In this episode of The Bible for Normal People Podcast, Pete and Jared talk with Brooke Prentis about the rich biblical perspective of Aboriginal people as they explore the following questions:
- What injustices have aboriginal people in the land now called Australia faced?
- How many Aboriginal Christians live in Australia?
- Why did some Aboriginal people convert to Christianity during colonization?
- What is the idea of the dreaming/dream time?
- What 3 things from the dreaming come through in Aboriginal stories?
- What is the significance of intergenerational memory for Indigenous peoples?
- How do Aboriginal creation stories align with Genesis?
- What injustices do Aboriginal people still face today?
- How is the dreaming a lived reality?
- How do Aboriginal peoples understand Genesis differently than western minds?
- How are the affects of colonization still present throughout the world today?
- What parts of the Bible stick out to Aboriginal peoples?
Pithy, shareable, less-than-280-character statements from Brooke Prentis you can share.
- “Everything is interconnected, everything is interrelated and that’s the enormousness of the Creator’s story.” @bprentis
- “What is Jesus actually saying to us? That we have to challenge the rich and powerful; he says we have to walk beside the last and the least. He requires us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.” @bprentis
- “Genesis 1 is the greatest Aboriginal dreaming story ever told.” @bprentis
- “My Christian faith and my Aboriginality are one and the same because the Bible teaches me to do the same thing. It calls me to love my neighbor, all my neighbors, without distinction, the non-discriminating love of Jesus.” @bprentis
- “The Bible is full of references to justice and how we should live in the world today and for Aboriginal people, you know, we see that injustice.” @bprentis
- “I await the day that diversity of Aboriginal opinion is something to be celebrated and not condemned.” @bprentis
Mentioned in This Episode
- Website: Common Grace
- Website: Grasstree Gathering
- Website: NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community
- Website: Brooke Prentis
- Instagram: Brooke Prentis
- Patreon: The Bible for Normal People
Powered by RedCircleRead the transcript
Pete: You’re listening to The Bible for Normal People. The only God-ordained podcast on the internet. I’m Pete Enns.
Jared: And I’m Jared Byas.
[Jaunty Intro Music]
Jared: Welcome everyone. Before we get started, I just want to mention one thing. A few weeks ago, Pete and I had the opportunity to have a course that we facilitated called “How To Read the Bible Like Adults”, and by that, we aren’t trying to be belittling or demeaning to a certain way of reading the Bible, we just mean as we grow up, we develop new ways and new tools to read the Bible. And so, we want to talk about some of those tips and tricks and tools that we’ve developed and pass them on to you. So, if you’re interested in that, we have the download version now on our website at https://peteenns.com/course/, but don’t go there yet –
Pete: No, no, no. Don’t do that yet.
Jared: Because we have an episode of the podcast here.
Pete: That’s right. Our topic today is reading the Bible through Aboriginal eyes, and our guest is Brook Prentis. Who’s Brooke?
Jared: Brooke Prentis is the CEO of Common Grace, which is a national Christian organization in Australia, and we’ll stop there –
Pete: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing.
Jared: Because she explains it.
Pete: She will explain that pretty well all by her lonesome, and yeah, it was a wonderful episode because it allowed us to see things from a perspective that, you know, let’s be frank here Jared, we don’t wake up thinking – I wonder how Aboriginal peoples read the Bible? Right? It’s just not part of our world view, and yet there are issues there in Australia, issues of justice. I mean true justice, deep justice, long, things simmering for hundreds of years justice, and to hear someone from a different perspective looking at things with different eyes is very, it’s like life affirming, it’s refreshing for me that it gets me out of my own rut to see things from a different perspective. I just need that.
Jared: It really confirms the idea that we need that diversity –
Jared: And diverse perspectives on how we read the Bible.
Jared: Good. All right, well let’s jump into the conversation with Brooke.
Brooke: What is Jesus actually saying to us? That we have to challenge the rich and powerful; he says we have to walk beside the last and the least. He requires us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. And so, how do we bring those things into our everyday lives? That’s my dream, my prayer, my hope for the world, that that’s how we read scripture and that’s how we live our lives.
Jared: Well, welcome to the podcast Brooke. It’s great to have you on!
Brooke: Yeah, it’s awesome to be on.
