Jesus vs Christianity - Akha Thailand

From the basis of work with the Akha Hill Tribe in Thailand and a believer in Jesus and his teachings, these discussions are about wether Jesus and Christianity are or can be the same, and what confusion is caused when they are assumed to be.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Jesus, Ecology and Animism

David and others who you might pass this on to:

I have been hesitant to date to add a name to "Jesus" out of concern that I would pick the wrong one or mislead people on the basis of what they understood that other name or both names to mean prematurely.

But I still grapple with that introductory title and what it should be.

My life here maybe examples it to some degree but I can not find a name for that either.

I think that Christianity was a boat that sailed out of Judaism, has raided too many Islands and now is rife with rats, rot and deception and we must call the individual to carry with them in one hand their belief in Jesus and step off the boat to better ground as it sinks below the waves or wrath.

I wrote to an internet woman last night who was morning the fact that there are yet many remains to return from Laos from the war, I commented that as noble and good as this was it said nothing of all the Laotians who were butchered, napalmed and so forth, some few kilometers from where I sit now.

This is the difference of the inherited perceptions of people.

Jesus was not a destroyer. Beyond the sense that he exposed evil to light which destroyed it, like chasing mold off a rock or disease out of a wound.

Christianity must be abandoned if people are to have any hope and peace.

Christianity thrives on cliches, branding people, trampling their lives and graves without admitting to or answering any of the questions.

Thus we must seperate out all discussion of Jesus as TOTALLY SEPERATE from any history or understanding we have of christianity.

My parents were christians. The part of christianity they grasped did me harm, the understanding of Jesus they had did me none at all.

Jesus's message was opposed to religious leaders of all sorts, the tyranny of religion, it was not solely opposed to Jewish leaders of the day as christian leaders of this day would have us believe. Rather it was opposed to conditions of the human heart and the oppression that placed on others.

We have that same oppression and exploitation in northern Thailand against the Lahu, Akha, Hmong.

The problem with christianity is that it is a business. It is not line item veto, it has no discussion of what will be this or that. There is the local cammander and he is boss.

Having said that, I don't know if Jesus spent a lot of time talking on the environment, because there was less reality at that time that it was being totally destroyed.

Yet he was a specialist on the human heart. And if we look at the environment today, it is suffering as a result of the human heart and injustices.

If you have a forest full of people you displace the people first and then destroy the trees. You lie about what is being destroyed first and then destroy it.

We can not seperate the environment from the Akha and at the same time we can not seperate the Akha from the environment. christianity first lies to the Akha about what it is and what it is there to do, and then it begins to do injustice to them, deceive them, destroy what they are and what they have.

So we could say an Ecological Jesus but we could also say a Just Jesus. What would people prefer, I don't know.

To me there is little in animism that I need to destroy. I leave it as it is as I understand it as a balancing act with nature that the Akha do. To that I would ADD rather than displace, as in adding a book to a collection, that Jesus would advocate for more love, more forgiveness in the community, more collective care to each other. And I would not demand that this be in any concentrate in any area. I don't think it can work that way because often we are distinguishing what is Jesus as what is really our own preferences for society.

Jesus taught that we respond justly to the needs of our society, so if the need is to turn around the tide on the environment then we must preach against greed, waste, selfishness and disregard.

It is two handed, teaching against the events that are causing the bad effects and also teaching against the human attitudes that lead to those events. I will cut it down before the other guy does, I had to, my neighbor was pressing me hard about a small debt and I had to pay him fast.

That kind of thing.

I don't think we can change systems as readily as we can abandon them, and then live different as individuals.

The challenge today is to get people to see that christianity, which the whole bloody mess is arguing about now, is not the answer, and it was not what Jesus taught, it was quickly a takeover and corruption of what he taught to the point that the human soul went hungry once again.

Right now we have a war by DESTROYING christianity AGAINST the environment. The people who lead it have no belief in Jesus. Belief in Jesus has dialogue and they offer no dialogue. They are wolves.

And those who would truly believe in Jesus must stand up against these tyrants and call them what they are.

Animism is people living without "Jesus" formally in a book kind of way, who are yet very smart about their environment. It is also a mis statement in that it assumes that what is going on in their culture is primitive and limited to the superstitious. This is not the case. The Akha for instance have a very formal law. I would like to promote this because it is very advanced and resolves disputess, etc.

So what part of animism is that? Well of course, now we have people who have an advanced social civilization, that ALSO takes care of the enviornment and this must be looked at for what it is.

My concern is that the western people don't want this much social responsibility, that is why the want christianity, because it is a tyrant religion, and they can be accountable to who ever when ever in the sweet by and by, the Akha no such thing, it will get resolved now, right now, and nothing moves until it does.

I know, I live there, I carry the traditions for my family half Akha, half Scot, like all the other families in the village, and charges can be laid to me as I can lay charges to another, but the beauty of it is that all get on and along and that is what makes a tight Akha village a very tight Akha village.

Trees are respected, the water is respected, and it is all difficult to explain this to the western view, but it is so carefully woven into Akha life that one would never assume that you would do it any other way and an Akha would look at you as if you were stupid if you asked why?

And that is due to the fact that EACH Akha family raises all of its own food entirely each year, there are no screw ups, no mess ups, or you don't eat and that does not happen, so all work.

Now exactly how far have westerners gotten from that, in their attempts to escape from "by the sweat of thy brow" and dodge work?

It is very hard to discuss deep ecology when one is not doing the most basic part of that, growing food because if you are growing your own rice you are VERY concerned with where all that can be effected by other people's stupidity.

I myself must go out in the next few days and in addition to running this project, must repair my rice terraces, clear out the years weeds, strengthen the walls, route water, move soil, and get ready to replant the new rice shoots that are all ready planted on the nearby hillside.

Also when we look at who Jesus was we need to look at the context of the entire bible, not christianity as the entire bible is a complement to who he was and what he taught, not a contradiction, he never intended to be a contradiction to it or a stand alone, and in that case there is certainly a lot that he has to comment on culture, environment.

The chief life of Jesus was as a person who offered redemption and we see that this is the entire message not only of the bible but its message to us that we take this goal. It isn't enough that we carefully live in our forest, but we must be rebuilders of the forest, rebuilders of people's lives, because there is much brokenness around us. Many references are made to an entire creation that groans as to the result of man's destruction of it. This certainly points to a divine ecology.

Christianity is a subversion of an idea to enslave people, to exploit the environment and indigenous peoples in one big loot around the world, not anything to do with Jesus. The human must seek truth and sort this out.

The mechanics of organic environmental living can be seen in the lives of the Akha. Human actions that are not destructive to this must also be learned and practiced.

In Akha world it is the Christians who are destroying the village and farming environment in an anything goes mentality.

Much more could be said on this.

Thankyou so much for the discussion and as you have much more experience at this than I, if you were to present specific ideas or challenges to the molding of these ideas I would much appreciate it.

For instance there is much talk of sustainability in the west, but that starts with individual food production, and how many are willing to do that now?


Monday, June 17, 2002

David Orton comments on Deep Ecology and Animism

Is there a problem between Christianity and Animism or Jesus and Animism?
We think the former more than the latter.

Deep ecology, animism and land ethics

This post is about what kind of relationship there can be
between "traditional" aboriginal thinking and deep ecology,
and how this becomes reflected in land use practices. It is
something that I have written on in the past (see for
example the article in Wild Earth, Fall 1995, "The Wild Path
Forward: Left Biocentrism, Park Issues and Forestry, A
Canadian View", Green Web Bulletin #44), but it is really
for me a continuing concern. I believe that this is quite
important philosophically. If we can understand this, then
one can attempt to deal with various practical questions and
dilemmas in the environmental movement regarding aboriginal-
related issues, from a consistent philosophical basis.

In a nutshell, I find a traditionalist world view extremely
attractive and progressive from the perspective of all I
hold dear. But this view, although it is rooted in an
animistic spirituality, remains in the end human-centered.
Because of this, it seems to me, the "use" of Nature in a
modern industrial context can ultimately be justified: for
example, human usage of parks or natural areas, and
support for commercial hunting and trapping.

The following quote from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal
Peoples, shows one example of this human-centered and
religious position, which one finds over and over again in
traditional aboriginal writings:
Elders believe there is only one solution: living life
according to the Creator's instructions. The Creator's
guidance ensured that the land, sea and sky, and all
creatures dwelling there, would remain for future
generations. The Creator's instructions provided for
maintenance and care of the earth. Long before government
imposed its rules and regulations, Aboriginal peoples had
their own systems of territorial use and maintenance.
Vol.4, pp. 140-141
Yet just underneath the above, the text goes on to show that
Nature becomes ultimately a "resource":
Most elders want to see co-management of natural resources
such as wildlife, oil and gas, forests, water and minerals.
p. 141

A further conundrum for me, is how, with the animistic
traditional world view of aboriginal peoples, did the large
faunal extinctions occur in, say, New Zealand and the
Americas? These extinctions, if they occurred as claimed
by some whose views I respect, for example, Paul Martin,
Michael Soule and Jared Diamond, took place outside the
influence of modern technology and eurocentrism. This
remains a puzzle for me, which ultimately has to be
resolved, if one supports aboriginal animism.

I think occasions come up on environmental and social
justice issues, where one supports aboriginals and on other
occasions it could be necessary to oppose them. I would not
see such differences as arbitrary but grounded in a basic
Earth-centered thought-out position.

We have an exchange of publications with _The Friends of
Clayoquot Sound Newsletter_. The Fall/Winter 98/99 issue just
came out. It illustrates this support and opposition
position referred to above, as it comes up in practical
situations. I have not had direct personal contact with FOCS,
but have very much admired their work. That is, of trying to
bring the legacy of industrial logging of old growth rainforests
to a halt in the Sound, and to do this in alliance with the
indigenous peoples of that area, showing sensitivity for their
interests and concerns.

The front page story "Interfor Leaves Catface" in the FOCS
Newsletter, describes how a month long blockade of a new
logging road being built on Catface Mountain, which started
in September of 1998, eventually forced the company to leave:
At issue was the company's Catface logging plan which
does not remotely live up to the 'world-class
ecosystem-first' forestry intended by the Clayoquot Sound
Scientific Panel.

Later in the article is noted the position of some aboriginal
people from the area to the blockade:
To our regret, the Hereditary Chiefs and the Band Council
of the Ahousaht First Nation, whose territory includes
Catface, opposed the protest. They issued two statements
saying that the Ahousaht and all government agencies had
approved the Catface logging, and demanded that the
protest cease. We replied that, while we respect First
Nations' jurisdiction over their lands, we have the right
to oppose their decisions, just as we have the right to
oppose any government's decisions. A delegation from the
Chiefs also drove up to the barricade and demanded that
we dismantle it, which we declined to do. A meeting with
the Chiefs to discuss our different perspectives is still

The Newsletter also has an article "Connections" reporting
on the work of Joe Martin, who I would assume is an
aboriginal, detailing his fifth visit to Germany. We are
told that Martin is a spokesperson for "native human rights"
and two of these tours had him accompanied by Valerie Langer
of The Friends of Clayoquot Sound. So what I see here in the
FOCS Newsletter is support for aboriginals, but also the
willingness to oppose when land use issues demand it.

Like I have said above, a basic issue is the relationship of
deep ecology to the animistic spirituality of aboriginal
peoples. Below is part of what I wrote on this in the _Wild
Earth_ article of Fall 1995.

Jesus vs Christianity

Interesting Link to the discussion at hand

Christianity Is NOT the same as Jesus Christ

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Is Jesus and Christianity the same?

When we hear of people speaking of the "gospel" we make assumptions about what they are saying but in practice what they may be doing can be far different.

Jesus taught very specific things, Jesus was a very specific person. He was also God. But Christianity sells western culture and prejudice as also part of his teachings, least this is what we see here in North Thailand in practice among the Akha.

In the process many Akha are alienated or deceived.

What is the answer?

If a person has the choice of believing in the teachings of Jesus or in the teachings of Christianity, which will they choose?

Matthew McDaniel

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