Randy S. Woodley is a Native American theologian, community builder, and seed farmer, and sees little difference between those vocations. We speak with him about the relationship between Christianity, Judaism, and Native American religion, the contrasts and similarities between indigenous and Western worldviews, why he thinks the Bible shouldn't have been translated into indigenous languages, and what a sweat lodge is like. He's a prolific author with a podcast of his own, as well as a down to earth guy (literally and theologically). The books discussed or mentioned in the episode are:
The bourbon we sampled in this episode is a New Riff Single Barrel Barrel Select store pick from Story Hill BKC.
The beverage tasting is at 1:11. To skip to the main segment, go to 5:03.
You can find the transcript for this episode here.
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NOTE: This transcript was auto-generated by an artificial intelligence and has not been reviewed by a human. Please forgive and disregard any inaccuracies, misattributions, or misspellings.
I'm Randy, the pastor half of the podcast, and my friend Kyle is a philosopher. This podcast hosts conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and spirituality.
We also invite experts to join us, making public space that we've often enjoyed off-air around the proverbial table with a good drink in the back corner of a dark pub.
Thanks for joining us, and welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar.
Well, today we're talking with Dr. Randy Woodley, who is the author of a book that we just read, called indigenous theology in the Western worldview. He's also the author of a ton of other books. He literally published three books this year, I wrote a chapter of a book this year, so got me beat. And he is an indigenous theologian. He's also Seed Farm.
Yeah, yeah, he's a distinguished professor of faith and culture and director of intercultural and Indigenous Studies at Portland seminary. And he co hosts piecing it all together podcasts with both Sanders. And he's written a bunch of books. And then he and his wife, like you were alluding to Kyle, his wife, Edith, our CO sustainers, of Elohim, indigenous Center for Earth justice, and Allah hay farm and seeds. So he's a seed farmer and tries to grow and sustain organic, indigenous heirloom seeds, because he really cares about the land and the earth.
Yeah, we talked about that quite a bit. In the interview, we talked about a whole host of other things, too. This was probably of all the interviews, we've done the least we have stuck to a script, which kind of fits the vibe of the book. It's very narrative based. It's all about the differences between what he calls the Western worldview and the way that Western theology tends to be practiced, and a more indigenous way of theologizing. And thinking about life, and it's very much narrative based and very conversational. So it makes sense that we would veer from our script a little bit.
I absolutely loved this book. And it, it made me so inspired to like the, the indigenous theology that he kind of presents reminds me so much of the prophets in the Hebrew scriptures and of the Jesus way in the New Testament, and it's so the saddening thing is you read it the grievous thing as you read it is that it's so different than this colonized version of Christianity that the American church has. It's just, it's just so obvious as you read this, and as you reflect how other our Christianity has become, because of who we are, where we are, and when we aren't really,
yeah, as he says, You can be a Christian and follow Jesus, but it's very difficult. I love it. I love it so much that piques your interest. Keep listening.
Yeah. So what we do here on the podcast, if you're new, is we sample a tasty alcoholic beverage because we are pastor philosopher walk into a bar and why wouldn't we sample something as we're talking not. And so today, our friends at story, he'll be Casey in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, have a special gift for us. It's a new riff single barrel, and it's a barrel select. So you can literally only find what we're tasting at store, he'll be KC. So if you're in Milwaukee, go there now and ask for it. We're going to find out how it is. But if you're not in Milwaukee, go to some local establishments and see if they have any barrel select special bourbons because it's just fun that we get the this one barrel that one has done is done. Nobody will ever have it. Again. It's gonna be
a little bit unique from all of the other ones. We've actually had one pick of new riff before on the podcast. And if you remember our friends, our bourbon YouTube channel sent it to us and we loved it. So those guys are excited about this.
Yep. This is a high high cut. It's 112 proof. And it smells like it smells hot. It reminds me of like, a glue stick. Yeah. A spicy glue stick. Yeah, it's
best smelling glue stick.
A delicious glue stick.
Oh, wow. Okay. That's complex.
It's prettier than I was expecting from the nose.
It's hot as hell. Holy cow.
It's a little more grainy than I remember the other one being but it's got the heat the depth the that's really good. Yeah, the rich dark fruit character.
It's I think it's lighter in color than some other barrel pics of him. Not not like,
I mean, it's four years old. So it's not it's not super, super old. But there's just so much going in. It is one of those bourbons where each part of your palate gets something different for me.
Yeah, rich toasted butter. buttery goodness is in there too.
Yeah, buttered toast. That's yeah.
Yep. And then I get like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg a little bit. Some of those fall winter spices.
Some of my favorite tasting notes and bourbon especially those dark spices
leather and wood on the on the end. Love it. That's good. That's a serious bourbon though.
Yeah, barrel projects love barrel proof. I think all whiskey should be but I can't say that if a master distiller wants to cut his whiskey or her was given more power to him. I just won't buy it.
Yeah, I'm giving into the fat a little bit the trend, because most of the barrel proof that we try our delicious but this is hot like you might want a little couple of drops of water to open it up as matter of fact let me try that. Yeah, I'm
gonna do that as well.
No so different. Yeah. Oh, that's really good to velvety.
Yeah, so your cream soda now? Yes, creamy still
hot cream. So cut that with a couple drops. I recommend that that's good. Yeah, they should have cut it.
I don't think so. I'm literally for tiny drops of water in this. Yeah, but it doesn't look it is no, it is really interesting. Usually I wish I hadn't. But in this case. Yeah. And I would really enjoyable.