Jared: So, you have a unique position, the first Aboriginal leader of a national Christian organization in Australia, and you lead an organization called Common Grace. So, can you just tell us how you came into that position? A little bit of your trajectory.
Brooke: Yeah, so, Common Grace started in 2014 and just as a Christian, I saw this movement be launched and I was very curious about it and then the first CEO got in contact with me because one of the foundational Common Grace focus is on four injustices, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander injustice, which is our Indigenous peoples; domestic and family violence; asylum seeker/refugee justice; and creation and climate justice. And so, there were all justice areas that I was passionate about, but obviously the Aboriginal justice was a key part of my world in trying to bring that to the attention of Australian Christians. So, I worked with that first CEO on one of their first Aboriginal campaigns and said, well, kind of got invited as part of the team, and wanted to explore where this movement would go to, and the movement has now grown to over 47,000 Australian Christians, which is pretty massive for a Christian organization in Australia. Passionate about Jesus and justice and I have the amazing opportunity to be able to lead Common Grace into this next iteration of the movement and I think that’s the beauty as an Aboriginal Indigenous person in Australia who fights for justice, you know, we mobilize as a grassroots peoples and our, yeah, our activism and our fighting for injustice is very grassroots level and so, Common Grace is a movement. A movement, I think, is just a beautiful word and it actually expresses who we are and that we are adaptable and flexible and grounded in Jesus –
Brooke: But we want to see justice for all peoples, but because that justice brings healing and that transforming power of Jesus with the love and the healing that Jesus brings.
Pete: Mm hmm, well, yeah. We want to get into the Bible a little bit, but before we do that, I want to just sort of help flesh this out a little bit. Like, what, can you give me an example of a specific initiative that Common Grace takes for activism and for justice, like, do you work with law makers or what do you do?
Brooke: Yeah, so it’s a combination of educating Australian Christians on the injustices that exist when we specifically think about Indigenous injustice, it’s something like 90% of Australians have never met an Indigenous person. And so, there’s this veil of invisibility over us, but it also, you know, represents the lack of relationship between our peoples and April 2020 is 250 years since Lieutenant James Cook basically stole the land of Australia for the British and so this is a lived history, and Australia hasn’t reckoned with it’s true history, which is one of the things that we lead through. And I guess a bit more about my story and how I came to be here is I didn’t actually become a Christian until I was twenty-one, and part of that was I didn’t see Christians involved with Aboriginal people, fighting for justice and so I was like, what is this Christian thing about? But then when I became a Christian and found Christians that were passionate about justice and read the Bible and heard Jesus story, I’m like, oh, okay. Hang on, this is central to Christian faith. And so, I’m actually a Chartered Accountant by profession, one of only twenty-two Indigenous Chartered Accountants in all of Australia, so, you know, just in that statistic it’s a great achievement, but it’s an injustice and part of the level of racism that exists in Australia. And then as I went through my journey of faith, and within the Australian church, I was like, where are the other Aboriginal Christian leaders and peoples? And then it wasn’t until 2012, so after eleven years as a Christian, that I came across one of our most senior Aboriginal Christian leaders in Australia. She’s eighty-four years old, that’s Aunty Jean Phillips, sixty years of her life in ministry. And so an incredible story that inspires us as the next generation of Aboriginal Christian leaders, because one of the things in Australia, this is one of the injustices that we fight for is that we have the world’s worst life expectancy of any Indigenous peoples in the world.
Brooke: It is the Indigenous Peoples of Australia, and so, you know, we die eleven to seventeen years younger than the non-indigenous population, so it’s basically twenty years difference. So, the fact that she’s eighty-four, you know, she’s basically lived out those extra twenty years, which is incredible.
Brooke: And so, to see Aunty Jean bringing together younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders, so she brought together sixty of us in 2012, and so then I took on a bit of a leadership role in continuing to bring us together over the last six years and we’re now a network from those sixty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders, we’re now a network of over 200 of us who are all connected up. And so, we get to show that to these Australian church –
Brooke: But my life as an Aboriginal –
Pete: How many Aboriginal Christians are there?
