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Indigenous Jesus

By Matt Laney, writing for UCC

When Creator Sets Free [Jesus] saw the great crowd, he went back up the mountainside and sat down to teach the people. His followers came to him there. So he took a deep breath, opened his mouth, and began to share his wisdom and to teach them how to see the Creator’s Good Road [the gospel]. – Matthew 5:1-2, First Nations Version (FNV)

The notion that God sent Jesus from heaven to earth to save the lowly earthlings might be the theological root of colonialism and cultural supremacy.

What if, as the First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament assumes, Jesus was indigenous? What shifts as we view colonialism as antithetical to the gospel?

“Indigenous” comes from the Latin indu, meaning “within,” and gignere, meaning “to beget.” Something or someone is indigenous if they emerged from within this ecosystem or are begotten of this land, not imposed from outside this land.

An indigenous Christ doesn’t enter the world from an extraterrestrial realm to impose a foreign truth. An indigenous Christ emerges within this creation as the truly Natural One who calls us back to ourselves, back to the earth, back to all our relations.

Therefore, the point of Jesus’ Good Road (the gospel) is not becoming something else, but becoming truly ourselves, accessing the divinity that is natural and indigenous to every person and to all creation.

Christianity has been used and abused as a force of colonization in the name of “saving” indigenous people. That is an outrageous tragedy. Perhaps indigenous Christians, and an indigenous Christ, will help save Christianity.


Indigenous One, as we begin Indigenous Heritage Month, remind us all, indigenous and nonindigenous alike, that you do not impose your will from on high. Remind us that you are Emmanuel, God-with-us,inviting us to walk your Good Road.


Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.

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