I would recommend just a little bit of my bourbon snobbery, which I have tiny bits of because I'm a novice. But two things you hear the Kentucky chew. Let me do it one more time for just oxidizing. It's sucking through your teeth, letting him dance over your tongue. It really brings it to life. I can't drink bourbon without doing that. And the other thing is when I really want to taste something, I close my eyes. Because then I'm really tasting. I'm only tasting I'm not looking at anything and I'm smelling and tasting. That's all I'm doing. And that's when those those deeper things on the palate come in,
need to refresh like scientifically on what's happening when you add a few drops of water. It's not just that it's diluting it. Now it's actually awakenings like it's making it so that there's I don't know if it's more evaporation is happening right in that moment or there's some chemical reaction that's making it so the flavor
it is just diluting it, I think scientifically I think but it is but whiskies are such that there's a supposed to be a sweet spot where you cut it just enough for his characters to really sing. And only master distillers can can know what they think that should be. But that's why that's why you have all these gradients is because some whiskies are better full strength. Other whiskies are not all of a sudden you hit this, you just add a little bit of water, you're like oh, well, there it is. I've actually with a friend who's a amateur distiller participated in doing the cuts. And he had all these different, you know, this is foolproof, this is 90%. This is 80%, but went down. And there was clear differences. Yeah, and quality.
Yeah. And if you don't know what you're doing, you can easily overshoot that which is why it's so dangerous to start pouring water into your whiskey. And why it's stupid to put ice in your whiskey. Yeah,
agree. So, again, if you're in Milwaukee, get yourself over to store he'll be Casey grab the new riff single barrel select. And thank us later. Tell them the podcast sent you and if you're not in Milwaukee, support local and cheers, cheers. Well, Dr. Randy Woodley, thank you for joining us on a pastor and philosopher walk into a bar.
Randy W. 07:39
Yeah, I have a question about that. All right, fire away. What did they say when they go in the bar?
We should come up with a good answer. They should we need a punch line.
No good answer, Doctor.
Randy W. 07:51
Yeah, it's like usually it's like and the past, yada, yada. And the philosopher said, yeah, you have to
tune in to find out the punch line. We just like to drink man. I don't know. We do.
Randy W. 08:03
You heard the one about the man the dog that walked in the bar, right?
Nope. Why the long face? Or was that the horse? That was no horse had a long face.
Randy W. 08:11
So the guy walks in, you know, and he's got a dog within bar owner says you can't bring a dog in here. He goes, No, no, this is a talking dog. He's like, right. He goes down. He is. If I can get him to talk. Can you drop me a drink? He's like, Oh, yeah, go ahead. So he asked him, he says to the dog. What's on top of the house? He says roof roof. And then he says, whose greatest baseball player of all time. And the bartender says, I'm not giving you a drink for that. Get out of here. So it was a mountain. They're walking down the street dog turns to me says was it Ty Cobb? That's good. Nice.
There we go. So Randy, this is where we normally ask our guests to tell us about themselves. But you opened up your book saying that in your in nomina. Not get this pronunciation, right. But in your keto watch tradition, you're not supposed to talk about yourself. Can you just tell us about that?
Randy W. 09:14
Well, you know, it's it's sort of that verse in scripture that says like, you know, give honor to who honors do and let other people's say you're seeing your praise. So the idea is, if you're going to talk about yourself, you're probably not very humble.
Okay, so do you want to talk about yourself? We do that in the beginning of,
Randy W. 09:33
I'm not very humble. So that
works. All right, so tell our listeners about yourself a little bit ready, so
Randy W. 09:40
they can find out more at ELO eth.org ala.org. So my wife and I have a place called a indigenous Center for Earth justice, and a farm and seeds. So we're farmers and we're teachers and we have a community and we have our cultural saram on these and things here, and yeah, it just becomes a sort of an all around center for gathering and, you know, people learning stuff. So, yeah. And we've been doing that on and off for since about 2004.
Okay, yeah. Okay. So the book is indigenous theology in the Western worldview, a decolonized approach to Christian doctrine. I absolutely loved this book. And you've written many other books Correct? Or a number of others. I published
three this year. Yeah, we got a, we got a mailer from the publisher, and there was a list of your books on it. And I looked at the dates, and they were all 2022. And I was like, What the heck,
we call that a monster of last year is a good year for writing. Good, good. Well, so right in the beginning of your book, you say that you and your wife to work with your seed company preserving open pollinated, organic native heirloom seeds is every bit as important to you as your theological work? And that you don't see a difference between them? Can you explain that to us a little bit?
Randy W. 11:00
If I don't see a difference? I don't know how I'm going to explain it.
What would you say to someone who sees a big difference? Yes,
Randy W. 11:08
I would ask them how I think that that form of what I would call superficial categorization is kind of endemic to the Western worldview, right? And so everything is categorized separately. But in my worldview, you know, like, the seeds have everything to do with everything without seeds, we don't eat, why farm if we're not going to eat, you have to understand the land, you have to understand the giftedness from creator. It's all interrelated. So, you know, it's like, there's a way that you look at life, and you just say, like, everything's one thing.
You know, so you don't have you know, you talk a lot about dualism binaries in your book, in seems like in the indigenous worldview, it's less categorical and less broken apart, less kind of decentered. And more, just kind of like you just said, everything we're this is all one life that we're living in, everything relates to one another. Is that right?
Randy W. 12:06
Yeah, so So this extensive categorization that occurs in the West, there's, there's really nothing wrong with that, I think actually is a gift. So, you know, I'm really glad that I have not just a general practitioner. But I also have a cardiologist now for I have a podiatrist. And I also have a neurologist, and you know, and they all specialize in their certain areas. But like, if one treats me out of just their concern for my body and doesn't take centration of my whole body, and what's going on with everything else, then I might end up dead. So the point being is that when we categorize in these, discount, superficial categories, these extensive categories, it's okay, it's okay to study deeply in certain areas. But the problem with the West is it begins to act as if that category is all of reality. And so then that becomes a false reality. So I call it putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, the West has to begin to understand that it's just like all the work that's been done on the last, you know, 60 years on psychosomatic illness, right, that first people were probably going you know, that's there's nothing to that fact, I remember when they were saying there's nothing and, but to understand that our bodies and our minds, and then I would add our spirit, although I don't believe in a tripartite person, I think we're all one whole thing. I mean, it's helpful sometimes to talk about them in this way. All right. But let's remember that we are all of those things, we're not just one of those things. And that's exactly the definition of dualism is to say, that Platonic dualism is to is to prioritize the the ethereal, or the the abstract, or the mind or whatever, over the material world, over the body over the earth, etc. And so, you know, we got to keep it together. I guess that's a, that's a good phrase we can use.
