Excellent Book Review in Christian Century for Shalom and the Community of Creation


Shalom and the Community of Creation, by Randy S. Woodley

shalom and the community coverFeb 21, 2013 reviewed by Daniel G. Deffenbaugh
For close to 50 years, Americans committed to both economic growth and the daunting goal of “saving the planet” have placed their hopes in a highly stylized image of First Nations peoples. The “ecological Indian” has become the mascot of our eco-nation. If we could simply adopt a Native American worldview, the reasoning goes, we could travel a long way toward pulling ourselves out of our current environmental crisis. Authors with exotic pedigrees introduce us to the esoteric wisdom of native shamans and offer to clear our heads of the dross of Euro-American civilization. There are a lot of these texts—enough to line the shelves of the spirituality and metaphysics sections of our bookstores.

Some who have followed this trend will be wary of any book claiming to offer an “indigenous vision” for the church. Will this author, like so many others, try to convince us that Christian faith is the real source of our malaise, that our hope lies not in the dogma of tradition but in a liberating turn to “the Great Spirit”? Am I going to be cajoled into buying another dream catcher for my bedroom window?

Thankfully, Shalom and the Community of Creation is short on romantic visions and long on rich theological discussion. The genius of the text lies in Randy Woodley’s ability to help readers understand the connections between God’s original vision of shalom, as affirmed throughout the scriptures, and what he has encountered in the distinctive narratives of native North Americans. A Keetoowah Cherokee, Woodley has spent the past 25 years reflecting on the interface between his faith and the traditions of his own and other First Nations peoples. The result of this spiritual journey has been a keen appreciation for the prophetic voice in scripture—a tradition that has too often been lost in the triumphalism of the church—and its similarities with the values of the indigenous people he has served as pastor. Continue reading

May 31st Availability for Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy Woodley

Would it surprise you to know that ancient Semitic constructs of biblical shalom have parallel constructs among other indigenous peoples, sometimes referred to as the Harmony Way? Shalom, like Harmony Way, is made up of numerous notions and values with the whole being much greater than the sum of its parts. Both are meant to be a way of living life in concrete ways that include more than all the terms found within the construct. They both set forth practical steps included within a vision for happiness and wellbeing. They both require specific action when the harmony or shalom is broken. They both have justice, restoration and continuous right living as their goal. And, perhaps most importantly, they both originate as the right path, being viewed as a gift from the Creator.

Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision suggests that viewing the shalom construct through indigenous eyes can encourage in people a new way to experience theology and also, provoke in them a fresh spiritual journey. In the past indigenous theological and spiritual views have been overlooked or considered to be outside the realm of mainstream theology but they are now providing challenges to the most fundamental theological constructs of the Christian Faith. Christians should give ear to what indigenous peoples have to say, especially in this day when Euro-western Christianity is so broken and fragmented.

Native Americans have been the recipients of American church mission longer than any other people in the world and having scrutinized the message and the messengers for centuries, have something to say. The perspective of this book is rooted in redemptive correction and in putting out a call for true partnership through the co-creation of, not just new theological ideas, but the creation of whole new theological systems.

Excerpt from Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision:

The Creator is calling us back to experience God’s love and care in the created world around us. The indigenous peoples of our own lands are the guides and theological interpreters of this too-long-awaited journey. Between my own mixed experiences as a child and having spent over half my adult life around indigenous communities, listening to indigenous elders, and so forth, I think I have found a kind of wisdom for living on this planet that transcends modernity’s purview. This book is an introduction that will begin to prepare western hearts and minds for a journey, hope fully from which one will find it difficult to return. My hope is that once we begin to live out shalom in the community of creation, we will not want to return. It is time for the people of the earth to return to creation. In doing so, we may find the heart of the Creator once again in our own hearts. -from Introduction

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A Look in the Book! Chapter Titles and Forward By Soong-Chan Rah

Foreword, by Soong-Chan Rah

Author’s Preface Introduction

1.   Shalom: Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

2. Jesus: From Kingdom to Community of Creation

3.  God’s First Discourse: Connected to Creation

4.  We Are All Related: Life Governed by Harmony

5. The Great Thinking/Doing Divide

6.  When Time and Place Collide

7. Narrating Our Lives and Ideas: The Importance of Story

8.  Joining the Party: Essential Community




Sitting in the bleachers of a Seattle-area high school gymnasium, I listened intently to the words of my friends, Randy and Edith Woodley. I was visiting the Pacific Northwest for a speaking engagement, and Randy and his family graciously agreed to accompany me to my very first powwow. I tried not to ask too many questions as Randy patiently narrated the pow- wow unfolding before us. I sat enthralled at the richness of the culture being revealed on the gym floor. The visual display was only a part of the learning experience for me. More importantly, I delighted in the privilege of hearing my friend weave vivid explication, cultural insight, theological wisdom, and truthtelling into a compelling narrative. As an outsider to the community, I was honored that the Woodleys would extend such authen- tic hospitality toward me. Later, I did what any twenty-first-century American would do—I Facebooked my experience: “Went to my first powwow with Randy and Edith Woodley. Everyone should have this experience.”