Brooke: Well, so, the population in Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as a whole, there’s about 600,000 of us, which is about 3% of the population. But before colonization, 1770, 1788, it’s estimated there were a million of us, by the early 1900’s our population dropped to a mere 90,000 people. And so, today we’re at 600,000, which still is lower than pre-colonization, but out of those 600,000 a majority are Christian. So, it was up until 2016 up to 73% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people identified as Christian. It’s now dropped because there’s more people finding out that they have a heritage, and so they’re identifying as Aboriginal in the population statistics. So, that’s had a bit of an impact on our numbers. But still, a majority of Aboriginal people are Christian in Australia, which, when you understand our true history, is a miracle in itself and I think quite different to some of the other statistics of Indigenous peoples around the world.
Jared: So, can you maybe, just to get us into the Bible conversation a little bit more, we had someone on recently who was talking about how a lot of, here in America, African Americans who would have been oppressed by primarily Christian white slave holders would have adopted the religion of their slave holders. They would have been Christian as well, and we had talked about that a little bit. Can you speak from an Aboriginal perspective on what accounts for such high numbers given the history and the colonization of these peoples by what were presumably Christian folks to adopt that religion?
Brooke: Yeah, that’s right. So, I mean, the initial impacts of colonization, there’s many reasons Aboriginal people became Christian. The sad reasons are that it was forced upon them, it was also a means of survival to, when you’re being massacred on astronomical scales, like the genocide that happened in Australia, you can’t go from over a million peoples to 90,000 without that campaign of genocide, and Australia still hasn’t reckoned with those massacres, but, so the missions were sometimes a place of safety, that’s where we were protected from being killed. But also, the other fascinating thing, and I think this speaks to why so many of us are still Christian today, how our whole system of law and living as Indigenous peoples is structured is based on the Creator, and the Creator gives us what is collectively called the dreaming or the dream time. And some people might have heard about dream time stories. Dreaming is a better word because dream time suggests it’s something in the past, whereas our dreaming is continual. It’s past, present, and future and is ongoing. It’s not just stuck in the past. But dreaming and dream time are English words that were developed by particularly white male anthropologists, which is hugely problematic on a number of levels –
Pete: Mm hmm.
Brooke: But each, so we have three hundred nations of Aboriginal peoples in these lands now called Australia, and then you have the Torres Strait Islands, which are another Indigenous peoples group, but very specific geographical region just north of the tip of Queensland, the tip of Australia. And so, our dreaming tells us three things, and you read any Aboriginal story in Australia and you’ll see these three things coming through. And that is who the Creator is, how to care for creation, and how to live in right relationship. And so, for me, they’re three biblical principles as well, and so one of the passages I often look at is Genesis 1:1-2, and particularly the Message version, and it says, “God’s spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss,” and so, for the Wurundjeri people, which is the Aboriginal peoples around the Melbourne area and the Bunurong peoples, their Creator is this massive Eagle, Bunjil, and Bunjil sung the country. And so, singing and dance and art is all part of our culture, but Bunjil is the Creator, and so we can see in Genesis 1 our story being lived out and so, you know, I’ve said that Genesis 1 is the greatest Aboriginal dreaming story ever told. And so, you start to read the Bible with Aboriginal eyes, and you know, we have the story of the Creator, the same Creator, Creator God who is in the Bible is in our culture, and so, many Aboriginal peoples at colonization and still today can see that correlation and it’s Indigenous theologian Terry LeBlanc from Turtle Island who says Indigenous theologians always start at Genesis 1, Western theologians usually start at Genesis 3.
Yeah, well…what are ya gonna do?
Brooke: And so, when you sit with that and you think about where you are in a church context often being taught the Bible, you know, like I’ve written a theological paper on “What Can the Birds of the Land Tell Us?” looking at the ostrich, the emu, and the cassowary. And obviously the emu and cassowary indigenous birds to Australia, but when I’ve preached that sermon in Australian churches, they’re like, I’ve never heard a sermon on the birds or the trees or creation, and you see, that’s what the Creator handed down to the first generation of Aboriginal peoples, and has been handed down generation after generation after generation. And then you come to the story of Jesus and what often happens is the story of colonization is the Australian Christians can sometimes say, well, you know, the First Fleet’s Captain Cook, the colonizers, well, they brought Jesus to this land. But I mentioned how there’s only twenty-two Indigenous Chartered Accountants in Australia, there’s only five Aboriginal Christians of any denomination in the history of Australia with a masters or Ph.D. in theology.
