THEOLOGY was once called the “queen of the sciences”.
It’s organising our thinking about God, and of course there are many variations of this science. A beautiful example of a theology is the Rainbow Spirit Theology, a model used by some Christian indigenous theologians to help in our understanding of God and life.
“The model that helps us to do our theology is that of the four directions in the land. The forces creating our theology come to us from three directions, and flow in a new direction for the future”.
The Rainbow Serpent is a symbol of life and rebirth; it gives life to all creatures, trees and plants.
It’s a reminder of each new day and the beauty of a rainbow after refreshing rain.
The symbol of the East is the Kookaburra who announces the coming of the sun at dawn.
It symbolises the Good news, the message of the Son-the Christ and morning Star.
The sheep is the symbol of the north, representing sacred stories including the bible brought with sheep by Europeans.
It is also a reminder of signs inscribed on landscapes and the ancient wisdom of Christians from the north.
The symbol of the south is the emu, “a bird which tracks the land and searches with intense curiosity”.
It calls us to remember Aboriginal culture and the violation of that culture.
We are to search our experiences and to discover the tracks of God in past and present.
The symbol of the west is the Kangaroo. Kangaroos never jump backwards but move relentlessly forward to reach the goal. West, the direction in which the sun and our lives move. We live in hope and with strength for the future, so his stream to the West encourages us to affirm our cultures and to embed what and who they represent in our belief as Christian people.
It’s intriguing that our Jewish faith ancestors in their creation story saw the snake as representing evil and the tempter and the reason for mankind’s downfall.
Meanwhile, Aboriginal people have chosen the serpent as the symbol of life and its continuation.
For these people, the Rainbow Spirit is portrayed as a powerful snake who emerged from the land, “travelled the landscape leaving trails of life, and then returned to the land through caves water holes and sacred sites”.
Early Christian missionaries equated this snake with Satan, not understanding the depth and theological thinking behind the amazing symbolism.
God speaks to us in many and different modes.
God’s ongoing giving of God’s self is our opportunity and privilege to ponder the continual blessings bestowed.
May we live conscious of discerning and listening hearts.
Rainbow Serpent Theology was written in Australia with several local Aboriginal theologians.
St Mary’s Catholic Church