passing through death into new endless life. I am on board with all that. And my Christ-freed life is hugely satisfying (albeit sometimes difficult) as I explore what it means to have the spirit of the divine living in my humble human being.
So, what is my problem? My concern is that christianity (and possibly other religions) has often dragged around a whole pile of unhelpful cultural and deity-beliefs with it. The Hebrew scriptures clearly predict the coming of Christ (the Messiah) and provide a consistent deity-narrative leading up to the birth of this god-human two thousand years ago. The Jews had faith in a father-god figure who had given them rules to live by and a sacrifice-system to deal with their inability to maintain purity by keeping all the rules. There were priests whos’ job it was to maintain the ‘holiness’ of the Israelites using animal blood to atone for their sins (rule-breaking). Then Christ (a Jew/Israelite) turned up and figuratively (and literally on one occasion) turned the tables upside-down; presenting a completely re-created deity concept to the Jewish and non-Jewish people living in the world around him. With all this as background, I will now make my point …
If there is a deity who is defined by love and moves towards human beings with tenderness and a desire for relationship (as Christians and some Jews believe), this deity must surely be interested in all human beings and every race of human beings. It is beyond belief to think that this deity has not been relating in some way to human beings throughout time and geographical location. Indeed, most cultures from ancient times up until the present, have had a concept of deity(ies) and a desire to relate in meaningful ways to divine being(s). As I contemplate some of these more ancient understandings of deity, I experience a personal recovery (or re-formation) of my appreciation of a creator god who incorporates traits that have been missed by the Jewish-Christian narrative. I am not Jewish. My deity-storyline does not come from the land of Israel or the Middle East. My ethnic heritage comes predominantly from Europe and my lived-life heritage comes from the Australian landscape. So, I have specifically explored the ancient spirituality of these two places and discovered that something in me resonates more authentically with the deity-beliefs and spiritual practices of these peoples. For example, the understanding of a feminine divine/mother god is hugely important to me but sadly lacking in most modern-day christian faith communities. See What happened to the Great Goddess? for more details on this. And, spiritual practices common to indigenous Australian Aboriginals including dadirri (deep listening to nature) and care of country, are very meaningful to me on a daily basis as I seek to relate to divine spirit with integrity and honesty.
Because of this search for a personally-consistent spiritual narrative, I have discovered a much richer experience of a loving deity whose existence I have believed in since childhood. Therefore, with confidence, I encourage you to explore your ethnic deity history as well as the beliefs of the indigenous people who first lived on the land you now call home.
As Reepicheep (the mouse from Narnia) says, ‘This is a very great adventure, and no danger seems to me so great as that of knowing when I get back to Narnia that I left a mystery behind me through fear’ … or through disinterest!