Reflection: #39 Abraham the Father of colonization / A.J. Hendry

Reading: Genesis 17

“… I will give the entire land to you…. where you now live as a foreigner…. it will be (your descendants) special possession…”

It’s hard not to read about land in Aotearoa and not reflect on how our ancestors have fought and contested over the whenua.

My ancestors read these texts and used them to justify colonization, and in a way can you blame them? Abraham was a foreigner, living in a strange land, he was chosen by God, and gifted the land of another people. Are we Pakeha not chosen people? Did God not give us the wealth and prosperity we enjoy? Must we think of how our wealth has accumulated over generations? Must we questioned what injustice had to be done, what blood had to be spilled, so we could recieve the “blessings of God”?

If I wanted, I could form a biblical and theological position to justify colonization and the rewards it has reaped Pakeha. In fact, I wouldn’t need to, its been done before, and the Western Empire is in many ways proof of its existence.

Yet, the narrative does not end with Abraham, and the consequences of such an Imperial Theology have since been critiqued by a brown, indigenous peasant, who questioned the legitimacy of such theological reflection in the face of Divine Justice.

So, what do we do with these texts today? What do we do with Abraham? A man who was “granted” the land of another, whose ancestors attempted genocide in order to fulfill the promises of their diety?

How do we read of Abraham the colonizer, in a land that still bears fresh the scars of colonization?

To be honest, I’m not sure I know. Yet, naming the discomfort is perhaps the first step. My ancestors were colonizers, they have tasted the Empires forbidden fruit. It is right to feel uncomfortable, least we forget the evils religious nationalism can bring.

A.J. Hendry

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