Yeah. Amen to that. So, you talked about superficial categorization. I assume that implies that you think there are some categories that aren't superficial, that are worth preserving. So what's your method for distinguishing? Well,
Randy W. 14:22
basically, their relationship like so, we have like listed just talk about the animal kingdom, right? So somebody thought of, you know, and I forget them all, but they are like kingdom, phylum species, you know, yada yada, yada. And, but so in the native world is like the things that fly, the things that crawl, the two legged things, the four legged things and the things that swim, you know, the things that have routes to things that have wings. So those are categories that create everything that's related to that. Is that alright? So that are relational, I would say
That's interesting. So I'm gonna get you to define Western worldview in just a second. But I think this will play right into that, because what you just described is very consonant with Aristotle. And so he would be if I had to pick the progenitor of the Western worldview, I don't think I'd do much better than to pick him. So I'm curious what similarities or major differences you see in what you just described as the indigenous worldview, versus what you're calling Western.
Randy W. 15:27
Yeah, and this is great. It's great to have a philosopher to talk about these things with so. So I go back to what we, you know, we really don't know what Socrates said, because everything is written by Plato, right and other whose works were destroyed. So it's hard to know who or Plato begins and Socrates sins. But I go back to to Plato's, you know, placing more privilege on the ethereal, the abstract, the Plato's cave, kind of a thing in and then, as his student, Aristotle didn't buy into, as you probably well know, didn't buy completely into that. But with Plato's idea of different kinds of people, and all of those kinds of things, and that the mind been Central, and everything else sort of being subsidiary. And then, you know, as we get to people like Descartes, who said, you know, I am a soul, but I have a body, you know, I, you know, there's sort of this kind of like long thread of this dualistic thing. And so Aristotle, yes. categorization, that's one thing. Was it Aristotle? Or was it Plato? Who, who did the metals? People as metal? Yes, Plato. Yeah. So, but Aristotle, as people have said, is, perhaps the father of modern racism, because he said, Well, some people were slave a bowl, and others were meant to rule slaves, right. And, of course, whoever makes those pronouncements generally sees themselves as the ones who are supposed to rule. Coincidentally. So So yeah, that is the beginning. As far as I can tell, I'm sure they got it from you know, somebody else. But that's the beginning, as far as I can tell, of this idea that we are separate from our minds, or that at least that part of us is privileged, as opposed to what I would call a holistic reality. And so from an indigenous worldview, we would say we are all of that. So for example, an indigenous doctor, in the old days, there are some a few days still do this. But mostly in the old days, we would go and ask you when something was wrong, you know, like, what have you been eating? What are your relationships? Like? What have you been dreaming about? Have you gone somewhere you weren't supposed to go? Just sort of like all these things that would seem somewhat random to perhaps a medical doctor now. But they would understand them as all being related somehow, because they're part of a bigger worldview, a bigger, a whole more holistic kind of a worldview. Yeah.
Yeah. That's fascinating. Yeah. I'm gonna switch gears entirely here and ask you to tell a story that you tell in the first chapter, your book, because it's set in Wisconsin. And we're, and we're in Wisconsin. So you talk about only speaking in places where you've been invited, and a story that you tell about a particular speaking occasion you had in Wisconsin, where you realize you hadn't been invited by the relevant party. And so you set out in search of this person, and came across a boy who had had an LSD trip? Just this whole involved, really interesting story. And I wonder if you could tell maybe an abbreviated version of that for our listeners? Yeah.
Randy W. 18:46
Yeah, yeah. So. So this is up on the lacouture a reservation, up in around Hayward. And so just before I had arrived at this place for this YWAM base, where we were supposed to do some teaching for the week, training Native leaders. And there was a young man there who they had just picked up. And his story was, like, he, he and his brother had had an acid trip and Seattle, I think there was a sale and they were adopted out from that liquidity reservation. And he saw Jesus there in his trip, and he told him to go back to his reservation. Well, so he got picked up, I think, the night before or maybe even hours before we got there. And, and so my first question to the proprietor was like, Who invited you guys here? And, and he said, Well, it was the pastor of the church next door, and they gave us the land and, and I'm like, what, what tribe is he and well, he's Mohawk. He's not, you know, so who gave you permission from the people here? Nobody. So before. Now, if you'd have said, Yeah, we were welcomed by the lucky people. And you know, that would have been fine, but They weren't. And so I needed to figure out who it was. And so I took this young man with me because he obviously been raised without his culture. And I wanted him to see, like, this is how you do things, right. So we, I'll shorten this up, we, we go to the store, and I buy this big basket for him fill up with all kinds of stuff that you would give elders as a gift basket. We found out where he lives, he was the adviser to the tribe, from the elder group, and also one of the leaders of the particular religion, they're the traditional religion. So I thought we were about the right person. And so we went, big, snowy day, guy started talking to this, ask what we wanted, I explained, you know why we were there. And then he started telling the stories, right? But every so often, he would say, my uncle, who trained most of the medicine around these parts, and in parts of Canada, and Minnesota and other places. He lived to be 107 years old, he trained most of them, the medicine people around. And he always told me, he said, Don't disrespect Jesus, because he's a great spirit. And, and so I was like, Oh, that's interesting. So he would go on, and he tell another story. And he had a lot of stories with his story. We were there for quite a while. And, and but every so often, he would break in and say that same thing, my uncle would say, you know, to me, don't disrespect Jesus. He's a great spirit. And, and so he finally got toward the end, I think of his, his talk with us. He said, so I asked my uncle one time, Uncle, how do you know all this stuff about Jesus? And he said, Well, I told you, I talked to him. And he said, Yeah, but yeah, you know, the stories, though, did do you go to boarding school? No. Did the priests come and talk to you? No. Did you go to church? No. Do you have a Bible? No. He said, I told you, I talked to him. And, and so and then this elder says to us, and so I asked my uncle again. Yeah. But how do you know all this stuff about Jesus? And my uncle, he says, looked at me, like I was a child and said, Well, of course, he talks back. And then he said, Now I'm going to pray for you and ask for a blessing. And you're welcome to stay here and speak. So. So that was the story, right? Yeah. I told that deliberately to that group, because it's a bit of a hoity toity, the Hayward lectures. And I wanted to create some disequilibrium. Because I knew that, that in that particular crowd and genre, that they would be extremely critical. So I thought I'm going to, I'm going to create this equilibrium because, and I did that, particularly because in that liminal space is where you actually start to listen to people, right? And listen to other things that you don't normally hear. So I want to know, you're gonna hear stuff that you don't normally hear.
