By Michael Carignan
I’ve been contemplating a new view of the deity. No, it really is not a new view. I should say, rather, it is a new look at the old view of the deity.
I’ve been reading a book titled “Where the Lightning Strikes” by Peter Nabokov. This book takes a close look at the sacred places and things of the Native Americans.
Religiously Native Americans were condemned by whites for having multiple gods and while they did they all believed in one Great Spirit. They were thought to be crazy because they believed everything has a spirit. Mountains, lakes, rivers, plants, rocks, animals, birds, clouds and even lightning were considered sentient beings by Native Americans. A number of tribes went so far as to believe that even the things that man made had a spirit; i.e. houses, pots, baskets, blankets, chairs, etc. To them all things should be venerated, never abused or wasted.
Some pretty absurd ideas, aren’t they? Or are they?
This makes me think back to second grade, when I attended St. Joseph’s School. We were preparing to make our First Communion and we had to learn all of the basic Catholic doctrine before we could do so. One of the first questions we had to answer was “What is God?” The answer we were taught was “God is everything.” The second question was “Where is God?” The answer we were taught, “God is everywhere.”
“God is everything. God is everywhere.”
We then learned about the triune God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit: One God.
God the Father is the creator in whose hands all of creation lies. God the Son is Jesus Christ who came into the world to instruct and save mankind. God the Holy Spirit is the essence of God that lives in everything, living and non-living, known and unknown, seen or unseen.
Is there really a difference in the Catholic belief and the Native American belief? I don’t see one. God is everything. God is everywhere. If so shouldn’t all things be venerated?
This part of the logic was not really imparted to us when we were young. We were given the ideas but not really given the mechanism to realize what it meant. We weren’t taught to respect everything we encounter on earth. We lived in a world of racism and sexism, in a land of plenty where you took what you wanted without thought to circumstance or consequence. We were simply given the doctrine and expected to live it without guidance. We were never really shown how to practice it.
Native Americans did understand the doctrine and they were taught to practice it from a very early age. They saw everything as God and they venerated it.
No way, right? How could these heathens have any knowledge of God? Maybe it is because God makes Himself known to all people in ways that each of us can understand. We are all children of God. God does not just rest in the lap of Catholics or Lutherans, or Muslims or Buddhists, Taoists or Hindu, or in any other obscure religion. God makes Himself known… to everyone. We simply have to recognize him.