Brooke: So, we’ve been kept out of the capitalist’s regime as well as the theological regime and that has consequences.
Brooke: And so, it’s only now, really, that we’re starting to listen to Indigenous theologians who are very centered on Jesus. We are Christian, but we’re still having that fight as to whether we can be Christian or not, and it’s like that’s still in the hands of the colonizers and particularly the white Australians who get to dictate whether we can be Christian or not. And that’s not –
Pete: Yeah, because you don’t theologize like colonizers do.
Pete: You still have different starting points. Could we get back to Genesis for a second because you mentioned a couple times ‘dream’, explain that. Tie, how are Genesis 1:1-2 initiating a dream if I heard you right. I mean, how, connect those two things, because that’s totally new I guarantee you, to everybody listening and everybody not listening.
Pete: That’s how new this idea is, so go ahead.
Brooke: Yeah, so, it’s interesting that you heard ‘dream’ and this is, so it’s actually the dreaming is our whole system of law and living, but that’s the problem with the word, and that’s where the anthropologists got it wrong because it’s what’s classified as legends and myths that these were made up stories that we had, but they missed the story that this is the story of the Creator. This is how the mountains and the rivers and the people were all created, which is where Genesis 1, it tells us how the, how everything was created. And so, we had that story, we just told it a little bit differently, but it’s the same story. And that that story is embedded in the land and the waters of the land that you walk upon every day, and whether that’s here in Australia or in the United States of America, you walk on the Creator’s story every day. And so, Genesis 1 isn’t just this stuck in time thing, it’s a lived reality upon the land that we walk every day and Indigenous people have known that since time immemorial.
Pete: Okay. That totally makes sense. I mean, I understand that and there’s, it’s like you have a different energy from that story than others might, and I’m just looking here at Jared, and I know how Genesis 1, I mean, often times it’s a debate. Well, is it historical? Or how does it comport with science, and those kinds of questions tend to dominate.
Pete: And not, I’m going to use a different word that makes sense to me. There’s a willingness to be imaginative in how you process a passage like that for it to be a lived reality. It defines who you are –
Brooke: Mm hmm.
Pete: It defines where you are –
Brooke: Mm hmm.
Pete: It defines who you are in God’s eyes, I guess.
Pete: And that’s, you know I, to me, that’s a different kind of thing, Jared, don’t you think?
Jared: Well, in some ways, I want to use the word, it seems like a compelling way to redeem the word myth.
Jared: Like, what you just described is all the best things about what a myth truly is. And I think we’ve relegated it to an untrue story.
Jared: And in fact, what you’re saying is it’s actually the more true story.
Pete: Very true, deeply true.
Brooke: Yes, yes. That’s right.
Pete: Yeah, right, right. Okay.
Brooke: You know, the facts that all of the history books try and tell you that these were made up stories, myths, legends, but yet still as an Aboriginal person today, it has meaning and responsibility and accountability to the Creator and how to care for all things is, you know, and that’s where, for me personally, my Christian faith and my Aboriginality are one and the same because the Bible teaches me to do the same thing. It calls me to love my neighbor, all my neighbors, without distinction, the non-discriminating love of Jesus. Without the Creator we think this beautiful tapestry of creation of which us humans, we are one part of, that’s what binds us together and that’s the central core to Aboriginal people. But for me, it’s the central core to my faith as well.
Jared: So, in some ways, I’m picking up too on a distinction maybe, that Western theology, you know, I appreciated the idea that for a lot of the West, theology starts in Genesis 3. I think the implications in some ways is it sounds like creation in Aboriginal theology is this positive grounding of the rest of our theology, where in the West, I feel like in some ways it’s a problem that we have to sort of reconcile or get over and Jesus sort of the solution to the problem of creation, if I can put it that way.
Jared: And it sounds like it’s not really a problem for you, it’s a blessing then to be stewarded.
