Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision (part 1)

by Christine Sine

by Rev. Dr. Randy Woodley

From Pixabay. by Woong Hoe. Click picture for original.

From Pixabay. by Woong Hoe. Click picture for original.

I thought I might give a little definition to the book for those who have not read it. The book is narrative oriented but still, I know many people who would like terms defined, so in an effort to meet some folks in their own context, I offer these somewhat theological definitions.

Shalom:

Shalom is a Hebrew construct concretizing practical love to be expressed through structures and systems. The structured order or government of God’s love, is shalom. God’s love is a mass, including peace, mercy, justice, righteousness, restitution, and a whole plethora of characteristics and expressions for the individual and the common good.  Shalom is the ethic Jesus preached and the action he lived as he confronted systems of broken shalom. Jesus’ constant reference to the “kingdom” was that of a shalom kingdom. Shalom is not amorphous nor is it utopian in nature. Shalom can be clearly identified.

Shalom seeks the communal good and it benefits the whole community in tangible ways. One path to shalom includes engaging in hospitality, even to one’s enemies. Hospitality leads to understanding. Understanding leads to acceptance of both commonality and difference. Acceptance leads to community actions creating systems for the well-being of the community, based in equity and equality. These systems and structures provide for shalom living. Indigenous Peoples have a shalom construct I call the Harmony Way.

Community of Creation:

All things created are rooted in a symbiotic relationship to each other and to Creator. Like Creator, we are never alone. The whole life system, and each part, whether it be the eco-system, the solar system or the multiverse, serves a purpose in the community of creation. Understanding the relationships of all things to each other is helpful in understanding our human purpose within the whole.

The danger of the system occurs when we study the specific parts of creation and we forget the context of the whole and our interdependent relationship to the whole community of creation. The whole community of creation includes both unity and diversity from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the human body to the multiverse. Homogeneity is not a permanent ontological state of being but diversity with unity is both a fluctuating state and is the essence of ontological permanence. The foundation of all life is found both in unity and diversity. The foundation for living according to the ways of the Community of Creator must include the recognition and appreciation of both unity and diversity.

Indigenous Vision (Theological):

North American Indigenous Theology, done correctly, is in itself a contradiction. The difference between Western, Post-Enlightenment theologies and Indigenous North American theologies divides at the level of worldview. Western worldviews tend to concern themselves with tight definitions and extrinsic categorization. Traditional North American Indigenous peoples, and it is from this particular worldview that North American Indigenous theology must be done in order to be bone fide, are cautious to leave room for mystery when speaking of Creator. In fact, in some Native American tribes it is considered taboo to speak too much when trying to define Creator. Also, North American Indigenous theologians speak to Creator more than they do about Creator. They see Creator in everything and in everyone.

Belief is really about doing rather than knowing. Given these, and other differences in worldview, the best North American Indigenous theology can do is to attempt to be a bridge between theological understandings in their cultures without crossing sacred boundaries.

AND A BONUS DEFINITION:

Community of Creator:

The Trinitarian model of God is by its nature, a Community. This communal nature reflects the divine sense of community in all creation, in other words, there is something of Creator in all creation because community is innate to, and created by, the Community of Creator. I understand Jesus, whose actions and teachings surrounding human community, as being a direct result of a shalom community ethic, based primarily through a harmonious, communal lens. Jesus’ understanding of God’s “kingdom” is a community of egalitarianism, where peace reigns and the most marginalized of society are secure. Jesus spent his life forming inclusive community. Jesus included the outcast and the marginalized like, women, shepherds, lepers, tax-gatherers, gentiles, the disabled and others. Jesus’ teachings exemplified by parables such as those found in Luke 15 point directly to God’s deepest desires for creation is the realization of community.

Other New Testament writings expound on the value of unity and diversity and egalitarian community as the norm of the church (I Corinthians chapter 11; chapter 12; I Peter 4:8-11). The image of God as community and as a model of community, I would argue, goes far deeper in our souls than that of the imago dei. If we must talk of God in ontological terms, a mystery beyond any of our comprehension, then perhaps the image of the Community of the Creator, existing eternally in shalom relationality may lead us beyond much of the former dialogue that has centered itself in ontological substance, and towards a better understanding of our own communal ontology.

This post is part of the October theme Living Into the Shalom of God.

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