Each morning my son and I watch the sunrise. I was taught to do this by elders – to give thanks at the beginning of the day, to acknowledge the gift and miracle of life every morning. My ancestors practiced reverence in this way, and in turn I share this with my son. The spiritual tradition I have been taught explains that God’s nature is revealed in creation. To walk with God is to acknowledge God’s plan revealed in creation.
Romans 1:19-20 explains, For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly perceived. I take this to mean that God’s nature is made clear in creation. With each sunrise, God reveals God’s faithfulness, blessing the earth with warmth and light, the ongoing process of creation. The life support systems we depend on – soil, air and water – work together in a precious balance that demonstrates interdependence. These life support systems express the boundaries of reality that we must live within. For human beings to live, we need clean air, water and soils. Indigenous Peoples, across our numerous spiritual traditions, acknowledge we are embedded in creation, interdependent with it, not separate from it. In the cosmology I understand, this is reality.
"These life support systems express the boundaries of reality that we must live within."
Extraction of oil, natural gas, minerals and metals discharge carbon into the air, changing the climate. Extractive industry pollutes waters human beings are dependent upon to live. Toxic chemicals used in a variety of industries, including agribusiness and mining, destroy soils humans are dependent upon to grow food.
All of this destruction to vital life support systems is done in the name of progress. In addition to the destruction to the life-support systems of earth, entitled self-interest further results in racial inequity named by the Black Lives Matter movement. The delusion we choose to live in was created to serve the lucky at the expense of the oppressed. The stubborn belief that we are entitled to financial security – that the destruction of vital life support systems is worth the cost – is killing the world. Individuals feel entitled to status bestowed by unjust systems passed down from one generation to the next, just as we feel entitled to wealth accumulation justified as financial security. Hard work, thrift, investing, whatever the cost, are considered to be wise. We are rewarded in the dominant culture for pursuing self-interest.
Romans 1: 21-22 goes on to say, For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.
Meanwhile, Indigenous Peoples around the globe striving to live in balance with systems of life – the boundaries of reality – are considered to be poor, ignorant and in need of rescue by international development. Indigenous water protectors, from the tar sands to the Amazon, are dismissed as radical or unrealistic.
What the dominant culture imagines is reality – competition for scarce resources, financial security that destroys ecological systems humans depend on for survival – is destructive and delusional. We have to reimagine, remember reality.
"We have to reimagine, remember reality."
Are we, the privileged, ready to remake our values, our ideologies, our political and social systems, our understanding of God – so that they are consistent with the rules of the universe – the reality that we are dependent upon systems of life? Psalm 90:14 reads satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. I sincerely hope we are ready to be satisfied each morning, so that our descendants may sing for joy.
Sarah Augustine, who is a Pueblo (Tewa) descendant, is founder and cochair of the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery and executive director of a Dispute Resolution Center in central Washington State. She is also the co-founder of Suriname Indigenous Health Fund (SIHF), where she has advocated for vulnerable Indigenous Peoples since 2004. She has written for Sojourners, The Mennonite, Anabaptist Witness, Response Magazine and is currently a columnist for Anabatist World, and co-hosts the Doctrine of Discovery podcast with Sheri Hostetler. She and her husband, Dan Peplow, and their son live in the Yakima Valley of Washington. She is author of the book The Land Is Not Empty: Following Jesus in Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery.