taking the words of Jesus seriously

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article on “Worldview Distinctions” is the second in a 4-part series to deconstruct the Western, settler-colonial worldview and to #ResurrectEloheh

There are glaring differences between the worldviews of Indigenous peoples and those whose worldviews developed with the influence of Western Europe. The “age of discovery” brought the Europeans to our Indigenous shores and while many of the theologians and discoverers attributed their discoveries to God, they immediately acted in the most ungodly manner. These so called “discoveries” created not only wealth by extraction in previously co-sustained Indigenous lands, but along with the exploited slave labor and capital resources came perverted national myths and twisted theological accounts of conquest.

These myths have continued to be told time and time again, and with each generation they are reified, built upon and codified into our society’s collective mythologies and memories. I am willing to concede that Creator had a hand in the meeting of the two worlds, but I think it has been largely misinterpreted by the Western nations and religious bodies. I think the Europeans were brought to our shores to listen and to learn, not to teach.

The Europeans came to many of our Indigenous shores at a time when their natural resources were fading away. Their oak forests were decimated in order to satisfy their desires for projects like castles, forts, and churches. Western Europe was experiencing serious land concerns with unhealthy soil as a result of poor agricultural practices. Their fisheries from local bays and rivers were becoming fished out through overconsumption. Fresh water was rare because their springs and streams had become largely despoiled. Classism, caused by feudalism (a failed system of hierarchy) was causing constant political unrest, and maintaining hierarchical systems in both church and state were a constant concern of the ruling class. Cities were overcrowded. Waste and refuge lined the streets of European cities creating unsanitary conditions followed by disease.

Western Europe had become a political hot zone and an ecological dead zone that was in desperate need of a new worldview, but instead, they convinced themselves they only needed new lands.

Creator is loving, merciful, and vulnerable. If God brought the Europeans to our Indigenous lands, the purpose was for the Europeans to observe, listen, and learn a new way of life compatible with co-sustaining the earth, God’s community of creation, and how to treat all people with respect and dignity.

God’s purpose was never for Europeans to rule over Indigenous peoples nor to subjugate our lands. In my estimation, the Europeans who invaded our shores, blinded by theological hubris and greed, could not accept the said terms God had in mind. What has been dubbed “the Columbian Exchange” was for Indigenous peoples and their lands, the beginning of “the Apocalypse.”

The level of Europeans hubris was already stacked high through wrongly held theological formulas of the “Indigenous Other.” Our Indigenous people were seen by the Christians as lacking not only Christianity, but civilization. These wrongly held theological views are today still persistent in the Western world’s view of us and the community of creation. To Westerners, Indigenous people and the whole of creation continue to be viewed through an anthropocentric lens as “the other.”

At the time of European invasion, Indigenous peoples were not living out a utopian vision of perfection. We, too, still had much to learn. But the Western worldview that was so devastating in Europe — depleting the community of creation there of its natural abundance — did not fare well in our lands because, unwilling to learn and unwilling to change, they repeated the same mistakes of the past. One noted difference today is that because of the spread of the Western worldview, we now find ourselves in global peril.

Indigenous peoples continue to have the solutions to our current climate maladies. Indigenous peoples remain on earth, holding on to traditional land and people knowledge and the wisdom attained from millennia of trial and error. A bandage will not fix our current crisis. Moral teaching and preaching alone will not heal us. It will take a new view of the world to restore harmony on the earth.

The Myth of the West as savior of the world; solver of all the world’s problems, which is endemic to the Western worldview, has passed its expiration date. Perhaps the best way to dispel a false narrative is to tell a better, truer narrative. Who best to make that corrective than the Indigenous peoples of the earth who have been observing the bad narrative brought by the Europeans, and whose mistakes they have noted for hundreds of years. Our Indigenous cosmologies are written in the land, and they guide us in our responsibilities toward the land and to the community of creation.

To Indigenous peoples, the problems of a Western worldview are obvious and conclusive. The way of life demonstrated by Western peoples leads to alienation from the earth and from one another. It creates a false bubble called Western civilization of which the West feels will protect them from calamity. This false hope is built on age-old philosophical ideas handed down from Greece, Rome, England and other Western civilizations. They consist of Dualism, Hierarchy, Compartmentalization, Anthropocentrism, Racism, Individualism, Competitiveness, Intolerance, Utopianism, Greed, and Control which are now all embedded into the Western worldview.

Randy Woodley and his wife Edith are co-sustainers of Eloheh/Eagle’s Wings, www.eloheh.org in Oregon. He has written several books including Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision. The Woodleys are currently campaigning to “Resurrect Eloheh” so they can purchase land in the American Southwest for the new Eloheh Farm, an Indigenous learning center and spiritual community. Please consider supporting their efforts at www.gofundme.com/ResurrectEloheh.

About The Author

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Rev. Dr. Randy Woodley is known as a public intellectual, theologian, activist-scholar, ecologist-farmer, and wisdom keeper. Dr. Woodley, (Keetoowah Cherokee descendant) currently serves as Distinguished Professor of Faith & Culture and Director of Intercultural & Indigenous Studies at George Fox University/Portland Seminary and Co-Sustainer of Eloheh/Eagle’s Wings (www.eloheh.org ; eloheh@gmail.com). PODCAST: Peacing It All Together (@PeacingPodcast) BOOKS: “The Harmony Tree: A Story of Healing and Community” (Friesen), “Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision” (Eerdmans) and “Living in Color: Embracing God’s Passion for Ethnic Diversity” (Intervarsity). The Woodleys and Eloheh/Eagle’s Wings suffered a terrible loss at the hands of white supremacists and are currently raising funds to replace and relocate their Indigenous Learning Center and Farm at #ResurrectEloheh Please do whatever you can to help: www.gofundme.com/ResurrectEloheh

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