Jesus is an Aborigine

This essay suggests that it is not the mission of the white Australian church to offer Jesus Christ to Aboriginal Australia, but rather to learn about Jesus the Christ from Aboriginal Australia.

1/ Introduction; Two great men of God.
The Late Mr. Norman Mitchell and The Late Rev. Dr. William Augustus Jones Junior.

2/ Jesus is an Aborigine

3/ The historical context of Jesus of Nazareth

4/ Indigenous revolution

5/ Sin and Salvation in Aboriginal Australia

6/ Babylon and the contemporary Christian Church

7/ Conclusion

1/ Introduction; Two great men of God
The Late Mr. Norman Mitchell and The Late Rev. Dr. William Augustus Jones Junior.

I gave up on the bible in the 1980s, I found it obscure even after years of study, irrelevant because it was a story of thousands of years ago in a different part of the world and a document constructed by the Roman Imperial state as a universal religion to accompany their universal domination and colonisation.

However, in the 1990s I had the privilege of working and being a friend with the Late Mr. Norman Mitchell, a traditional Aboriginal man and a devout Christian. Uncle Norman was born in Cape York before the Roman calendar arrived and was not aware of dates until they arrived along with the police raids into the Cape. Uncle Norman did not see a white person until he was an adolescent. He had no idea how old he was but the family’s best guess was he was over 100 years old when I met him. Uncle Norman was a member of the secret council of chiefs of Cape York, a traditional authority structure on the Cape. He was also the founder of the Mareeba Community Church, which he built when he was probably in his 60s or 70s through street preaching in Mareeba and on regular tours around Cape York communities. Uncle Norman was a senior man in both the Cape York Church as well as Cape York customary law.

Uncle Norman insisted “wybala” (whitefella) cannot understand Bama (Aboriginal people) unless the wybala becomes a Christian. The wybala needs the book but Bama has it in our wawu (heart)” he said, over and over again.

For some reason Uncle Norman enjoyed my company and considered me a Christian and I dare not suggest otherwise. The truth was however, that I dismissed his statement at first, feeling a sadness that he was so brainwashed by the white religion.

But it seems that it was I who was brainwashed by the white religion as to my assumptions of what the bible was.

As I spent more time with Uncle Norman and listened to his stories of Aboriginal culture, the Cape York history of the last 100 years and his recounting of the stories of the bible – all within one conceptual whole, I began to understand what was behind his Christianity.

Uncle Norman saw Aboriginal culture and reality when he read the bible. He understood the deep connection to place that was at the centre of the bible stories, he identified with the enslavement and persecution of the Jews for he himself had been taken from his homeland and sent to Palm Island. Uncle Norman also remembered holy war, the guerrilla war of resistance to the invaders, which was still raging in Cape York in his youth. Uncle Norman understood, through his traditional culture, what the ceremonial sacrifices were all about, what circumcision was all about, what the holy wars were about, what colonial desecration of holy places meant, he recognised his own story in the stories of the bible. The tribal life of the Hebrews was no mystery to him.

Uncle Norman’s understandings of the bible were completely new and fascinating to me, a perspective I had never considered before and would never have discovered from my own world experience.

For Uncle Norman, the good news of Jesus to the dispossessed Jews and controversy of the gentiles (wybala) was immediately applicable to his own history and contemporary circumstance. He needed no biblical scholar to interpret the cross-cultural nuance of the bible story; it was plain and obvious to him.

The first black skinned person who I ever had a conversation with was the Late Reverend Doctor William Augustus Jones Junior – an African American Baptist preacher and theological scholar. Dr. Jones passed away a couple of years ago. He was an associate of Martin Luther King and a key leader of the Christian civil rights movement. Dr. Jones was in Australia on a speaking tour in 1978 when I was in my last year of high school. I was a member of the House of Freedom Christian community at the time who organised the Brisbane section of his speaking tour so I was privileged to have a lot of contact with him informally during his time in Brisbane.