While we're talking about Jesus, let me ask you about a thing you say in the book. At one point, you say, you can be a Christian and follow Jesus, but it's very difficult.
Randy W. 23:07
Yeah, yeah. And so I always tell people, I'm not a Christian. We practice our native traditions, but we follow Jesus. And that I that I like to add the caveat, you know, you can be a Christian and follow Jesus, but it's really, really hard. It's hard to do. Well, it makes us and that's mostly because, you know, Western Christianity is basically the tool of empire. I mean, it's, there's, like you all you have to do is know history, right? And we can say, as much as we want. Yeah, but those weren't real Christians, or that, you know, but the bottom line is what has represented Christianity to the world in the West, particularly to Native Americans, but other folks too, has been an oppressive regime of empire. And so Jesus is antithetical to that sort of Christianity. Jesus is actually the decolonize mind, the one who comes against empire and illegitimate powers, the one who resist in so many ways, like Walter wink would say, Jesus, third way, right. So how can you follow Jesus in the midst of an oppressive regime? Well, it is possible, but it's difficult.
Yeah. Is it okay, if we camp out on this topic for just a minute before? Yeah,
let me just ask, do you think that word Christian or Christianity is important to though, to who to like, if I identify as a Jesus follower? Is that word Christian? Do you think it's it's too loaded in the American context to even be valid or worth hanging on to?
Randy W. 24:44
Well, I think so. I think, first of all, you know, we have to realize that Jesus never became a Christian. And I think I think he came to start a movement for anybody, not for a particular religion. And but I'm sure are absolutely certain that if he came to start a religion, it would look nothing like Western Christianity. So I'm pretty sure we're on safe ground. And then if you want to be biblical, you can find out that no one in Scripture ever called himself a Christian. And, and there's actually, you know, a few books out now who talked about it wasn't until the third century that anybody ever did.
Yeah. So how do you understand Jesus's relationship to American indigenous religious traditions?
Randy W. 25:30
Yeah, so, so all the people, so I pastored, a native church for seven years, and I've been in another native community for all these years. And I've found very few people who have a hard time with Jesus, they like him, they think that he's great. They think he's like our medicine men, that he's a prophet that he's, you know, and so there's a pretty high regard, but not the Jesus brought by the colonizer or the mission, iser, that Jesus has just come to take things away. And like for Native America, you know, my, my good friend, Richard twist, who's passed on, used to say it this way, the missionary said to our Native people, Jesus loves you. But he doesn't really like you. It doesn't like your language, you have to get rid of that. He doesn't like your long here. He doesn't like these dream catchers. He doesn't like whatever else that's native. He doesn't like that. So basically, Jesus doesn't like you, but he loves you. And that's a very weird kind of a message, right?
Yeah, in your speaking of mission and missiology, in indigenous cultures, and cheeses and Christianity, you tell a story in the end of the book about a person who basically evangelized I hate that word, but I'll just use it evangelize this, this indigenous people group. And he said, I just told the story. He said something similar to this, you'll know better than me. I just told the story. And I let them theologizing it.
Randy W. 27:00
Yeah, that was a wonderful time. I had lunch with one of my good friends, all my students and became a friend, her grandfather, who was a missionary to the Callaghan and the Philippines, and, and they all became followers of Jesus. And I asked him, I said, you know, what, how did this happen? And he said, it was pretty easy, really. He said, I just told the stories. And they did the theologizing. And I think that was actually how the scriptures began. I mean, most of everything we have there was actually oral at one time, except for Paul's letter writing campaigns, which were all addressing some kind of occasional, you know, problem in the church. But so, so yeah, it's orality is what's most natural to tell the story. But then we've this is part again, of the extensive categorization. We want to chop them up into, you know, chapters and verses and, and then we have rules about how we hermeneutical rules about how to interpret that and the verses around it. And instead of just going, hey, it's a story. Let's hear the story. And then let's take it from there. And how we understand story, of course, is very different to between the West and indigenous peoples around the world. The Bible being mostly story, about 90% story. And in the West, it's sort of like the first reaction is, is in fact, did happen. And that's truth to the west. Whereas other peoples around the world and indigenous peoples in this comment, the first thing is like, what's the truth in the story? That's what matters? Yes, that did happen. But what's true about it, what do I need to learn from it? Yeah. So I think it just the whole thing is kind of the West is created the Bible as the fourth person of the Trinity. We got biblical CISM. But, you know, we got to stop that. That's ridiculous. Yeah.
