The Indigenous Christ
The word indigenous literally means “produced, growing, living or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment,” or ecosystem. Indigenous originates from the latin indu meaning “within” and gignere meaning “to beget.” In other words, something indigenous is that which is born from within. This definition applies to that which is human in origin, or aboriginal, and of natural origin in the cosmos itself, with the implication that it has not been introduced from somewhere else.
The mystical creation poetry of John chapter 1 speaks of this primordial begetting from within, “The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him…”
An important semantic and theological connection is made in this passage between this indigenous “light” and “the one and only Son, who is himself God…” through the greek word monogenes, meaning uniquely begotten.
Let’s call this perspective a deep theology of creation, which, as you can see, becomes increasingly inseparable from a deep theology of incarnation. From this shift in consciousness, Christ isn’t thrown into the world from some neoplatonic realm of ideas, rather Christ is emergent in the universe itself - Christ is the truly Natural One.
This is the Indigenous Christ.
According to author and theologian John Philip Newell, “[Christ] remembers the dance of the universe and the harmony that is deep within all things. He is the memory also of who we are. He shows us not a foreign truth but a truth that is hidden in the depths of the human soul. He comes to wake us up, to call us back to ourselves and to the relationship that is deep within all things. The emphasis is not on becoming something other than ourselves but on becoming truly ourselves. Christ discloses to us the sacred root of our being and all being. This has enormous implications for how we view ourselves and one another and how we approach the deepest energies within us and within all things.”
To make the point even more clear, the Indigenous Christ presents us with a paradigm shift in our theology and practice as a church. The first paradigm shift is that the light is no longer separated from the darkness in the way we have come to understand it. God is not separate from the universe, it is a living revelation of the divine. As the imago Dei, Christ is the soul of the universe, the deepest pattern behind all things. The universe itself participates in what the Jewish mystics call the Ein Sof, or Holy Darkness.
The second shift in perception is the understanding that we as humans participate in a living universe which is itself rooted in God and of God. The physicality of our bodies, emotions, our experience of the world through story and memories, even our imagination is rooted, in our depths - in God. “To say that the root of every person and creature is in God, rather than opposed to God,” Newell confesses, “has enormous implications for how we view ourselves, including our deepest physical, sexual, and emotional energies.”
The apostle Paul says, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” Rom 8:19-23
Paul is not just speaking of the creation metaphorically as our mother. Rather he is offering a profound insight that is both mystical and ordinary. It is an insight of cosmicintimacy - in a very real sense we are engaged in a courtship with the world in which we participate, a courtship expressed through the deep perceptions and movements of the soul. This includes a recovery of the divine feminine including the erotic energies which celebrate full bodied life to the fullest of all creatures and bioranges, By virtue of our creaturely humanity, and our capacities of soul, the depths of our inner nature is rooted in a greater conversation with the whole realm of nature itself. In other words, we are not only enculturated beings, creating and being created by our cultural environment. We are not merely “human” beings separate from other species. What makes us truly human is that we are incarnated beings - sharing in Christ, the “fully human and fully divine” One. In other words, the essential qualities that makes us distinctively “human,” are also revealed, in some mysterious way, within the deeper matrix of Creation itself. This is the mystery of the Indigenous Christ.
The evolutionary goal of both the universe and humanity are inextricably bound together, and in order to discover our planetary role and calling we must reconnect to the deep wisdom of nature, the Indigenous Christ.