In part one I mentioned that there are two trolls that guard the bridge to a new way. I named them as Colonial Christianity and Environmental Dualism. Of the many issues facing us, let me tell why I recognized those two.
In 1421 Chinese ships landed on the Pacific coast of what we know as North America. Last year in Postcolonial class, my prof asked us a series of questions that began with “Why didn’t they stay and colonize? What was different from what especially the Spanish would do a century later? ”
I spent the semester, as we read Said, de las Casas, and all those who follow them looking for a common theme that could provide a interpretive key. I kept noticing that there was secondary mechanism behind the machine of Colonial power.
Throughout history there have been Empires and that, by definition, comes with a conquest narrative. Even in our own Bible we see that group like Assyria, the Babylonians Greeks, and Romans swept through Israel. Israel itself had the Canaanite conquest narrative. Not to mention that China was an empire that conquered and subjugated the areas and nations around them. There is nothing new about either empire or conquest.
But this is not that. There is something else going on in the Colonial era that led the British, French, Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish to expand and extend that impulse to an exponential degree. It is so inflamed and exaggerated that some explanation must be provided as to difference that we see in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.
Technology is insufficient as an explanation. Guns and horses certainly explain some of atrocities we see with the Conquistadores but that is merely wood for the framework. There was a fuel that made it so flammable and destructive. What fueled the Colonial drive was a specific brand of Christianity.
I think that needs to be pointed out. It must be acknowledged for two reasons:
- It is still with us
- its unquestioned giveness allows it to remain in power but in a far more sinister way – in secret assumption.
Colonial Christianity remains – not just as a residue – but as an unquestioned operating system and that is both an ongoing danger to our planet’s existence (war, environment, economy, etc) but also to the very integrity of the Gospel message that it purports to contain.
Nipples and Bellybuttons
One of the most powerful things that the Western mind inherited comes from the thought of Renee Descartes – it is a Cartesian dualism between the mind and the physical body. On the surface it does not look so danderous – but it morphs and attches itself to other really valuable things. One mutant offspring begins to distinguish between humans and everything else. This fits great into Colonial Christianity. The result is that we think we are exceptional.
Humans are mammals – notice the presence of nipples and bellybuttons – while many Christians recognize the similarities they refused to acknowledge that humans are mammals (and then are confused by our sexual desires and habits).
This exceptional dualism shows up in all sorts of places! In the study of religion, even if we acknowledge that other religions grew UP from communities and are expressions of their various locations … Christianity is held to be an exception to that. It came DOWN from Heaven and would be the same truth regardless of its historical embeddedness in the Ancient Near East.
Exceptionalism is an ongoing mentality today. It affects so many areas. [by the way, Randy wrote a great piece on political exceptionalism here]
In my opinion – beside the possible exception of modern war – there is no area where exceptional thinking is more deadly than the environment. From dust we came – as humans we are made up and sustained by what comes from the soil, the water, and the air.
We must repent of of this exceptional dualism and confess that while we are unique on the earth – we are not exceptions to it and in fact we are integral parts of it and completely dependent upon it.
When you put these two monsters of Colonial Christianity and Environmental Dualism together, you may be able to see why I think that they are the Trolls blocking the bridge to a new way.
Tomorrow I will attempt to articulate what waits on the other side of the bridge. The simple fact is that we can’t go back. We can’t undo Colonization. We aren’t going back to family farms. We can’t refreeze the polar ice caps or re-create the Glaciers in Glacier National Park. As they say ‘we shall not pass this way again’. But I think that there is a different way of being in the world that holds hope for us.