So one last one before you take that over, Kyle, for those of us listening or hosting, who don't have a PhD. Can you tell us what you think he meant by I told them the stories and I let them do the theologizing. What does that mean? Yeah, so
Randy W. 29:15
I think and I, I have friends who disagree with me, native scholar friends who would say, you know, I'm glad the scriptures are translated in our languages, etc. And I'm not one of those I'm, I'm, I don't, I think we had our own ways of remembering and learning story and listening to story. And they should have just been given orally like they were meant to be hearing something that's different than reading it. Hearing historian in fact, I, during my work on my PhD, which, you know, was like three years there. I didn't read the Bible once. I only listened to it. If I had something I needed to reference, I would ask my wife, can you read this to me? Wow, I didn't want I wanted to experience it in a more indigenous way than that, you know, going to and reading and finding the verse and chapter. And so it made all the difference in the world of how I began to hear things. These are stories. And it's really important to listen to the stories, and then each person, culture, group, whatever then needs to figure out like, well, what does that mean, based on my worldview? And, and of course, then, you know, I'm 100%, behind all the studying letter writing and antiquities, and you know, the original languages and everything else, because they help us understand the social background and what's going on. And that's all important stuff. We can't if we need to apply it to us, we can't apply it to us unless we understand first what it meant to them, right? So, but then those stories also are given to us in our cultures. And we began to theologizing on them and say, like, well, in my culture, that might not mean the same thing as it does in their culture. And so I have to figure out what that means. But if I have someone else telling me what they think it should mean, then it's no longer my story. It's their story. Yeah.
Yeah. Let me ask you just a couple more questions about Jesus, let me move on to something else. Although let's be honest, it's all about. You say at one point, Jesus was an indigenous man. What do you mean by that?
Randy W. 31:25
Well, I mean, he was like a, you know, brown skinned dude from a village and a tribe. And he certainly really lights I think, much closer to what we would consider indigenous people now than post enlightenment Western people. And he understood story, I think, in the way that more indigenous people do. He had the opportunity to talk about all kinds of things, you know, inventions and modern stuff for that the Romans had invented. And, yeah, but he ends up speaking almost exclusively, not about those things, but about the things in nature, you know, seeds and fields and dirt, and, you know, trees and birds and, you know, plants and, you know, and so, yeah, he just seems very much like an indigenous person to me. Yeah.
So then how do you understand because he's, he's also Jewish. Right? So how do you understand the relationship between a Native American Jesus follower, and I don't know what you'd call that Native American Christianity for lack of a better term. And Judaism, right, because colonial Christianity has had difficult histories with both mainstream Christian theology has been both anti native and anti semitic. So you're an indigenous theologian who follows a first century Jewish man, is that a complicated integration at all, I
Randy W. 32:52
think it's very helpful to you know, to sit with my Jewish brothers and, and sisters and hear what they had to say. In fact, last Friday night, Shabbat, my wife and I spoke at the largest synagogue here in Portland. And, and we talked to they asked us to talk about what it means to be indigenous, and what Jews might learn about their own indigeneity. And I think there's so much there in common. That, yeah, there's there's a whole field of openness and response that could take place. So so that's, I think we we inform each other. Awesome.
Yeah. You say in the book that your theology starts with a land, it starts with the earth. White American Christians can be listening right now and get a little bit freaked out about that. And think that that might be a little bit heretical. What do you mean when you say your theology begins with the land and the earth? Well,
Randy W. 33:47
what do you mean by saying it, does it because I mean, that's abstract,
Randy W. 33:53
So it's got to begin somewhere, and it's got to begin physically, everything rests upon the earth. You know, I stand upon the earth, God puts us on the earth. Where else could it begin? I mean, this is like the, the first teacher and the first home and you know everything about it as a gift. So how could it not begin on the earth? I don't understand how you would start somewhere else.
So if someone would say, my theology begins with Jesus, or my theology begins with God Himself? Do you think that's silliness? Yeah, well,
Randy W. 34:24
I would say, Well, that's very abstract, because God gave us a manifest, you know, Jesus on earth, and gave us everything that we have on Earth. So if you say I begin with God, then you're beginning with some abstract idea. So yeah, it's it's think about how else do you actually begin to theology this is the the earth was here long before there was a Bible. It's been teaching us creation has been teaching us ever since human beings are walking the earth and love earning from the rest of the community creation everything else because that's the way creator intended it to be. And, and even in the first chapters of Genesis, you know, you have this great, you know, earth and everything else is Tov male, right? It's very, very good. And then in Genesis 215, you have the story of, like, what are human beings being created for, to care for the earth to co sustain, not to rule and dominate, that's a misunderstanding of the whole context, but to tend the garden to be what I call co sustainers. And so our very purpose as people is to care for the whole community of creation, or the Earth.
Yeah. Yeah, it's a first task. It's beautiful. You've mentioned creator a few times. And I love that. You also mentioned in the book, you mentioned creator in great mystery. Can you just define those those terms for our listeners?
Randy W. 35:56
So we have to turn to Kyle here. And, Les, if something's a mystery, how do you explain it? Right?
Yeah, we've talked about this before. He's uncomfortable with him.
I'm very, I'm uncomfortable with mystery as a terminus to a dialectic, but I don't think that's how you're using it.
Randy W. 36:14
I don't think great spirit is probably the most theologically accurate name for God that we have great spirit. It means that, that this is the greatest mystery there is right? And, and the wonderful thing about diversity, and different people's understanding their understandings of who God is, is that we all come together, and we, and there's this big picture, right? But, but still, even even with everybody, it's still like, this is beyond our comprehension. It's a great mystery. So so we say, creator, like where everything comes from, right. And we say, one of the words that we have in my tribe is Unilin, nuthall, nahi, which is, like the one who's behind everything, right? The, in the sun's the most visible, you know, symbol of that, if you will. And so they used to call sun worshipers because we would like, you know, put our hands up and pray to the sun. And, and there's a whole thing about South Eastern Sun calls and all that kind of stuff. But no, it was the one who was behind the sun. And that was just the physical manifestation of that one. That seemed like the greatest representation. So, yeah, so you know, I think those words are as good as any Yeah. Be better than some is
creator gendered in indigenous, no religion.
