• Following Jesus in Invaded Space

Following Jesus in Invaded Space

Book Review: 

Chris Budden:

Following Jesus in Invaded Space - Doing Theology on Aboriginal Land

2009 Princeton Theological Monograph Series

 Rev Dr Chris Budden is a UCA minister in Newcastle NSW, a former Synod general secretary, and various other positions.

Review [abridged version] by Rev Dr Ian Robinson, UWA Chaplain and co-convenor of the Bringing Them Home C'tee (WA), in collaboration with Rev Dr Anna Killigrew, Anglican clergy WA, chaplain to Koora Retreat.

 The full review is available at:         Ian's Blog        www.wa.uca.org.au/uwachaplain
Also check out:                             Tall Trees        http://talltrees.org.au 

 

I was excited, inspired, and challenged with every chapter. Months later, I still feel that this book is the most important theological text written in Australia…

Book Review: 

Chris Budden:

Following Jesus in Invaded Space - Doing Theology on Aboriginal Land

2009 Princeton Theological Monograph Series

 Rev Dr Chris Budden is a UCA minister in Newcastle NSW, a former Synod general secretary, and various other positions.

Review [abridged version] by Rev Dr Ian Robinson, UWA Chaplain and co-convenor of the Bringing Them Home C'tee (WA), in collaboration with Rev Dr Anna Killigrew, Anglican clergy WA, chaplain to Koora Retreat.

 The full review is available at:         Ian's Blog        www.wa.uca.org.au/uwachaplain
Also check out:                             Tall Trees        http://talltrees.org.au 

 

I was excited, inspired, and challenged with every chapter. Months later, I still feel that this book is the most important theological text written in Australia…

We must face certain facts:

      The way racism is still part of our life, and the way it shapes our perceptions and discourse and relatedness.

      The fact that we, as Second Peoples, and as church live on stolen land.

      The fact that our relationships in this land were based on violence, a violence that still distorts those relationships.

      The social location of the church, and the way this effects both the way the church sees, and the interests it continues to protect…

The goal is not to abandon immigrant views in favour of indigenous views, as if that were even possible… The goal is to play with others, to blend our parts, to develop harmonies, and to share in the creation of the whole.

Following Jesus in Invaded Space asks what interests and whose interests are protected by the theology and institutions which come from within a community that invaded this land. Yes, he uses the word Invasion. (What else do you call 1788? Boat People?) And with naked gaze he looks for a reconciled path forward together.  But as we try to understand this book, skewing our very ability to see and hear and think, will be the fear of loss of place and loss of our own particular perspective. Budden dares to speak of God, church, and justice in the context of past history and today's dispossession. He examines what we feel is 'normal', what theological constructions that we feel are complete, what is privilege and what is fear and guilt. There is a deep unconscious resistance to this process in any Australian, especially people like me, white educated middle class, any who have done well in the social structures that we have set up.  Yet, somewhere between the casually disgraceful rhetoric of a 'black armband' view of Australia and a 'white blindfold' view, Budden is building a path. He purports:

 If the church is to do theology in this country as Second peoples it needs to deal with a history that still shapes the nation, and the present reality – both good and bad. It needs to relate to, sit down with, and speak of faith alongside Indigenous people… Theology that is consciously contextual, and which seeks to hear the voice and experience of people who are not always heard, will question the way we have read the tradition, the assumptions that people take to that task, and suggest that the tradition is incomplete. It will suggest that the tradition has been constructed by a particular part of the population to meet and pass on their experiences of the journey, but does not take account of people who have found themselves in a different relationship with the Christian faith and its practices. The goal of such theology is not simply to describe ‘reality’ but to enable and encourage a more just, liberated, holistic world that reflects the Triune God’s intention for the whole of creation.

The perspective that Budden brings helps me to update and globalise my way of talking about this.  Language that is new in Australia, but common in North America discussions of this kind is the “First peoples/Second peoples” distinction. Also “Indigenous/Immigrant”. This irritates some Second/Immigrant people. The titles are after all a description of bland historical fact. Who was here first?

…Budden insists that theology has to do with real socio-political issues and not simply with spiritual realities. E.g.Mark 9: 17-18  on how we are blind, deaf and dumb to our involvement in racism and its bodily effect on indigenous people and our selves in our un-faced fear and guilt.

 Luke 15:1-2 says, 'he mixes with sinners and eats with them.' Clearly, the Australian followers of such a Jesus have an inner and an outer task if we are to put aside a centuries-long habit of siding with the wealth-takers to the exclusion of all opportunities for Aborigines (except to be the objects of our charity)… As I read, I heard the refrain: ‘But I didn’t do anything. It was all so long ago. What have I to be sorry about?’ In discussion of the Northern Territory Intervention of 2008, Budden suggests:

Intervention does not help people engage in developing relationships and processes that hold people accountable, makes them responsible, and forces them to restore wrong doing… In the Territory, the police action was needed and appreciated, but all the rest of it was just another invasion.

… The work of transforming social disorder and violence which has its foundation in shame, needs more than this sort of action[intervention]. It requires the slow action to transform the shame and violence-causing social order. The constant question for the church is where it sits in this debate as followers of the Christ who said we would find him among the imprisoned and marginalized (Matt 25:31-46).

That sort of statement is certainly nothing new, but we are being asked, helpfully I am pleased to say,  to practise it. 

 The central issue, the one that runs right through this book,  is how Second peoples give up control of relationships, and help build more mutual, and more equal lives. The issue is how we place all forms of sovereignty, and control within the sovereign, serving lordship of Jesus Christ, and our Trinitarian God.

 ...The issue for theology as it seeks to listen to the encounter between cultures and theologies is how the hearing can occur within the priorities of relationships, and how a culture of written texts and rules can be open to change that will sustain the emerging relationships.

How can we be open like that? Do we need to be reminded that it is Love (by which we mean as modelled by Jesus at the heart of the Trinity as recorded in the matrix of scripture) that is the greatest thing -  not order, not definitions, not creeds. So our course of action must include that priority in practise. If the congregations, theological colleges and councils of the church aren’t about Love they aren’t worth attending. I see three imperatives… We face the risk that we will learn side by side with Aboriginal sisters and brothers to join in the praise song of the trees and the stars. 

This is a turning point book. Hitherto we have looked as far as new theologies written from the point of view of other migrants, because we understand that position. We are at last doing theology that is located honestly in Australia.