Uncle Pastor Ray Minniecon reflects on the celebration, welcome, Joy and Hope we have in the coming of the Light of the World.
AUNTY DR ANNE PATTEL-GRAY
On the fifth day of Advent, 2022, Aunty Dr Anne Pattel-Gray presents an Aboriginal interpretation of the vision of God’s good and flourishing creation in Genesis 1:20-31.
Creator Spirit the Source of Life and Goodness
And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Recently, Professor Norm Habel and I published a book titled “De-colonising the Biblical Narratives – Volume 1” where Norm as an Old Testament biblical scholar and I as an Aboriginal theologian reinterpreted Genesis. . The Colonial reading of Genesis sees God instructing humans to ‘subdue and have dominion over’ the natural world and to bend the land and creatures to their will, to multiply and fill the land with their offspring. As an Aboriginal theologian I struggled to come to terms with an interpretation of a God who acted like a capitalist having no value for creation and I could not tolerate bearing the image of this God, nor could I find comfort in, or communion with, a God that acted like a Colonial Landlord. Is it possible, by returning to the images of God prevalent in the culture of the First Nations of Australia, to de-colonise this colonial God as we decolonise narratives of Genesis?
First Nations people cannot help but contemplate that this colonial God is a distant ruler who has handed over to the human coloniser the whole created order as a resource under their oversight and for their own use and benefit. God is a faraway king who has ceded control of all the animals and plants to his human servants. God instructs his human assistants to rule over what has been entrusted to them. If God, the heavenly monarch, has handed the whole created order over to the human colonists as his landlords, the outcome is that they in turn do what they wanted with it.
An alternate reading of this narrative is the Creator Spirit as a creator who molds and shapes all the creatures of the animal world as a family of ground beings in the bushland to live and flourish in relationship. In traditional First Nations culture there is a kinship between all living beings. There is also the experience of moiety relationships in which each human, in each tribe, has a spiritual kinship with a member of the animal kingdom. This kinship with animals is one that requires First Nations people to fulfill certain obligations and responsibilities to their particular animal to ensure its longevity. Australia First Nations people ensure that creation is respected, protected and celebrated as kin, not to be ruled by colonial humans.
Australia’s First Nations faith has been nurtured over thousands of years and as a result we have a very intimate relationship with the Creator Spirit and when we speak of this relationship, we invoke the Creator Spirit in our midst. Our Ancestral Narratives reflect this relationship, and our ceremonies give praise to our Creator and remind us of our obligations to one another, to Land and the environment, to law and the responsibilities given to us by the Creator Spirit. Among First Nations there are power-filled stories about the Creator’s acts in the very beginning. As George Rosendale states in Rainbow Spirit Theology, “In the very beginning, the earth was formless and empty of life. The Creator Spirit, in the form of the Rainbow Spirit, shaped the land, its mountains, seas, rivers and trees (2007, 29).
Australian First Nations Christian leaders told of their Ancestral Narratives that spoke about our knowledge and belief of a Creator who through our Spirit Ancestors formed our world and forged our identity, culture, and Law. This process highlighted the relationship between First Nations peoples, the environment, and the spiritual world (of our Spirit Ancestors and the Creator Spirit, Holy Spirit and Jesus) and how they were all linked to each other and dependent upon this interconnection.
Our faith and the spiritual world for First Nations Australia was, and still is, the life force and foundation of our life, existence and survival.
Jesus birth is considered a continuation of the Word becoming flesh and living amongst us (John 1:13-14). Through the birth and life of Jesus, discipleship is demonstrated. As we celebrate and remember Jesus’ birth at Advent we are reminded of this good, life-giving relationship with Creator Spirit and we see the hope of restoration and renewal of this right relationship between God and all creation.
Aunty Dr. Anne Pattel-Gray is a descendant of the Bidjara Nation in Queensland and is a nationally and internationally recognised Aboriginal leader with over 30 years experience in senior management as a CEO in the NGO Sector. Dr Pattel-Gray is Professor of Indigenous Studies and inaugural Head of the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Divinity. Dr Pattel-Gray was awarded her Ph.D. in 1995 in the Studies of Religion from the University of Sydney and was awarded a Doctor of Divinity in 1997. Dr Pattel-Gray is a trailblazer and has opened many doors for her people. She is a recognised scholar, theologian, activist, campaigner, and prolific writer with several publications. Aunty Dr Anne Pattel-Gray is deeply committed to the advancement of Australia First Nations peoples and to Reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.