If you’re in St. Paul, MN this weekend you can check out the Upper Midwest AAR conference. Today is the last day to register. I’ll be presenting a paper on Saturday at 10:15 in Session 6: Philosophy of Religion/Systematic Theology #3. For your interest, here’s an abstract of my paper.
“Eating from the Sacred Tree: Decolonzing Western Interpretations of Original Sin in Genesis 3”
For Native peoples, becoming Christian in north america has also meant becoming White. The theology, culture, and politics that characterized north american colonialism are inseparable from each other. In light of colonial history, amer-european Christians such as myself, might wonder whether Christianity and its scriptures can be redeemed at all. Native theologians Andrea Smith and Laura Donaldson have suggested that it is possible to reinterpret Christian scriptures in postcolonial or non-dominant ways. One prominent doctrine in western theology is that of original sin. Adopting Smith and Donaldson’s post-structuralist approach to scripture, this paper attempts to decolonize the doctrine of original sin in its interpretation of Genesis 3.
Since Augustine, original sin in western Christianity is characterized by a depraved state of nature, separation between creation and Creator, and is highly individualistic. Such a theological anthropology is nonsensical from a Native worldview. I will begin by situating the doctrine in history, providing a brief account of the role of Genesis 3 in Augustine’s prominent formulation of original sin. Then, drawing on the work of several Native theologians and writers, I will spend most of the paper constructing a non-dominant reading of Genesis 3 and the notion of sin. I submit that it is by receiving the interpretive wisdom of Native Christians that amer-european Christians can begin to disassemble the destructive colonial power of their dominant doctrines.