Okay. There's so many things I want to ask you. We don't have time,
we were just laughing that this is our most unscripted interview, we've done maybe ever, like I
didn't put anything about gender on the outline. And now I want to talk about
Randy W. 37:51
Yeah, well, good. Because I'd rather do an impromptu thing, you know. Yeah. So we actually deal with what our real questions are. So in those change, right process is the most important thing to me. Because it's the process that creates that sacred moment that can never be repeated again. Yeah,
right. Yep. So you, you, you mentioned, going to the elder in northern Wisconsin, to the elder of the tribe, and getting his permission to be there and to be in the land. And in the book, you speak of elders as well and in in your culture, and you make a reference to say, I don't think of myself as an elder or a future elder. But I'm wondering, what do you think is the future of Native American culture is this generation of elders passes away?
Randy W. 38:36
Well, my, my generation of elders have all all gone except for one that I recall. So that's a really sad thing. And that does mean something very different for us. And I just wrote, you know, there's a lot of controversy with Native people around Thanksgiving, right? Because it becomes a national day of mourning for some, and others like me, and I've written that you can just put random, really Thanksgiving come up with about five different articles in different places. I've written that. I think it's a time one of the few times that we have to actually celebrate that there was some camaraderie, at least, for a little while. And we don't have enough of those myths. And but I just read, I just read a young Navajo woman, and she said, that she would feed the Pilgrims if she had to do over again, which is a sort of radical statement with some people who are saying, you know, we hate the pilgrims, this is the beginning of our oppression. But she said, because our teachings teach us to love and to feed those who are hungry and to take care of them. And so we have to be able to do that regardless of what the outcome was going to be. And you know, and I said, in a comment, you know, this is the heart of the elders who taught me as well. Those are the most tolerant loving Wise people that I will probably ever know on Earth, and most of them are gone now. So yeah, and now we have, you know, I don't want to be too harsh, but what I would call like Neo traditional people who are intolerant. And like, that's probably one of the most characteristic things and, and to be intolerant is not the teachings that I received. And to be very tolerant and accepting is a better way for us all to live. So. So yeah, I think we're, we're in trouble. And we need to continue to listen to the voices of some of those who have gone on and, and hopefully some of them are still here. So
it seems like there's a fine line between tolerance, and openness and acceptance and standing up for what you believe. Right? And I'm imagining there's a lot of that tension in indigenous American culture.
Randy W. 40:53
Yeah. We have our things that we have to deal with it's, and, you know, I think being able to admit, when you're wrong is a big thing. It's okay to be wrong. It's just long as you admit, when you're wrong. I've had to do that a lot. And, you know, cultivating humility, and it's nice to have people around you who will assist you in cultivating that humility by reminding you that you're, you're just a human being.
Yeah, yep. Can you think of parallel in the Christian tradition? Can you think of a parallel to the elders in Native American culture?
Randy W. 41:30
So, you know, I've known a lot of great, quite people who I would say are like elders. Yeah. But But we always say their elders and their old people. And it's not the same. Yeah. And so I look for that, like heart of tolerance and wisdom and love and hear and acceptance. And, and, you know, what, regardless of where it's coming from, I think, you know, you don't have to be native to have wisdom. Yes.
Yeah. Let's veer back into the nerdom for a little bit if we can. So you said at one point, quote, this year, I call Native American religious reality epistemological? orthopraxy. Yeah, we're Truth comes by understanding how others have lived. Now, as a philosopher, as most starts talking about truth in that way, I immediately start to wonder what you mean. So if you could dig a little deeper into that for us, that'd be great.
Randy W. 42:27
Yeah, well, truce, kind of a slippery thing, right? So yeah, so how do we come to know what is true? The base and I, I really went into this a lot deeper in my book in 2010, called Shalom in the community of creation and indigenous vision. But were we in the West are taught the educational system in particular is to pass knowledge, you know, from one person to the other, whereas in the native way is to pass experience. And so what, what I know, because I've heard it, read it, someone has told me is not at all knowledge. Not in fact, knowledge without that experience is pretty actually damaging. So it's like, you know, what have I actually done and what have I experienced? And, and what about have I won the experiences of others, they count that counts, too, right? So we don't have to always learn from our own mistakes. But and that's the point of a lot of our stories and ceremonies and songs and things like this is to, to learn these things, to learn what happens when, you know, you get prideful and coyote comes for you. And, you know, you get lost and all those kinds of things. This was all these stories are about is to try and teach us things. But I also can't just say, well, because I know the stories, I have wisdom or I know truth. It's when you it's put to the test in life. And so people who live that, discover what truth is, and people who don't live it don't have truth.
So the ortho part of the orthopraxy is grounded in what is it kind of group flourishing or trial and error?
Randy W. 44:20
I'd say it's the ortho is about common values. Yeah, it's common values that we all share. Really, we would say common good, maybe. Yeah, West.
Yeah, yeah. There's somebody or thanks.
Oh, that's gonna be question and you parallels? Yeah. So kind of related. You speak to harmony, being seemingly the goal of indigenous American theology or spirituality. And I loved what you you know, the 10 tenets of most Native American religions or spirituality. And when you speak of harmony, it reminds me so much of what Christians would call new create When or what our Jewish brothers and sisters would call shalom, can you speak to this idea of harmony being the goal to which this is our work as human beings and as people on the land? And how that might be something that you can, you can see in all cultures, basically.
