Book Release: Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization

I’m so pleased to have an Bible reflection in Unsettling the Word, this beautiful and totally unique collection, edited by Steve Heinrichs.–Rose Berger














Can we make the Bible a nonviolent weapon for decolonization? Check out Unsettling the Word.

For generations, the Bible has been employed by settler colonial societies as a weapon to dispossess Indigenous and racialized peoples of their lands, cultures, and spiritualities. Given this devastating legacy, many want nothing to do with it. But is it possible for the exploited and their allies to reclaim the Bible from the dominant powers? Can we make it an instrument for justice in the cause of the oppressed? Even a nonviolent weapon toward decolonization?

In Unsettling the Word, over 60 Indigenous and Settler authors come together to wrestle with the Scriptures, re-reading and re-imagining the ancient text for the sake of reparative futures.

Created by Mennonite Church Canada’s Indigenous-Settler Relations program, Unsettling the Word is intended to nurture courageous conversations with the Bible, our current settler colonial contexts, and the Church’s call to costly peacemaking. (Comes with a study guide for groups.)

Order from Commonword.

Book Release: Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry

BuffalocoverIt’s always so humbling to hold in one’s hands the print edition of a book you’ve helped birth – even in just a small way.

Today I received copies of Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together, edited by Steve Heinrichs. As I hold the finished work in my hands, it still smells like fresh ink. And the amazing cover art by Jonathan Erickson (Nak’azdli, Carrier-Sekani) of the Buffalo carrying with her the life and bones of the Salmon pushed me to tears. It’s so beautiful.

Steve contacted me more than a year ago asking if I’d write a poetic response to Randy Woodley’s brilliant essay “Early Dialogue in the Community of Creation.” I was honored, but really had no idea what a watershed book I was being invited into. (See the Table of Contents.) I contributed adapted sections of my unpublished poetry manuscript Saarinen’s Arch and Steve was kind enough to include them.

Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry  is a book that deeply engages the question: How can North Americans come to terms with the lamentable clash between Indigenous and settler cultures, spiritualities, and attitudes toward creation?

Buffalo Shout offers up alternative histories, radical theologies, and subversive memories that can unsettle our souls and work toward reconciliation. It showcases a variety of voices–both traditional and Christian, Native and non-Native.

Many of the Native writers are theologians and scholars affiliated with the 10-year-old  North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS), which was formed “in response to the inability of the Christian evangelical church to include Native North Americans in a manner that affirmed who their Creator has shaped them to be.”

NAIITS has just signed an agreement with George Fox University, where Randy Woodley teaches indigenous studies, to deliver theological education for Native North Americans and other indigenous people using a curriculum developed by NAIITS. Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry will likely be a primary textbook for this new joint venture.

Here’s an excerpt from Steve Heinrich’s introduction:

…[The prophet] Jonah is not a white Mennonite settler like me, but stands among and with the colonized. He’s a word-swinging Lakota warrior (think Vine Deloria Jr.), a Sto:lo poet of colonial deconstruction (think Lee Maracle), a shouting buffalo, a weeping salmon, coming out from the shadows of the rez and urban occupied territories to confront the privileged powerful. This Jonah speaks unsettling truths, not to save the empire, but to stop its rapacious ways in defense of all relations, including us settlers.

This is what the book in your hands is about. It’s a Jonah text, perhaps as scandalous, implausible, and necessary as that old anti-imperial myth. A bunch of Jonahs and several settler-ally friends have come together to speak a word to, against, and for the dominant settler-colonial culture in North America. Some employ sharp rhetoric akin to that of the disgruntled prophet; others speak in more hopeful terms. They certainly don’t agree on everything. But they all do sound (with maybe one or two exceptions) a common warning: the controlling culture is violently sick, devastating people and lands. The need is urgent: repent, resist, do something.”

You can order Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry here.