One night Dr. Jones was relaxing and sharing a meal with a group of us and he played a tape of a woman singing in his church. “Can you feel the spirit?” he asked us all, to which various comments such as “ooh! aah!” and “isn’t it beautiful” came from people in the room. Then Dr. Jones said directly to me “John” (pronounced Jaaahn in a thick American accent) “Can you feel the spirit?” “No” I said, “I cannot feel the spirit in that song”. Dr. Jones’ face lit up with delight, which confused me greatly, then he said, “Jaaaahn, you haven’t suffered enough yet to have felt the spirit”. He told me privately later that he appreciated my honesty and he suspected the others didn’t feel the spirit either. He was frustrated by the radical white Christians of Australia having little knowledge of or contact with the black struggle in Australia despite their fascination with Martin Luther King and the black struggle in America.

Dr. Jones gave a lecture in Brisbane that had a profound affect on my understanding of what the church is. His lecture was called “Racistic Religion” and the part of this lecture that I remember was his question (words to the effect) …If there is one God, and God is universal, then the God that the ancestors of the slaves in Africa worshipped must be the same God as their descendants, the modern African American Baptists were worshipping. What other God could there be? Who are the exclusively white churches in America worshipping? What God would allow segregation, would harbour members of the KKK in its congregations, would justify white prive ledge in America? It certainly wasn’t the same God that the African-American worshippers were worshipping. The white American church must be worshipping demons, Dr. Jones asserted.

2/ Jesus is an Aborigine

In Latin, the word Ab-origine means from the original or pertaining to the original. In Mathew and Luke’s genealogies of Jesus we learn that he is an Aborigine to the land on which he was born and died. Mathew tells us that Jesus is from Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. Luke’s genealogy tells us that Jesus is from Adam, the father of humanity.

Acts 17 says…26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Despite the connecting relationship of all humanity to each other, we all have our own land given to us by God. This traditional ownership is itself, according to verse 27, is a mechanism of relationship with God.

The diversity of land, culture and language as Gods preferred option is also illustrated in the story of the Tower of Babel. The scattering of the people and the multitudes of languages that came from the destruction of the tower of Babel was not Gods curse on them but his blessing, the institution of the order of the nations, as God wanted it.

Joshua 11
23 So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. 
 Then the land had rest from war.

The church since the conversion of the emperor Constantine has abandoned this place based theology and developed a Christianity that mirrors the philosophy and ideology of roman centralisation and imperialism. The stories of the old and New Testament were written by and for the descendants of Abraham regarding the dreaming of the land that God gave to Abraham. Yet the imperial, church has generalized and misconstrued the Middle East dreaming, remodeling its local specifics as a global or “catholic” template to be applied to all places and all times. I can find no justification for this universalisation in the bible yet I can find much argument against it. The bible seems to suggest the opposite as God’s particular plan for the nations. There is only one God and the God is the God of all the nations. The same God gives land to and makes covenants with all the nations of the world just as in the land between the Euphrates and the River of Egypt – the surveyed real estate specified in the terms and conditions of the Covenant between God and Abraham.

It is God that is universal, not the governments and churches.

God was in Australia and in relationship with the people of Australia before the bible and the missionaries arrived.

Paul indicates in Romans 1 that nobody anywhere has an excuse for not seeing the revealed God.

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

As I hope this essay suggests, I am no fan of the religions of Rome. However I must pay tribute to a remarkable speech given by Pope John Paul II to the Aboriginal people of Australia in Alice Springs in 1986. In that speech he said……

“At the beginning of time, as God’s Spirit moved over the waters, he began to communicate something of his goodness and beauty to all creation. When God then created man and woman, he gave them the good things of the earth for their use and benefit; and he put into their hearts abilities and powers, which were his gifts. And to all human beings throughout the ages God has given a desire for himself, a desire which different cultures have tried to express in their own ways.

As the human family spread over the face of the earth, your people settled and lived in this big country that stood apart from all the others. Other people did not even know this land was here; they only knew that somewhere in the southern oceans of the world there was “The Great South Land of the Holy Spirit”.