Brooke: That’s right, exactly right. And this is where you know, there’s Indigenous world views that play a part of this. So, one of those world views is how I articulate it is there’s no separation between the human and the non-human. It doesn’t mean that you’re not distinctive, each part of creation is distinctive, and so, humans have a particular distinction, but what it’s speaking to is that everything is interconnected. Everything is interrelated, and that’s the enormousness of the Creator’s story. Where I said before the Creator wove us together in this tapestry with all of creation, and so, the other part of the Indigenous world view is that we are cyclical in nature instead of the Western world view of this linear approach. And so, when I read the Bible, I see the full, the cyclical cycle everywhere: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Don’t look at that as liner, look at that as cyclical, because we’re still living as part of that story today. Jesus is alive and part of our lives. So, to separate out the creation story from Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is problematic and I think that’s where Western theology tries to separate things. I mean, even separating Creator, Holy Spirit, and Jesus. So, going back to the colonizers brought Jesus to these lands now called Australia, and they’re like, oh, yes, but okay, you keep talking about the Creator but what about Jesus in Australia? How did Aboriginal people, what about Jesus? The colonizers had to bring Jesus to your people. And I’m like, what is non-indigenous people’s fascination with removing Jesus from the trinity? It’s like, the first thing I was taught as a Christian that there’s the distinct identities, but they are co-equal in power and glory and all there from the beginning. And so, you know, I see the cyclical community interconnectedness everywhere.
[Producers group endorsement]
Pete: Yeah, I imagine that, you know with, let’s say the dominant Christian culture in Australia, the Australian Christians, part of, a big part of what you’re doing is to try to present a way of looking at scripture and looking at the faith that they may have no awareness of whatsoever. I guess because before you mentioned the educative dimension to all this, you’re trying to educate people as to what you believe, and I imagine that’s a tough hill to climb.
Brooke: Yes, it’s tough. And I guess the surprising factor of that is when you’re not trying to draw it to an Aboriginal understanding or an Indigenous world view, you’re just trying to draw it into your everyday life which is where injustice exists and you know, the Bible is full of references to justice and how we should live in the world today and for Aboriginal people, you know, we see that injustice and so, the Bible calls me, regardless of whether I was Aboriginal or not, to love my neighbor, and if my neighbor is suffering generational poverty because of the fact that the land was stolen and Aboriginal people weren’t fully citizens of Australia until 1967, that Aboriginal children are still being removed from their families today in 2020, but official government policy until the last stolen generation’s home was closed in 1988. We’ve still got the equivalent, well, it’s sort of like in the United States of America, Black Lives Matter, it’s called Aboriginal Deaths in Custody here in Australia. We’ve had over five hundred Aboriginal people since 1980, die in our state run jails, and no one has ever been held to account and it takes a family up to four years to even just get any answers on how their loved one died in a state run system. You know, there’s just our health statistics, the fact that we die twenty years younger than the non-indigenous population, that’s one of the concepts I talk about as stolen wages, so, right up until the late 1960’s, Aboriginal people, it was very simply slave labor and they were paid in tea, sugar, flour, and blankets. If you’re paid in tea, sugar, and flour up until the late 1960’s, what do you think some of the health outcomes for our people might be? It’s the highest rate of diabetes, we’re six times more likely to die from diabetes in Australia, it’s the kidney disease, it’s the heart disease, it’s all of these things let alone the food security in remote communities where you’re paying astronomical prices for fruit and vegetables still today, and a bottle of milk, you know, can cost $10 for a bottle of milk. And so, or, a loaf of bread that impacts upon the already terrible health outcomes.
Jared: With the, when you’re talking about, we’re talking about the emphasis on creation, and then the emphasis on justice. What are some of the passages that Indigenous theologians will talk about when they’re connecting to the Bible the Bible to this call for justice. You know, we all emphasize different pieces and parts of the Bible, and so, what are the parts that jump out whenever they’re referencing that and making a call for this sort of justice and activism?
