“The Elders understood the settler’s religion as something that came from a book whereas what they practised was a way of life.”1
This disconnect in understanding an issue that is at the heart of the spirituality of both First Peoples and people who call themselves Christians is more than tragic. First of all, what came to be known as “The Black Book,” or the Bible, is more than instructions on how to live as a follower of the Jesus way or as some choose to call themselves “Christians.” Christianity proposes a way of life, not merely following directions (following the letter of the law).
So why would First Peoples think the settler’s religion was from a book? Possibly because they frequently heard, “The Bible says…. The Bible says,” which may have been reinforced by someone pointing it out physically in the book. It seems to me some of the “Christian” settlers were proselytizing a lifestyle of rules rather than what Jesus taught to live a spiritual life: “I give you a new commandment that you love one another, just as I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”2
By extension, they were to love all people. So generally, many “Christian” settlers were “telling a lifestyle,” not living it, and not advocating relationship with the person on whom Christianity is founded. Apparently, First Peoples did not witness the settlers living the words they advocated from “the book.”
As a bi-cultural person practising traditional Métis Spirituality this has me thinking about several things. One is that Christians don’t seem to have changed much. You can still hear, “The Bible says” . . . “the Bible says,” without a corresponding Christian lifestyle. I am not interested in what people think the Bible says. What I want to know is, “Do you have an active relationship with Jesus Christ that results in a Christ-like lifestyle?” Someone put it this way: “If you were accused of being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?” An active relationship with Jesus Christ would, in my opinion, mean talking about Him and his teachings, not making references to a book even if it is the Bible.
Secondly, the Truth and Reconciliation 94 Calls To Action direct six calls to “the Church” and other faith groups: Settlement Agreement Parties and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples calls 48-49 and Church Apologies and Reconciliation, calls 58-61. There is no excuse not to know what to do in terms of Reconciliation or addressing colonial trauma and injustice. Is any of this being done by “the Church?”
Thirdly, what are Indigenous people doing to understand the settlers’ religion in light of the fact they aren’t going away and Canada will always be a colonized nation?
And fourthly, are Indigenous people collectively or individually living out traditional beliefs such as the Seven Grandfather Teachings: Wisdom, Bravery, Humility, Truth, Respect, Unconditional Love, and Honesty?
1 Quest For Respect, The Church and Indigenous Spirituality. Special Issue of Intotemak, www.commonword.ca/go/1089. Pg. 22.
2 John 13:34, 35
Sharon Pasula is an Indigenous spiritual and cultural resource person who lives in Boyle Street.