But for thousands of years you have lived in this land and fashioned a culture that endures to this day. And during all this time, the Spirit of God has been with you. Your “Dreaming”, which influences your lives so strongly that, no matter what happens, you remain for ever people of your culture, is your only way of touching the mystery of God’s Spirit in you and in creation. You must keep your striving for God and hold on to it in your lives.”

3/ The historical context of Jesus of Nazareth

We cannot understand the story of Jesus unless we understand the historical context of his mission. The first historical point we need to come to terms with is that Jesus was not a Christian, he was a Jew. The form and structure of the Christian religion that we have in Australia is a construction of the Roman Empire and its state church, not the religious and cultural tradition of Jesus.

Not only do we have confusion in translating the bible from the oral tradition to Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English, and then for frontline missionaries into indigenous language but the interpreting and editing has been done from a gentile perspective, an imperial and colonial perspective. Our theology has been mostly constructed by the Roman empire after the reign of Emperor Constantine who incorporated Christianity into the empire and Emperor Theodosius who, at the end of the fourth century made it illegal in Roman imperial law not to be a Christian. Previously, Between Nero and Constantine it had been illegal to be a follower of Jesus and the epicentre of the Christian world was Jerusalem, post-Constantine Christianity was institutionalised with its epicentre in Rome. The dominant theology that lives in our own culture is the theology of Rome, not the story of Jesus and his disciples and his country and his times.

What we today call “holy scripture” is a perspective on God and Jesus from a global position of power and authority. The theology of sin and redemption, in particular the personal obedience to authority often inherent in theology is a construction of the Roman Empire, not the Jesus movement.

The story of Jesus must be understand in the context of the old law, the covenant of circumcision marking the relationship between Abraham, God and the land promised to the descendents of Abraham. The law of Moses must also be understood, not just the ten commandments but the whole of the law given to the descendants of Abraham as the basis of how to live in the land that God had given them. The old law is as much a matter of national sovereignty and land rights as it is a moral code.

The old law included the Jubilee festival, the origin of the notion of redemption where land, debts and slaves were freed every fifty years. All land that had changed hands between festivals was returned to the traditional owner families at the Jubilee.

Leviticus 25
10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.

The land that God gave to Abraham had been under foreign occupation for hundreds of years before Jesus. The Abrahamic covenant and the Temple of Solomon had been defiled by the Assyrian, Greek and Roman empires, claiming not only the land and economy but also demanding that the Abrahamic people worship the Gods and participate in the culture of the colonial occupying authorities – that they become assimilated into the foreign culture in their own land or worse, be taken as slaves from their own country.

Less that 200 years before the mission of Jesus, those Jews in Judea who refused to bow down before the foreign idols and continued the banned practice of circumcision and Sabbath law, marking their allegiance to God and their own indigenous right to their land, left the cities and villages and lived in the “wilderness” where they were relatively free to practice their religion in and on the holy land. However the Greek armies soon enough began to go into the desert and mountains to demand loyalty from the Hebrews. To cut a long story short, a story that can be found in the apocryphal book of Maccabees, the devout Jews formed armies in the wilderness and massacred or chased away the foreign armies and reclaimed the holy land under Gods sovereignty and the Law of Abraham and Moses. They also killed all those Jews who were collaborating with the foreign invaders.

When Rome invaded and occupied the holy land it was fearful of a similar Jewish uprising and therefore tolerated circumcision and Sabbath Law and recognised the authority of the Sadducees and Pharisees who compromised with and accommodated the foreign law to the point of collecting Roman tax and displaying Roman idols in the temple.

There were those Jews who stood firm in the tradition of the Maccabeean revolt, the Zealots including the armed revolutionaries, the people of the knife “Sicarii” where the name Iscariot comes from.

Within these power groups – 1/ the Roman state, 2/ the Pharisees /Sadducees/Scribes and 3/ the Zealots, Jesus is clearly located with the Zealots, who were represented amongst the disciples, through his rejection of imperialism and religious collaboration although he rejects the modus operandi of the Zealots and proposes a new (or perhaps old) way forward for the faithful.