Randy W. 45:17
Yeah. So So I came at this, knowing that in my own culture and several Native cultures, I've been around, we had a sort of a harmony way, right? In Turkey, we would call it one of the words for it would be ALA, hey, what does that mean? Ala it means harmony, it means peace. It means, you know, everybody's being fed, nobody's going hungry. It means that nobody's at war. It means the grounds healthy and producing what it's supposed to. And life is it's meant to be lived, right. So in in we all, in my PhD dissertation, I queried 45 Different tribes in 12 Elders, virtual leaders, and everybody, every single tribe had a harmony way construct, right. And then I began to realize that as because I was going to school with about 60%, from people around the world, that also eCola Han Filipinos had that same harmony way, but they call it something else. And Sami people up in Scandinavia, had an Zulus habit, they call them Buddha, and, you know, my sai habit, and, you know, Maori habit in New Zealand and Aboriginal people. And so it's like, these are the original instructions. These are the original ways to live their original values and, and that's why also you you find it in ancient Judaism, you have Shalom. So this is kind of shalom and to Kuhn together, this justice and peace and all of these things and all the derivatives of that. And I go into that deeply again, in this book, Shalom in the community creation, and compare the Native American harmony way to, to really Walter Brougham months construct of shalom. And in there's so many similarities and those 10 values that I found, which all have sort of subsidiary values as well. But those would all be consistent with the teachings of Jesus, Jesus came, you know, I think we have the whole understanding of what the purpose of Jesus was, and is wrong. He came about restoring this ancient system of shalom, and show what I call the shalom Sabbath Jubilee construct. And he makes it abundantly clear in Luke chapter four. And Luke really makes it clear throughout his his whole book, but yeah, so there's, there's a lot of similarities. And I think that if we can live that way, that that's not only the way that indigenous people are being had been taught to live, but it's the way that Jesus taught us to live. The Western worldview is what is disrupted that the Western worldview is it's involved itself with Empire, and that includes the church as well, is toxic to the harmony way it teaches the opposite values, its teachings are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. It's about competition, that cooperation, it's about, you know, greed, not about sharing. It's about, you know, individualism, not, you know, corporate thinking, it's, you know, and I go through Acts, I have a number of charts and stuff in that book that, that compare this. And I know, there's more than one Western worldview, and I know there's more than one indigenous worldview. But I'm talking about the the general worldview that is ubiquitous throughout our colonial systems of Education and Economics, and, you know, their social systems and, you know, our legal systems, etc. So all of those are built on principles that are against the harmony way against Shalom against the teachings of Jesus.
I want to talk a little bit about racism, I can kind of bring it down. Apologies. So you talk in the book about you call it post colonial stress disorder. Can you describe what that is?
Randy W. 49:15
Yeah. Eduardo de grande, has written a book about post colonial stress syndrome for Native people. He's a psychologist, he's written several books, actually. But on trauma and in basically we know that our trauma is passed on intergenerationally. And almost all Native people, if not all, native people suffer from post colonial stress syndrome. And it's basically having everything taken from you told that you're no good and then left you in a bunch of systems that leave you powerless, and to say, now just be like one of us and that's very Pre traumatic, it's very stressful. And then as a result, it creates a lot of dysfunction. And then we we began to now have people who are victims of post traumatic stress syndrome, because of the individual things that happen as a result of post colonial stress. And is that helpful?
Yeah, yeah, very helpful. You also want to talk about systemic injustice. And that was kind of a segue into that. So you have one of the simpler explanations of systemic injustice, and I would class racism as a type of that. But it's not just racism that I've encountered, and I love it. And it's very pedagogical, and involves parents and DNA. And I'm wondering if you could just give us that metaphor.
Randy W. 50:44
Yeah, this is one of my sort of things I give to every group of my students. I forgot to say that I'm also a professor at the Portland seminary. Yeah, so. So I'm always saying in my classes, you know, it's sort of things work like this structures work like this. Everybody wants to change, right. But but everybody also wants homeostasis. They may, in other words, the things to stay the same. I want change as long as it doesn't affect anything differently. And so people want to keep their salaries, people want to keep their jobs. And when you start changing things, it creates what they think is instability, right? And so they say, Okay, well, let's fix the system by doing this, and let's fix it. But it's always the same parents who were fixing the system. So if the system has only two parents, you can only get DNA from those two parents. And so the only way to introduce new DNA is to invite another parent in, in other words, someone with power, someone with authority to be able to change things. And so this is how things begin to move and change. It's different than tokenism. It's actually giving people who like if we're talking about racism, for example, and I always say don't hire one person of color, hire several. And in when we all sat down and creates something together, we have a different outcome. Otherwise, it ends up just history repeats itself. And in a way, an easy structure to look at this in is the church. So how many generations have they been sitting around dying going? How do we get young people in the church? Well, you put a bunch of young people in charge of deciding how you get young people in the church, right? Yeah. But So otherwise, you just keep try this and that everything else? Or how do you draw people to church, you know, the church buildings. And, and so you know, we had all these different movements and the megachurch movement and the Hillsong movement and the you know, all the different things that they tried to, to appeal to people. But did you ever think about like asking the non church people why they would even want to come to church? I mean, so you have to begin to think outside the box. One of the problems is that we build structures in the West, like I said, to toward homeostasis, we don't build the way that God builds, God builds an open systems like practice, right? God builds in systems that adapt, nature's number one rule is adapt ation. It's like nature's gonna survive, because it knows how to adapt. But people don't. And so when we think of everything is in chaos, like right now, climate change, for example. We think that's chaos. But that's actually nature doing what nature does, it's adapting. It's like, okay, if people are going to be the number one consumers of energy, and they're supposed to only be tertiary consumers, then I'm going to adapt by getting rid of people. And so and so what we we think is, is chaos is actually order and what we call order, which is fighting against entropy, fighting against that patient fighting against change. That's what's chaos. That's what's chaotic.
As we think about repairing healing that needs to be done in reparations that need to happen between white Americans and Native Americans. You say in the book, at one point that Europeans always ask, What can we do, and we want a quick fix. And this doesn't seem to be something you think is helpful? What are better questions we can ask what is a better journey towards healing and harmony in reparations? Randy?
