Last night I took an evening walk through what is now West River’s Edge Park in Fort Saskatchewan, I marveled at the beauty of what had once been a gravel pit. Not long ago, the pits left gaping sores in the land where the earth’s resources had been ripped from her bosom. The land has now been restored. The vast pits have been filled with fresh water to create ponds that home waterfowl. The surrounding land has been reseeded and is a place that the coyotes can lurk at night. Pine and spruce seedlings have been replanted and have taken hold and will create new habitats for a variety of creatures.
As I walked, I realized that the reclaimed land is remarkably similar to how Creator restores wounded hearts. FNMI (First Nations, Metis, and Inuit) People of this land were also ripped from their mother’s bosom. Many of our fathers were imprisoned for attempting to hide their children from government officials that came to take them away to be placed in Indian Residential Schools (IRS), as well as foster, and adoptive homes in an attempt to assimilate us.
By the time IRS were mandated across the nation, many of our People’s hearts were already wounded from the effects of colonialism and alcohol that was employed to ply better deals for the fur traders. In fact, our People have been hurting from the moment foreigners set foot on this land. First Peoples were broken down at the hands of people that proclaimed to be Christians, but who carried no love in their hearts. They believed that to be acceptable, we had to change into the likeness of the broken, wounded, and hateful hearts of many of the people who did us harm in the name of Jesus, and that is exactly what happened.
What they did not realize is that we too, both now and then, are made in the image of God. Creator himself is diverse in that he is the Triune God that is comprised of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He made the earth and all the heavens, and everything in them diverse. The plants, insects, animals, soil, rocks, clouds, and stars are all diverse. Nothing in creation is exactly the same. Each person is distinct with unique fingerprints, iris scans, and voiceprints. It makes no sense that God would create a people just to be hated and destroyed. Our God loves diversity in people and culture as much as he loves diversity in everything in all creation. Our Creator loves to be worshiped in different languages by people of different color that wear different clothes with their hair styled in different ways, playing different instruments, and dancing and singing to him in their own unique ways.
What he hates is paganism, and that is what we must be wary of. However, just because our cultures and ways of walking with Creator are different, it does not mean they are bad. Much like the cultures of the western world, the cultures of the global village of Indigenous Peoples have good and bad, pagan as well as those who live in relationship with One God, Creator. We speak different languages, dance, and worship in different ways. What settlers call worship, First Nations call Ceremony.
All that is necessary is that our common denominator be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that we shall worship no other god before him. In his book, Issues in Contextualization, Charles Kraft asserts that “God loves people as they are within their cultures, …God made cultures and languages…[and] God worked with His people in culturally appropriate ways”. Kraft further asserts that while we must be wary of syncretism, we must also recognize that the western form of Christianity is equally syncretistic as it is “dominated by foreign cultural forms with imported meanings”.
Before we can pluck the sliver out of our brother’s eye, we must pull the log from our own eye. Before we can hope to truly demonstrate the love of Christ to Indigenous Peoples, we must view them as Created in the image of God by God with intention and purpose. Then, we must earnestly pray that the Holy Spirit will go before us and turn broken and wounded hearts of those we are hoping to reach into healed, repaired, and malleable hearts of flesh that can be molded into the likeness of Christ. When all of this is done, perhaps we will see the seeds of Creator’s love take hold, creating a habitat in which love can grow.