4/ Indigenous revolution

Jesus did not call his disciples to engage in random acts of kindness or to administer welfare programs to the poor. Jesus charged the disciples with the task of building an indigenous revolution against Rome, a revolution built on the manifestation of the law of God, not the idolatrous state apparatus at the centre of Gentile sociology. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God was not an ethereal reference to pie in the sky when we die or to intellectual escapism where the kingdom exists in our minds. Jesus’ Kingdom was that which was promised to Abraham’s descendants and honoured by the faithful through continued rite of circumcision and observance of Sabbath laws.

Mathew 5 17″Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mathew 10
5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.

The conservative and radical church alike have embraced the call to heal and preach the message of Heaven but have not come to terms with Jesus priority for his own tribe and country of Judah. There were poor amongst the Samaritans and there were probably some poor amongst the gentiles, but Jesus mission was not about charity to the disadvantaged but about rebuilding the connection and covenant between God, the people and the land, the Kingdom of God.

5/ Sin and Salvation in Aboriginal Australia

The point of difference, I suggest, between the history of Aboriginal Australia and the bible stories is a matter of the history of sin. According to Genesis, the perfect state of Gods creation manifested as Adam and Eve living naked in the garden, hunting and gathering from the abundant garden that provided all their needs. Upon eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the evidence of sin came in two phases, first in Adam and Eve’s personal sense of shame for their own nakedness and then secondly in God’s wrath which manifested in difficulties in childbirth and the land itself becoming a burden to toil over rather than freely providing prosperity.

I have some theories on childbirth which I choose not to explore here because it involves Aboriginal women’s’ business which I am not authorised to speak of and have a limited knowledge which may well be way off the mark. However, within my own understandings as a man plus the voluminous representation of men’s business in the bible, I feel safe commenting on Adam’s curse. In short, it is the transition from hunter and gatherer to agriculturalist hoarder.

Ched Meyers describes this curse much better than I can.

“It is interesting that the symbol of the fall in Genesis 3 is the human being’s expulsion from the Garden, his alienation from the earth, and his condemnation to a life of toil as an agriculturalist. This was indeed the story of the late Neolithic. Moreover, the first act outside the Garden is fratricide, in which the pastoralist Abel, symbolizing the remnants of the older, not-yet-fully-domesticated lifeways of the nomad forager, is murdered by the farmer Cain. This metaphorical vignette represents the opening battle of subsequent history’s longest war between aggressive, expansionist agriculturally based societies and their insatiable appetite for land on one hand, and ever-retreating traditional foragers on the other.”
Cultural/Linguistic Diversity and deep Social Ecology (Genesis 11;1-9) by Ched Meyers

The obvious problem in understanding sin in Australia from this perspective is that, before the British invasion, Aboriginal people lived naked in the garden that that provided all of their needs, the land did not manifest or Adam’s curse of toiling on the land.

Why was there no evidence of the curse of Adam in Australia? Even people in the most arid desert are provided all their needs through hunting and gathering.

I can offer two suggestions to tackle this dilemma. 1/ The Aboriginal people are not descended from Adam but were born of the dust on this continent and therefore have not inherited original sin or 2/ At some stage in the past, Aboriginal people were offered the salvation of the spiritual Jesus, the Aboriginal Malchezedek, and they accepted that salvation, unlike the Jews of Judea, and returned to the kingdom of god in the garden – until the arrival of the outpost of Babylon in 1788.

Either way, we can safely say that God and the people of this continent had met each other before the missionaries arrived.

What other phrase could better describe the message of the early Australian church and its mission to the Aborigines than preaching “the knowledge of good and evil”?

Aborigines did not feel shame for their nakedness until the missionaries told them they were shameful. Naked Aborigines were not allowed into the churches and missions, they had to put on the clothes of the white missionaries to do this. Shame of nakedness did not come to this country through the manipulations of the snake, as in Genesis, but through the manipulations of the Christian church.

Whether Aborigines were forever sinless in the garden or at some stage had repented and been redeemed, contemporary sin in Australia has its roots in the arrival of the first fleet and the social, economic, cultural and spiritual domination of foreign force and Gods, just like in the time of Jesus in his own country.