American Christians are increasingly aware of the diversity that comprises Christianity in America. Multiethnic, multiracial, and multicul- tural ministry (we often use these three terms interchangeably, oftentimes incorrectly, conflating the three terms) is now in vogue. Diversity is applied superficially. Usually the application of multiculturalism (or any of the other terms) degenerates into tokenism. Churches and Christian orga- nizations look for diversity in how we appear to outsiders. Diversity looks particularly nice in group photos and websites. But diversity is usually for appearance purposes only. Everyone must toe the social, cultural, political, theological line. Token minorities should be seen but not heard. Continue reading

Comments on Shalom and the Community of Creation from Across the Theological Spectrum

Woodley precisely describes the lethal social situation we have created for ourselves:

Coupled with the western myth of historical progress, western influences such as Augustine’s just war theory, and the Calvinistic myth of divine blessing, the Euro-western educational process sets up wealthy white Americans (and those from other races who “buy” into the system) to believe that in some very tangible ways they can and should exert their power over others.

And then, in bold, imaginative, and compelling ways, he exposits an alternative way for an abundant life. His book is a winsome presentation of Native American (Cherokee) perspective woven into the biblical narrative. The outcome is a recovery of shalom (harmony) that amounts to a perspective now urgently required among us. Woodley’s book effectively testifies that there are intellectual, moral resources available out of which to redirect our political-economic imagination.

— Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

Randy Woodley has given us a beautiful and timely meditation on Shalom.  He reminds us of the breadth of human responsibility as it relates to all Creation and he encourages us to inhabit the kinds of practices that fosters biblical reconciliation.  Through personal story and rigorous scholarship, Woodley paints a picture of a holistic way of living, a way that nurtures connection, hope, and harmony.  But the greatest gift to us here is the invitation to view scriptures, humanity, and all Creation through his particular Indigenous lens.  We would do well to catch this vision of creation care for the sake of the next seven generations.

Matthew Sleeth, MD, Executive Director, Blessed Earth

This book is like a breath of fresh air. Randy Woodley draws deeply not only on his native American heritage, but also weaves in vital biblical resources in order to set forth a vision of Shalom, a community approach to ecological living. However, he also manages to avoid the temptation to idealize one tradition by being respectfully critical of his sources, leading to a lively and fascinating account of how his particular approach to theology can inform environmental responsibility. Readers will find themselves on a journey of discovery, carried into ways of perceiving the world that will be both challenging and inspiring. Woodley’s innovative and thoughtful approach is bound to provoke and awaken environmental consciousness that is so vitally needed in today’s world.’”

 — Celia Deane-Drummond, University of Notre Dame

My native friends constantly remind me that the biblical concept and hope of shalom resonates deeply with the sensitivities of most Native American or First Nations cultures. This key truth underlies Randy Woodley’s prophetic new book. Biblically based and culturally sensitive, Shalom and the Community of Creation presents an essential corrective for today’s church. We will be wiser and live a more faithful discipleship if we come to see how far today’s technological society has journeyed from the biblical shalom visiona vision that speaks directly to today’s ecological dysfunctions and looming disasters, yet echoes deeply with the native cultures around us.

-Howard A. Snyder, Professor Wesley Studies, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto

Not Just Another Book! Brian McLaren Gives it Unique Praise!

Everyone who recommends a new book says “it’s a must read.” I wanted to write a book that set forth a realistic vision for a new kind of living in the world, (not utopian fantasy) that draws from our most ancient sources of instructions from the Creator. According to Brian McLaren, it worked. Here’s what he said:

As I read Shalom and the Community of Creation, I kept thinking that I could give away half of my library and wouldn’t lose too much because so many books simply rehash the same things. But this book offers so much that is fresh and unique – and forgotten and under-appreciated too. I wish that first every seminarian and then every thoughtful Christian on the continent could read it, because this wise and well-written book leads to a different and better future than we are driving towards now. Enthusiastically recommended.— Brian McLaren, Author/speaker

I hope you will take time to read the book carefully, and re-imagine with me living the kind of life Creator has intended for all of humanity since the beginning. This book lays out the foundation for such a path.Thanks! (Wa-do’) -Randy Woodley, Author