I am a First Nations person from Canada and I come from a strong history of First Nations and Metis peoples (history and cultures). I am going to give you a little glimpse into a model for faith that is being used within FN Christian circles – oh it’s not very kosher – but then again – neither am I.
First Nations people use the circle a lot – and in particular something called the 4 Directions (I happen to be Cree and Ojibwa) as a teaching mechanism. This is part of my FN history and I think the model of the 4 directions can be used in synch with the Christian value system – or as a way of teaching about our faith in First Nations circles.
The 4 directions are encompassed in a circle – which symbolizes that life is continuous and that all things mesh together in life (from birth to death – and then our next generation carries that on again – and the circle continues). There are 4 stages to life – birth, youth, adulthood, and elderly and in each stage of life you are in constant learning mode with the 4 aspects of human self.
The 4 aspects of the human self are: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual – and in this you are always struggling to remain balanced in each area (and each area effects the other). This is the model that relates to our value system (what we value as important).
(1) Physical: We are physical beings and this is part of the balance act. We need to eat, sleep, be healthy, work out, etc. If we lack in the physical area it can effect our life in a diverse ways. Being overweight causes some to lower their self-esteem (ex: emotional and mental effects). If someone has a healthy sleep pattern it can also boost their productivity and emotional state (ex: more happy). We also interact one with another all the time – and this is relationships – and part of that is physicality.
(2) Emotional: We are made of emotions and being out of balance here effects us deeply. If we develop ideas of low self-esteem this can result in a variety of ways to find balance (ex: addictions, anger, pity). If we are emotionally healthy we deal with our pains and hurts in a constructive way – where we learn from them and heal. This is also only one part of the 4 aspects of self and relying simply on emotions can de-value the aspect of the mind (or overlook it for ‘feeling good’).
(3) Mental: As humans our mind is something we always use and we need to find balance here since this is the aspect of the self that acts as a filter (or choice). If we are allowing our mind to consider ideas of racism, hatred, de-valuing others, etc…then the mind is being used to develop ideas that ‘hurt us’ and ‘slant our perspective’ (which isn’t very balanced). We need to use our minds in constructive ways and to help us develop logic that keeps harmony with the other 3 aspects of our self.
(4) Spiritual: We are created by the ‘Great Spirit’ (God – Creator) – which means we have to develop our spiritual selves also. This includes all the aspects within faith and communicating with God (via books, ceremonies, teachings, prayer, etc). To deny this aspect leads to an imbalance in our ‘selves’ – we become too intellectual, too emotional, or too physical – and we lose some of the strength our faith can bring to us (ie: there is a definitie humility in knowing we ‘are not the final answer’). Our spiritual aspect is in balance we develop ideas of humility, good relationships, and faith that builds us and others ‘up’.
The meaning of it all is that we are inter-connected within us and if one part suffers – then it all suffers – and balance is something we forever live to develop and perfect (throughout our whole lives). With my faith I have to use all aspects of my ‘self’ and become a healthy person – whether it be physical (action), emotional (feelings), mental (intellect), or spiritual (faith and hope) aspects.
This is my history, I am not a Jewish person, and God was revealed to my people(s) as well – as a Creator with values very similar to Christian values. In some senses, this is my Tanakh (OT) and I have to respect my culture and lineage (as a service of love to what God gave us). For me, it all lines up quite well and the teachings of Jesus help to develop a greater and deeper understanding/affection of God (also can help one to create a balance they desire). I don’t see a mis-harmonization of the Christ-ian faith (Alliance churches have this focus) with the First Nations teachings – actually – one can elaborate on the other (and bring greater perspective for a worldview).
What do you think about a system like this – is it serving the purpose of the teachings of Christ? Does it help to build a model (value system/paradigm) for some people to make sense of faith? Or is this ‘too much’ mixing and in some sense a ‘betrayal of the faith’? Just how does this all make you feel?