Sin has manifested to the point that Aboriginal Australia has been integrated, either forcefully or by choice, into the gentile culture and polity. Beyond shame for nakedness, the curse of Adam, the point at which the Earth itself fights against man, is surely upon this continent today including in the hearts and minds of Aboriginal people as they have become sucked more and more into the consciousness of Babylon and are forgetting the ancient heritage and God Given birthright that they have been denied for 200 years.

The biblical principle inherent in the history of the people of Abraham is that when the people are sinless or have had their sins dealt with they prosper but when they turn from God they are smashed by history, then what explains the genocide? Why did God abandon the people of his covenant with this land?

Exactly the same reason that on so many occasions the people of God in the bible lost wars against invaders.

In the bible, faithfulness to God did not mean that conflict and war could be avoided, it just meant that the faithful won the wars because god was on there side. The fact that the Australian holy land came under attack from gentile forces does not of itself indicate prior disloyalty to God. The outbreak of war confronted Aboriginal Australia with a dilemma it had never had to face before, what to do to respond to such an unprecedented war? Previous wars between tribal nations were contained as local affairs and had social mechanisms to mediate and regulate disputes. This new war was something altogether different. The Hebrew people of the bible were confronted with foreign culture and war over and over and over again and the wisdom of the bible grew and developed from such history. However in 1788 Aboriginal people were confronted with imperial power and culture for the first time, they were suddenly confronted with exactly the same dilemma as the tribes of the bible – to resist the foreign gods and culture and sovereignty or to accommodate them? In Australia some people resisted and fought a 150 year holy war while others helped the white society, guiding them through the country, teaching them about the country and the most disturbing of all, some joined the native police and tracked and slaughtered fellow Aboriginal people under the orders of the white police.

Whether we look at this situation from a biblical perspective or from a Machiavellian analysis of power, the truth is clear; a house divided will fall – and the British occupied the Great Southern Land of the Holy Spirit partly with the collaboration of some Aboriginal people.

The biblical challenge to Aboriginal people is to return to their law, culture and land; to heal and reconstitute the covenant between God, the people and the land and by doing so, to again be blessed by God. Their challenge is to resist the culture and religions of the Gentiles, to reject the sovereignty of Caesar and Pharaoh just as the Jesus movement did. Just as God lead the Israelites out of slavery and back to the land of their own birthright, God will return faithful Aborigines to their ancestral estates.

Such a perspective can also be described non-biblically. Land rights will provide the capacity for a prosperous Aboriginal economic base again, elders and customary law can better deal with Aboriginal crime than Caesar’s courts, cultural engagement provides healing for addiction and mental ill-health. The bible law makes an awful lot of sense even in secular language. The remote outstations of the Utopia community in the Northern Territory has the best health statistics in Aboriginal Australia and I believe they are better than the mainstream statistics in things such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer etc. because their traditional lifestyle on their own land provides them with exercise, good nutrition and a great sense of well being. They are cut off from the evils of gentile society such as fast food, alcohol and tobacco.

What is the good news for Aborigines in Australia? I have heard many sermons preached by Aboriginal ministers that refer to the Exodus story, the freeing of the slaves from Egypt. This is a story that Aboriginal Christians have identified with and see as a story of their own hope and liberation.

But what did liberation from slavery mean to the Hebrews? It was not a negotiated better deal with Pharaoh. It was not a charter of human rights and increased welfare spending in Egypt; it was not a Hebrew consultative committee. Liberation from Egypt meant returning to their own land and law, that given by God to Abraham. It was the redemption of the covenant marking the eternal connection between God, the people and their land.

This is what the good news to the Aborigines is too.

Just as the Pharaohs and Caesars, those who imposed their own religions and social orders onto the land and bodies of the Hebrews, are defied and defeated in the Bible stories, so too is the invader Australian regime subject to the final judgment of and eventual destruction by the God of all nations, this is the good news to the Aborigines.

6/ Babylon and the contemporary Christian Church

My thesis, if you can call it that, is that the church in Australia today, including its many radical and community offshoots of all different persuasions, has inherited a diluted, misrepresented, politicized and Europeanised version of the dreaming stories of the Middle East.

