The Aboriginal Christ??

All throughout my life, I’ve stumbled across signposts that help me figure out what I’m supposed to be doing, and why I’m here. I firmly believe God has a masterplan for each one of us – but we don’t get a manual for when each new model of human appears… we must pray, partner with the Spirit and put the jigsaw puzzle together as we go.

There are days when each of us feel like we’re a million miles away from our purpose, and may question whether there even IS a purpose to our life… but then there are days in which it seems like a light goes on, and we suddenly see further into the future than we ever have before, with a contented fulfillment  replacing our questions with answers.

For me, such a day occurred when my friends Reuben and Sarah Singleton asked our band, ‘Speaking of Sarah’ to worship lead at a conference, for their mission agency International Teams. A session I attended was led by a man called Mark Soderquist, who works in Chicago. Mark is actively involved in reconciliation within an urban environment (think white versus black, gangs, crime). He asked his host to show him the area of Sydney most notorious for urban crime and renowned as a problem area, and found himself in Redfern. It was around this time that a fourteen year old boy, “T.J. Hickey” was killed in a high speed pursuit by Police (T.J. was on a bike at the time), and the roads closed while grieving relatives and friends refused to allow Police entrance back into ‘The Block’, a well-known epicentre for Aboriginal activism and identity. These riots were quickly over, but angry sentiment remained in the air, – Aboriginal deaths in custody and treatment at Police hands still topics that incited seemingly unwarranted rage.

Redfern station was about two streets from the house where I lived. This meant I paid a lot of money for our car insurance, but for me personally, what the location provided was a different kind of insurance –  inoculation against middle-class complacency, the type that would allow me to feel a sense of gravity around the importance of buying a sedan wagon rather than changing the world with my remaining days left. I found that working in a church environment came along with a strong urge to clean up the messiness of life – to have a spotless marriage, to settle down in a ‘good’ area, and, to prove to church members that I was like them, locally-based and concerned with what are often middle-class problems – however all the while, my heart was with the Aboriginal men and women who busked outside the IGA in Newtown. I knew Redfern’s streets well.

Mark gave a slice of the street life in Chicago, and the barriers to entry that black American people often feel in entering white American churches. He spoke of his shock in understanding that racial difference as a deep river running underneath all the visible interactions between ethnicities, with violent outbreaks proving how little either side really understood each other, and meaning or significance in certain events and interactions often lost by the one side.

He shared with us a quote he had found written on the walls of a church in Redfern while walking around. It was the first time that I had ever seen racial alienation in my own town of Sydney Australia:

“the aboriginal Christ crucified on every city sidewalk should be free in his own church among his own people in Redfern.”

In reading this quote, I think an ordinary Australian’s first impulse is to be angry, to declare that there IS no Aboriginal Christ, that Christ is not black. Like us He deserves a middle class, white church. We proclaim pridefully that Christ is not on the city sidewalks, we have built Him beautiful buildings of honour. We do not consider him crucified but proudly resurrected… the glory of the whole earth. He is not hindered but is freed by our religion…

But Christ is not white or Asian – surely if anything he would best be described as ‘Middle Eastern’… and still many of us see Him like ourselves… So is it wrong for an Aboriginal to write this? Would we be prepared to be disgraced by a God who chose to come as a Jewish baby in a Roman world, to make friends with prostitutes and tax collectors, and to die upon a garbage heap in order to save us from our sins… would we still choose to follow if this God chose to worship in a little church in Redfern, among “his own people”?

Big questions. What do you think??

5 thoughts on “The Aboriginal Christ??

  1. I think the cry of the heart is to be able to worship Christ – in true freedom from condemnation.

    If indeed all nations, genders and societal class are sons of God in Christ…we should be able to worship him – where ever we find ourselves.

    The truth be told though; we make distinctions as to the Christ we worship – not just on skin colour, gender and societal class – we also make judgements on denominational grounds in that the Spirit of God isn’t really working there…

    I am so blessed to fellowship in a multicultural church, that truly does have people from many nations.

  2. Good point, Craig… I agree with this, the Biblical picture is not of a whole heap of denominational or ethnic churches, but ONE church worshiping in unity… 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!

    Would love to hear others’ thoughts as well…

  3. I would follow Him where ever He may go,even if it’s in a church were black people go.Thinking alot about Jesus.Like did He ever smile as He walk away?

  4. I whole heartedly agree that many in the church would potentially be offended by the notion that Christ was anything but ‘white’. I also think that we need to be reconsidering our assumptions in this regard.

    We often consider Christ to be like us not only in racial terms but also in terms of emotion, motivation, ability, desires etc. Indeed, He was but He is also God. Perhaps this is the struggle of Christians – take an infinite God and make him a man then try to understand a limitless limitation or a limited limitlessness.
    The fact is although Jesus was a man, He was also God.
    Can we ever truly conceive of God in his entirety? Probably not. He is far to great for my mind to conceive.

    The simple fact is It is far more comfortable for us to see Jesus in terms of his humanity – as an extraordinary man – but then we are inclined to limit God to fit into our experience and that presents us problems when we are faced with circumstances that require a bigger, stronger God than humanity can conjure.

    Was Jesus a man of race – history tells us yes, was he concerned with race – perhaps on some level, he at least recognised race as a divider set amongst men. Did he care about race – I doubt it.
    I think Jesus simply loved people, where they were at regardless of the divisions we seem to hold so dear.

    I see Jesus as a Man, as God who cares for all humanity beyond the divisions we place upon ourselves and others. Should Aboriginal people be free to worship Him? Absolutely – anywhere they want to for they are our brothers and sisters, saved and unsaved. When we get the revelation of this without concerning ourselves with divisions of culture, race, worship style, tradition or of any other kind, then the bride will be all she is meant to be; one people with one heart presented faultless before her beloved.
    Until then we need to humble ourselves and love one another as Christ first loved us.

  5. Thanks Shez, poignant thoughts!!!

    .. I’ve continued thinking about this so much in the last few days, especially as Tim was told by a friend that he “simply had no heart for Aboriginal ministry”. I wonder if this is possible for any Australian in this day and age?

    For us as a nation, is conversion possible without repentance? And is a sin of omission as valid as a sin of commission (is doing nothing as sinful as acting wrongfully?)… who is actually held accountable for making amends in regards to sin? (not only the repentance, but also the prevention and the righting of consequences of it)…

    These could be endless circles if no-one ever takes responsibility.

    And we’ve been approached with the possibility of helping create an “Aboriginal Church”, for which I feel profoundly unqualified. But also, I wonder if it is contrived for me to attempt to worship God in this way.

    I don’t know.. but I’m throwing these thoughts around my head.

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