Brooke: Yeah, I mean, there’s quite a few. One of the ones that I’m, I have particularly used pretty much all of my Aboriginal Christian leadership journey and it speaks into Australian reconciling with the true history of Australia, and the colonization of stolen land, stolen wages, stolen generations, and what I call stolen lives about the present day injustices. But I also want to make sure, you know, it’s part of this cyclical nature as well and not just looking at our own nations that Australia in terms of the global colonial project kind of comes at the end with 250 years at the end of this global colonial project, but when we look at the world history and like, you know, the United States of America and Canada and their colonization story and the Indigenous people there, to see that as all interconnected, that this is actually a global consideration, but we often just speak in our own national kind of context, national as in Australia or the United States of America. But one of the key ones that I’ve talked with Christians about and other Aboriginal Christian leaders is II Chronicles 7:14, because what we’re trying to do is call Australian Christians into this story that you have to understand the true history. The Creator and Jesus and Holy Spirit have seen everything that has happened in these lands over the last 250 years as well as the thousand years of, for us, being the world’s oldest living culture. But II Chronicles 7:14, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
So for us as Aboriginal Christian leaders, that speaks into the true history of Australia that has not been reckoned with, including the massacres, those sins of theft that have not been reconciled with, but you know, we obviously are all living through a global pandemic now, and so the fascinating thing that happened in Australia for me is when I’ve shared that scripture pre-COVID 19, people are like, oh, wow, I’ve never read that piece of scripture, but now I’m seeing it posted everywhere to speak into this global pandemic moment, mainly by non-indigenous Christians, and I’m like, hang on. What’s going on here? And so, you know, there is sickness and we do need healing, but if you only look at a surface level sickness and not the deep sickness that is, you know, the stolen land, the stolen wages, the stolen generations, the stolen children, and the injustice that is lived out today, then you’re only putting a Band-Aid on. And if you only look at it as an Australian problem and not a global problem in terms of the global colonial project, then we’re missing something as well. And I shared that when I was on a visit to the United States of America, and someone said, wow, I’ve only ever thought about this as a US problem, but they didn’t even know there were Indigenous people in Australia and that, you know, so it’s the world’s oldest continuous living cultures, and so just lifts another veil of invisibility and so, Indigenous people, we have that intergenerational memory.
There’s been lots of talk about intergenerational trauma, but we also carry intergenerational memory, and so these things are passed down to us and through us. The story of the Creator and how to live rightly with all of creation and with each other, but also like the Spanish Flu is still within that intergenerational memory that had a huge impact on Indigenous people in Australia. Or when the colonizers brought smallpox, there also, that disease of 250 years ago that decimated our people as well. You know, we carry this. And so, that’s one of the beautiful gifts that Indigenous people can bring to non-indigenous people is that we don’t forget very easily. We have this memory that we pass on to each generation because that is the whole circle of life and that past, presence, and future. And that’s hugely important, and it’s not just an Indigenous thing, like the whole story of the Bible and Jesus’ story, if that hadn’t been passed from generation to generation to generation, we wouldn’t have that story today.
Pete: Mm hmm.
Brooke: So, there’s some ways that we can connect together. It’s about seeing our similarities and not our differences that will actually bring us together to actually bring healing to the world. And one of the phrases that we say as Aboriginal people is “when the land is sick, the people are sick,” and the lands have been sick for a very, very long time. And all peoples, we are very, very sick, and we need the healing, and the only way that we can do that is by coming together and that’s not in unity that looks just like one picture. That’s unity in diversity and so, you know, we started at Genesis but another place I often to go is Revelation and, you know, where it says Revelation 7:9, “after this, I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne and before the land.” For us today, we can look at the world with all those different nations, but when you connect with Indigenous people, like here in the lands now called Australia, we had 300 nations and still have 300 nations of peoples living side by side. And pre-colonization, that side by side in harmony because we understand the interconnectedness, but each with their own cultures and own peoples and own history and own story and own ceremony, but we lived in harmony. And that doesn’t mean without conflict, but you could say, like, people often go, oh, well, it’s kind of like Europe today. You’ve got all of those countries living side by side, but we maintained that for thousands of years. And so, instead of looking at us as these primitive people, uncivilized, you could actually say we were the most sophisticated and civilized societies the world has ever seen, and that’s another one of those reframes that do people think about us as Indigenous peoples that way, or is it just Indigenous? But I’m actually a Waka Waka woman; that is my nation. And I’ve lived on Gubbi Gubbi pantry, and I was born on Indinji country and I live on Gadigal country today. And so, I know I’m a visitor within all of these places, and it’s a whole different way of viewing the lands now called Australia, but also the world.
