I wish someday someone from Iraq would visit my blog. I would want them to read a post about how much I wish their country and their families good-will. About how much I hope my presence there was for the better. We all, you and me both, could argue all night, and I have, many times, about how it wasn’t. But you’re not some little Iraqi girl (age not size), who saw me, another little girl (stature not age), leading a whole convoy of trucks through a combat zone, male and female soldiers alike, and although so many terrible things happened in that war, I was not one of them.
I loved them all. Soldier and Iraqi alike.
Unbeknownst to the scientists, engineers and public at large, a small, unassuming microbe hitched a ride on the rover sent to Mars. Long after the extinction of carbon-based life-forms on our own planet Earth, a new ecosystem emerged on that fiery red orb light years away. Eventually, a very long eventually, consciousness again arose, and with it tools, societies, professions. And as ever-curious as most life is, these martians questioned their origins, created great scientific and theological institutions to engage this very subject. But never in a billion years, literally, did any of them predict their ancestors were merely stowaways on a clunky, metal robot flying through outer space.
The blooming flowers
Sing the sun up, perfect time
To play some bluegrass
Thus far, we have avoided gender issues concerning the book of Ezekiel, so let us now turn to Katheryn Pfisterer Darr. In the Women’s Bible Commentary, she analyzes Ezekiel for its use of female imagery, and she concludes that “the violence frequently attending Ezekiel’s use of female imagery, his presuppositions about women’s ritual impurity, and his characterization and utter condemnation of certain religious practices raise serious questions for readers.” Darr does however assert that in chapters 47:1-12, female imagery is implicit as “ground water is an image of female fertility.” Though Darr is quite correct in her conclusion concerning the language found throughout Ezekiel, she misses the rich feminine imagery found in 17:22-24. Here we find words like sprig, tender one, young twigs, produce boughs and bear fruit, nest, and flourish which bring to mind ripeness, protection, nurturing and nourishing. Even our word addir (used in feminine form to describe the vine in 17:8) implies wideness and ampleness rather than phallic highness. In fact, if we consider our passage as a creation story, and that the wide tree is planted on top of high mountain in Israel, we have a beautiful metaphor of creative sexuality that does not privilege one gender over the other. Darr correctly states that “[r]ejecting aspects of Ezekiel’s message does not mean, however, that one should excise offending passages from the canon,” and we should also open up new possibilities for what is feminine imagery. Seeing the feminine solely in issues of human femaleness or women’s issues closes us off to interpretations that would otherwise be considered gender neutral. As we see in Ezekiel 17:22-24, the feminine is actually quite explicit, and though other places in Ezekiel can be criticized as misogynist, here we find a celebration. And of great importance, this celebration is a promise that harkens back to the intention of creation.
As James W. Loewe laments in Lies My Teacher Told Me, descriptions of Native religions are often presented as “make-believe, not the sophisticated theology of a higher civilization.” In fact, this is what I myself thought for many years concerning Native spirituality – that it was myth and legend, not the truth of my sacred Scriptures. Consequently, I learned that my sacred Scriptures are also in many ways myth and legend. Yet, both reveal the sacred truth of God. Native and Christian spirituality are not the same spirituality, but they are not so different either that one cannot inform the other. Or so different that they cannot in some ways combine to make the outward working of religion richer. However, the differences are truly deep, and we must understand them before any true engagement of interfaith dialogue can occur. Julia Alicia Rains explores one such difference in her analysis on Vine Deloria Jr’s Reconciliation Theology – that of sacred space versus sacred time. She states, “The Christian religion bases its theology on a linear perspective; all things that hold relevance to Christianity happened at a specific time in history….For Native Americans, however, religion is inherently tied to space.” Here we see a cosmological difference in religious orientation that in some fundamental way explains how the colonists could falsely justify the displacement of Natives. I could not help thinking about this as I read Apess’ autobiography: he seemed to always be on the move, a man without a home. We could also consider this for the Diaspora in 598 BCE of the ancient Israelites, whose religious identity was also tightly linked to geographical location. Such displacements of indigenous peoples have repercussions which we still see even today. Our religion arises from our cosmology, and informs the way in which we engage the world before us. Because of this, a starting point for us as Christians to engage our faith, which has allowed atrocities throughout history, is to first engage the cosmology undergirding it. In fact, “Massacres of Indian villages in New England were justified by citations from the Old Testament; the Sand Creek massacre was led by an ordained Methodist minister.” (Not Apess) A Christian spirituality that emerges from a cosmology of hierarchy, power, dominance, and theology of “fallenness” will be vastly different than one arising from interdependence, interrelatedness, and mutuality. Here is where Native spirituality can truly transform Christian spirituality. Vine Deloria, in “Christianity and Indigenous Religion,” asserts than Native spirituality is built on concepts of mutuality where all creation participates in fulfillment. He declares, “The universe is a fabric, a symphony, a tapestry; everything is connected to everything else and everything is alive and responsible to its relationships in every way.” Responsible to its relationships in every way. Imagine what this orientation could do for Christianity. And ultimately, what is more life-affirming? What is more in line with what Jesus taught? I love the idea of all of creation participating in fulfillment.
Stars shine from the ink
Black universe, the planets
Rotate their accord