We have proudly and faithfully proclaimed this spirituality as being the salvation of the world, our proclamations based mainly on our own English speaking understanding of Aramaic and Greek language and cultural representations of the oral traditions of non-literate tribal Hebrew societies.

I hope it is not too heretical to suggest that something may have been lost in the translation.

The Romanised church has reduced the washing away of sins in the flowing river of Jordan in the wilderness or healing in the flowing spring at the pool of Siloam, to a dunking in any old trough or a sprinkle of water or the running of medical and welfare agencies.

The church has taken the month long Passover festival that Jesus commanded the disciples to maintain and turned it into a little ceremony as an agenda item of the church’s weekly meeting.

The Garden of Eden, The Noah covenant, the Abraham covenant, the liberation from Egypt and the law given to Moses, the message of the prophets, the return from exile, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are all basically and intrinsically connected to land, specific and identified land, the land held in covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The unity of the bible is it’s interweaving of the three elements of God, humanity and the land and the complex relationships, good bad and ugly, between these three elements.

What is often referred to as “civilization” is the historical product of the culture of the Greek and Roman empires, and because of the emperor Constantine’s appropriation of the religion of the Christians in the 4th century, the Romanised Christianity has become a central element of the development of “civilization”.

Philosophically, the notion of dualism, the separation of the spirit world from the material world, or the soul from the body, has been another pillar of civilized consciousness, represented in the modern church especially in the notion of personalized faith and salvation.

The great Greek philosophers Aristotle, Socrates and Plato, and before them the Persian, Zaruthrustra, set in place a dualistic philosophical template hundreds of years before the new testament was written that is still well reflected in modern Australian church’s understanding of the nature of spirituality and its interpretation of the bible story.

But the uncivilized world, such as the Hebrew people of the bible and Jesus himself represented in the Greek language translations of the bible stories, do not necessarily share this philosophical point as to the nature of the mind and of spirit.

I might go one step further and suggest the spiritual philosophy of the Hellenic empires, the culture of Babylon and the Gentiles, the philosophy of Caesar and Rome was well understood and rejected by the uncivilized Jesus and his notions of the Kingdom of God on Earth.

Jesus’ blurring of the line between heaven and earth, and his fulfilment of ancestors prophecy, I suggest, is not dissimilar to the blurring of spirit and matter and the singularity of infinite time inherent in Aboriginal notions of dreaming and history,

I offer a very rough caricature of the dreaming which must be understood as a reflection of my own understandings and not an accurate reflection of Aboriginal consciousness, is that all history from beginning to end is happening all at the same time, the ancestors of the past are here right now just as today’s beings were with the ancestors, and the cross-generational bridge is of course the bloodline on one hand and the earth itself from which each generation is returned, the cycle of life, death and rebirth in an eternal cycle occurring at the one moment – now.
Or something like that.

Roman culture and religion dismisses the notion of supernatural intervention in the world or human intervention into heaven except for highly regulated and church authorised miracles. The possibility of such supernatural communion as an ever-present existential spirituality was dismissed for the rational scheme of science and order inherent in the Hellenic mind.

The Roman European consciousness has reduced God and the super-natural to the extra-ordinary and other-worldly rather than the existential total unified reality – the Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. The consciousness of the Hellenic rational religious mind has made invisible the existential nature of Gods creation, a mystical, metaphysical and material entity.

Baptism in the River Jordan is not simply a symbolic re-enactment of Noah’s flood or escape from Egypt nor was it simply the ritual cleansing of sin as was administered in the temple that Herod built. John’s Jordan river baptisms were a deep communion with the sacred river itself, being totally emersed in Gods creation as well as catalysing a new consciousness evidenced by Jesus’ vision upon rising from the water, a moment in time when Jesus was both fully in heaven and fully on Earth, a consciousness perhaps similar to that of the high coroboree or of shamanic doctors.

7/ Conclusion

In this essay I have drawn a comparison between the people of Abraham and the Aboriginal people of Australia to suggest that the bible story is much more a story of Aboriginal people than it is of white Australians. Slavery, dispossession of land, the wars to defend land, foreign domination and colonisation are shared characteristics of the Jesus story as with the Aboriginal story.