Pete: Yeah, I mean, it’s very refreshing to me to hear you looking at passages like Revelation 7 and II Chronicles 7:14 and the lens is immediately one of justice and calling maybe power to account and, you know, I’m just thinking again to contrast it a bit with, you know, the Christian culture that we’re a part of here, Jared, that is much more in line, I guess, with the dominant Christian culture in America, and you know, something like II Chronicles 7:14 would typically be something like, the reason why our economy isn’t great and there are tornados is because we’re not right wing enough.
Pete: And our politics are in our Christian belief, and it’s not about justice and it’s, I mean, not to sound, this sounds much more cynical than I mean it to be, but it’s more about maintaining power and it’s almost, it’s exact opposite use of passages like those that you mentioned and probably many others, and it’s something that I think, it doesn’t always come to our own consciousness how, you know, the filters we have for approaching these texts. And maybe they’re not very good filters.
Jared: Yeah, if you go back to just thinking of, I went to Liberty University, which would’ve been when Jerry Falwell was there, and if you would’ve gone at the time I would’ve went, you would’ve known this passage by heart, because every time, almost, it seemed like every time Jerry Falwell preached at our convocation of whatever, 10,000 students, he used II Chronicles 7:14, and it was all about a call to these very particular political platforms. And we, if we don’t rally around these few political platforms, that’s why God’s not blessing us, and so that’s what it means to heal our land is we have to turn from our wicked ways, which is highly politicized.
Pete: Yeah. Well, do you want to respond to that Brooke?
Brooke: Yeah, I think, you know, and this is where Common Grace starts to play a role in Australian society, in that we’re Australian Christians passionate about Jesus and justice. And so, you know, this whole political divide between left and right and these labels of conservative and progressive, you know, one of the things that I say is that in Jesus, there is no left and right. There’s just Jesus. And so, when we read the Bible, and what Jesus is telling us, to remove those labels, what is Jesus actually saying to us? And to me, he says that we have to challenge the rich and powerful. To me he says we have to walk beside the lost, the last, and the least. To me he says that he requires us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. And so, how do we bring those things into our everyday lives centered on, you know, the parable of the Good Samaritan and what his greatest commandment is to us. This is, you know, that’s my dream, my prayer, my hope for the world that that’s how we read scripture and that’s how we live our lives.
Pete: Just maybe switching gears a little bit. You know, we’re probably coming somewhat close to our end point here, but are there passages, are there parts of the Bible that average theologians or lay people or leaders of some sort, that they struggle with that are, you know, what we call problem passages or something like that. Are there any parts of scripture that are just difficult for you to accept? Or do you just handle them differently or do you just sort of move on and say, well, that’s okay, but there are other parts of the Bible that really speak to us? Because that’s a perennial problem here, certainly.
Brooke: Mmm. I think it’s actually how people, so probably, this is very personal response –
Pete: Of course.
Brooke: As is all of this. So, one of the things I say is I’m one Indigenous person with one perspective, and I always say that I await the day that diversity of Aboriginal opinion is something to be celebrated and not condemned. Like, we all are individuals as well as, you know, three hundred different nations, but often it’s only us that are like, oh, well, what do the Indigenous people want?
Pete: Mm hmm.
Brooke: What do the Indigenous people think? And it’s like, well, I’m one Indigenous person and this is what I think. But, for me, it’s to understand how people have abused scripture. And so, it’s how it’s been used. And so, you know, it’s my own journey with Jesus that tells me we live in a broken world, and all people are broken, and so racism exists, and people can be horrible when they use the scriptures. So, it’s not necessarily that there’s scripture, I think all of us, whether you’re Indigenous or non-indigenous, there’s passages of scripture that you struggle with, and that’s where, you know, I’m grateful for now having some theological teaching behind me in how to actually read scripture, you know, just doing my New Testament subject and understanding that, you know, that the headings that are put in the Bible translations. And then there’s all the translations and so, to actually go back to the Greek and the Hebrew, you know, is fascinating because the English language had sometimes turned things into a different framing that’s not actually what the Greek and Hebrew were saying either. So, there’s all these things that play out, but I think it’s you know, one of the passages that’s often used against us is, it’s the phrase, “well, we’re all one in Christ Jesus.” And basically saying I don’t have to do anything, you’re equal, and so what are you talking about? But if you come and walk alongside me and my community, you’ll see that things are not equal, and that there is injustice and poverty and racism and inequality, and the Bible calls us to something different with that. And so, and all that so that oneness is, well, you know, we’ve all got to be united and it’s like, well, I am being united, I’m being united in love and Jesus, but what are you seeing that’s different? You can’t handle that I’m different or think differently, but that’s the beauty of humanity that we should be different, and God created each one of us differently. And so, let’s celebrate that difference instead of condemning it to call us to this unity that looks like oneness and usually looks very white.