Randy W. 54:34
Well, I think listening is really good, you know, for a long time. And and then maybe better question then, because there's a lot of presumptions with, you know, how can we fix this? It's like, the presumption especially from white folks who, who have been taught and in part of this is the fault of the land itself. The land itself is so open and so A nonlimiting, that it created a culture that that is very open and thinking that it can basically solve any problem, right? And so, so part of that is actually just being an American. But the the assumption also is like, because the relationship between white folks and non white folks, particularly if we think about Native Americans has been very much the subject to the object, right? Whether its mission or anything else, it's like, We are the subject, and you are the object. And so we're objectify, right? So if you're going to begin to ask those questions, then you have to think differently. And you have to say, alright, I'm here, or even, like, just show up and be on the outside. And then when someone says, Why are you here, then you get the chance to talk? Like I tell people all the time, they're like, Well, how do we get to know the natives on air? I'm like, well, they have powwows. And they have public events all the time, ask if you can be on the cleanup crew. And maybe after three or four times, there's somebody's gonna say, hey, when you guys come out here anyway, you know, and then maybe you'll make a friend, you know, but it's sort of the presumption of saying, how do we fix this means that like, one, we're white, we're American, of course, we can fix this. And that also means that of course, you're not white, and you're in you can't fix this. In other words, you're helpless, you're the object. And so, and then the assumption also is like that it can be fixed. So if it could be fixed so easily, you know, it would have been fixed a long time ago. But there is a place in the power dynamic, where the people in power have to actually say, yes, there is a part that we have to play in fixing this. But it should be basically as junior partners, not large and in charge, which is the American way. But saying to the people who have been oppressed or objectified, or whether it's women or whoever it is, you know, you guys are in charge, kind of tell us what to do. You know, do you have
any real hope that that will occur? In the United States?
Randy W. 57:17
I've seen it. I mean, it's if I didn't have hope I wouldn't be doing this because it's cost too much. It's It's cost me too much. So. So I have hopes that even if I don't see, a lot of things happen in my lifetime, that eventually my children or grandchildren will so and that's what I'm working towards. You.
You say that you've been running a sweatshop. Oh,
Randy W. 57:49
I do not run a
good, good. Alright. Let's start that over. You say you've run a sweatshop. Yep. You see,
Randy W. 58:04
that's why I get my clothes so cheap.
Oh, my God, Take three. Yeah. You say you've been running a sweat lodge for about 30 years. And you've seen remarkable things. One of the things you say in the book is that you've seen like the whitest of white people spend a night in the sweat lodge and be completely transformed. Because of that one night. I want to know what what happens in a sweat lodge. And what's so transformative. And can I come in spend a night in your sweat lodge?
really wants to know can I do that?
Randy W. 58:35
It's a great mystery. No, I'm just Yeah, so sweat lodge is a you know, it's sort of like a sauna. Right? You've been to a sauna. So it's like a Swedish sauna. But in Think of a Native American sauna that's made of earth and rocks on array, and it marries a Wednesday night prayer meeting. And that's what kind of what a sweat is. So So you, you're inside rocks are brought in that are hot, you pour water on, on people in the circle, and as you know, tent like thing, this half round Canvas thing. And, and you pray, and you share songs, and you share what's on your heart. And, you know, that's, that's what takes place in it happens in the complete dark with sweat pouring out of your body. And prayers come in and songs and it's sharing from your heart out of your, you know, the the depth of you. And and it's just a very holistic, complete embodiment experience that I think a lot of white people have never had. And and I think sometimes it just clicks and they're changed. Yeah, but, but I mean, it happens for a lot of people, not just white people, but I've seen some pretty well What somebody might say double white people all of a sudden realize that there's so, so much more to life than sort of this lot they've been given by attending church and sitting and watching the back of somebody's head and all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, there's depth of spirituality, if you will.
Yeah. It. Is it the sensory experience in the darkness and the extreme.
Randy W. 1:00:26
I think it's all that, you know,
it's all that. Yeah. Sounds fascinating. Yes. Once
Randy W. 1:00:30
we get our sweat, we haven't been running sweat for two years because of COVID. Okay, there's basically like, like a petri dish, right? Yeah. As soon as the COVID says, goodbye, we put the sweat back up.
Brilliant. Do you have anything else go?
You didn't answer if Randy could come? Oh, yeah. That was the ulterior motive. All right.
Randy W. 1:00:51
Not in there all night. Just so you know. I mean, it's only lasts usually a couple hours to three hours.
I mean, I'm sure that's an intensely long time, in the pitch black and in an environment like that. Yeah, it's great. Yeah. Really awesome.
Well, Randy Woodley, it's been really awesome talking to you, it could easily have gone a couple more hours. Maybe we can do it again. I've got a bunch of more books of yours. I want to read now. So thanks so much for joining us.
Thanks so much. That really was a lot of fun. And we would definitely come knocking on your publishers door again. We'd love to crack up in another book and have another conversation.
Randy W. 1:01:26
Well, yeah, there's the last one published is called mission and the cultural other. We didn't
even talk about missions, which is kind of one of your main things, right? Yeah. So
Randy W. 1:01:33
yeah, if you want to talk about that sometime, that would be good. Because it's, it's a whole different approach. And basically, what I say is that Western missions is the foundation of Western missions. Is White supremacy.
Yeah, man. Yeah, we could
do it. Yeah, sure. We must. Yes, absolutely. Awesome.
Randy W. 1:01:50
You guys know that? We have a podcast too, right there. Yeah.
No, why don't you go ahead and get a blurb for it? And we'll include it in the episode.
Randy W. 1:01:56
Both Sanders and myself. He used to be with Tripp Fuller and the algae, nerd throwdown and homebrewed Christianity. Yep. But anyway, he and I do one called piecing it all together. P AC ing knife. Yeah, we've done close to 100 episodes now. I
think what do you guys talk about? Everything?
I pieced it together Randy obviously.
Randy W. 1:02:18
Alright guys, good to meet you. And hope to see you down the road here.
Absolutely. Take care ready? Thanks.
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