The clash between Aboriginal law and Queen Elizabeth’s law is the same clash as the Law of Moses and Caesar’s law in occupied Judea. A clash between a stateless theocracy – the Kingdom of God and a state structure that assumes the power, right and land of God.

The people of Abraham’s land was between “the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” in self governing autonomous tribal groups with specific territories having their own tribal territory – same with Aboriginal Australia.

The occupying nations of the Assyrians, Greeks and Romans insisted upon a centralised state over all the territories, a centralised economy, centralised culture especially language. This is why so much of the Bible is written in Greek not Aramaic, because the old language was dying and being replaced by the Language of Imperial Europe. Today Aboriginal languages are dying as the English language dominates all power relationships in Australia.

If we, as non-Aboriginal Australians, look for ourselves in the Bible story, we are the gentiles – the unclean, uncultured foreign sinners that Jesus spoke so strongly against – yet still invited into his kingdom. We are not the Jewish Christians who wrote the New Testament or the Jewish Christians for whom the gospels were written.

If we look for Jesus today in Australia we will not find him amongst the Roman church or any of its protestant offshoots, amongst the welfare industry, amongst the politicians or amongst average Australians.

We find Jesus, just like in the bible, amongst the traditional owners, those who by birthright inherit the ancient covenant between God, the people and the land.

While God’s chosen people in this country have been almost totally genocided, it is in the surviving and growing remnant that we find Jesus. All else, all religions and political and community programs that exist without a firm basis in God’s people of this land are just the hollow gong of Babylon and nothing to do with the revolutionary spirituality of Jesus.

(John Tracey)

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Further reading

Cultural/Linguistic Diversity and deep Social Ecology (Genesis 11;1-9) by Ched Meyers

“Led by the Spirit into the wilderness…”
Reflections on Lent, Jesus’ Temptations and Indigeneity by Ched Meyers

The Roman world of Jesus

The Jewish world of Jesus

Address of John Paul II to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in Blatherskite Park
Alice Springs (Australia), 29 November 1986

Norman Tindale’s map of tribal boundaries in Australia

5 responses to “Jesus is an Aborigine

  1. Pingback: unlearning the problem

  2. Georgina Gartland

    Well written David

    As a student of theology I have been struck by many of these similarities.
    The Bible (Sacred scripture) speaks to and challenges all people throughout time. As a ‘wybala’ (whitefella) I feel shame.

    The national apology last year was a moment of grace for our nation and promised much but, we continue to abuse, crush, assimilate and dominate our nation’s first peoples, the A&TSI’er Australians through current forced polices such as NT Intervention, suspension of RDA when it suits wybala ways. Yet, Aboriginal people are strong and trying to claim back culture, language and the land. Their endurance and patience has much to teach us.

    The treaty circle of St Mary’s Brisbane seems to offer a new way but now the full weight of the institutional Catholic Church is bearing down against this and the South Brisbane community.

    What hope do we (myself and fellow Christians give)? Are we praying, acting or walking as Christ? We are a people, church and community divided as such we will not continue to stand. Fr Kennedy has been sacked! This man follows as Christ

    Enough is enough, as the late John Paul II recognised in Alice Springs in 1986 the Aboriginal people came to know God through their dreaming and through the land. We must recognise this and come to a new understanding. The land must be returned in some practical way by the church, such as agreed in the Nov 08 Treaty Circle of St Mary’s.

    Wybala answers have not really helped, let’s decolonise and deinstitutionalise our thinking, and be directed by the Christ who is within the original inhabitants of this great south land of the Holy Spirit.

    We need a new wawu (heart), a new understanding.

    It is time that all people recognise and acknowledge this.


  3. Pingback: Uniting Church acknowledges Aboriginality in Constitution « unlearning the problem

  4. Pingback: “Rainbow Spirit Theology” – a review (more of a reflection really). « unlearning the problem

  5. I wonder what aboriginal thoelogy would look like if it’s infomed by the apostolic / prophetic,that which comes from the heart of “The Ancient of Days”?

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