Jared: Well thanks so much for coming on Brooke, it was a pleasure to have you here and to hear just so eloquently put some of the ways in which we can see the Bible through Aboriginal eyes and also as a force for justice. Is there a place, as people wanted to learn more about the things that you’re talking about or the causes that you’re a part of, where can people go, where can you maybe point someone?
Brooke: Yeah, and I do just want to acknowledge Uncle Revered Graham Paulson. He was the one that coined that term, reading the Bible with Aboriginal eyes, and he’s also an incredible Aboriginal Christian leader who is now in his eighties who has taught me much and paved the way for us as the younger generation. Some of the ways that I would love people to check out what I’m doing is to find Common Grace, so the website is https://www.commongrace.org.au/.
Also, people can follow me and follow Common Grace @commongraceaus on social media, follow me personally on social media @brookeprentisgrasstree and also get to know NAIITS, an Indigenous learning community. There’s an upcoming online symposium in June where you’ll get to hear from world Indigenous theologians, so yeah, please check out Common Grace, Brooke Prentis, and NAIITS.
Jared: Excellent. Well, thank you so much again for coming on, we really appreciate it.
Pete: Thank you, Brooke. Thanks so much.
Brooke: Yeah, thank you so much.
Pete: Right folks, thanks so much for listening to this episode, and you know, hey, big shout out to New Town Mission Bible study! Our favorite bestest most awesome Bible study, at least, I don’t know, yeah, in the world! Let’s just get it out, in the world.
Jared: At least we won’t alienate or ostracize any other Bible studies.
Pete: Well, we’ll say something else next week. That’s fine.
Pete: But for now –
For now, absolutely good to meet you virtually. It was good to have your buddy Brooke with us too. And another shout out to our team –
Jared: Yeah, that’s Dave Gerhart, our audio engineer; Megan Cammack, our producer; Reed Lively, our primary administrator and marketing wizard; and Stephanie Speight, who transcribes all of our podcasts.
Pete: Yes, we could not do this without them.
Pete: Absolutely. And you know folks, just as a reminder, we’ve got this great community over at Patreon where we have a Slack group where we discuss things, and all sorts of video opportunities for as little as $1 a month, and we would love to have you come aboard and take part in that and help us to do the things that we want to do, because we have a lot of plans. It just takes time and energy.
Jared: Some might call it scheming.
Jared: But we’ll call it plans.
Pete: We’ll take over, we’ll take over. Somebody has got to do it. So yeah, being a part of that community would just be wonderful, and we would love to have you there and appreciate your help.
Jared: Yeah, it’s https://www.patreon.com/thebiblefornormalpeople. We’ll see ya next week!
Pete: See ya.
Pete: And, hold on, you didn’t mention Dave’s last name.
Jared: I know, let’s do it again. I forgot to put his name because I know his name.
Jared: So, I didn’t read it.
Pete: [Continued laughter]
Oh Dave, I hope you’re smiling right now. This is nothing personal.
Jared: I should have done Dave last. Aaaaaaand Dave.
All right, now I’m recording.
Pete: You have a lot on your mind, don’t you?
Jared: [Continued laughter]
I do have a lot on my mind. All right, [Beep]. Man! Dave.
We just did the whole thing, and Jared didn’t record it because he’s incompetent.
Jared: Arrrrgggghhhhh!!!! All right, we gotta do it again. All right, here we go. Distracted, not incompetent.
Jared: Well, maybe a little of both.
Pete: That’s what Trump says.
Jared: Man, I see it’s ticking, so I actually recorded it this time.
Pete: Good job, good job Jared. Maybe we need to hire someone who can turn the computer on for you.
[End of recorded material]