alive with spirit! To disrespect creation is to dishonor the Creator! To disrespect Mother Earth is to disrespect “our Father who art in heaven!’
With regard to sacred places and man’s deep connection to a particular place or homeland, the Bible says that God “determined the times set for them [the nations] and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us,” Acts 17:26-27. Tribes and nations are attached to a particular place because there is a spiritual connection between the land, its residents and the lands Creator. In other words, it’s not only a physical homeland; it’s also a spiritual one as well!
Background: Acts 19: 6, 11-12
Animistic cultures in addition to sacred places have sacred objects. These objects can be part of a sacred animal like an eagle feather or a buffalo skull. Eagles are one of the most sacred of animals because they fly higher and therefore are closer to God than other animals. Native Americans pray with an eagle feather in their hand because they believe God will pay attention and hear their prayer because of his closeness to the eagle!
Sacred objects can also be natural objects such as rocks, a bone or a plant. The Native American church holds Peyote as a sacred medicine and sacrament. Sacred objects can also be images of animals called totems, which are linked to a particular family or tribe. If a tribe or family’s totem animal is the bear, they are called, the bear clan. Any animal, beaver, Buffalo, salmon, etc. could serve as a totem. It is believed that the family is blood relatives to the animal. Perhaps the tribe originated as the animal and then took on human form. Some indigenous cultures believe that each person has two souls one which they possess and the other is possessed by their guardian animal.
When an image is made of the animal it is called a fetish. The fetish is believed to possess the power of the animal, which it represents. Some Native Americans, carry medicine bags or pouches that contain sacred objects. The bottom line is that these sacred objects are believed to possess power to protect, heal and bring good fortune!
Now let’s mention a couple of sacred objects in the bible: In the OT when the children of Israel rebelled against Moses in the wilderness. God sent venomous snakes and many people died. After the people confessed their sin, God commanded Moses to make the image of a bronze snake and put it on a pole so that anyone who looked at it could be healed and not die, Numbers 21:4-9. The image brought healing and life! It also became the symbol of the medical profession!
Sacred objects are also mentioned in 2 Kings 13, the bones of the holy man, Elisa. In this story, the body of a dead man is thrown into Elisa’s tomb and when it touched the bones of the prophet the dead man came back to life!
A New Testament illustration of sacred objects is from Acts 19:6, 11-12. “When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. … God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” From an animistic view these “handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him” had a powerful healing Spirit on them, the Holy Spirit. This is very similar to the reason why many indigenous people will not allow their images to be photographed: They believe their spirit will be transferred to the image. Spirits are fragile and must be handled with care: Among the Mayan Indians of Chiapas babies under a year old are constantly carried and watched over least the fall and their spirit is lost.
Sacred objects both in animism and in the bible are believed to possess and communicate life-giving power. In the early church devotion to relics associated with the saints and with Christ grew more and more popular. It was believed that these relics possessed miraculous power and reports of healing spread far and wide. People would make pilgrimages to them seeking a healing!
Devotion to and honoring relics has been associated with superstition because many converted pagans who entered the church brought their own animistic convictions with them. Also because many sick are desperate for a cure, fraud surrounds the devotion to relics. There’s money to be made from the vulnerable. Usually if relics are for sell or if money is charged to be healed by them, they are not authentic. All legitimate spiritual traditions believe that spiritual blessings cannot be bought and sold. Many indigenous healers and holy men do not charge for their services upfront but will accept a gift of gratitude after their service has been rendered.
THE MEANING OF TIME IN BOTH ANIMIST SOCIETIES AND ANCIENT HEBREW SOCIETY
Our western view of time is chronological and linear: One thing happens after another, the future becomes the present and then moves into the past never to be repeated. The word “chronos” is not very common in the OT (Old Testament). It is mostly used for the word “day” which denotes a “period of time,” Kittles NT Dic. Pg. 1337. In place of a linear concept of time, the OT presents a rhythm of time with reoccurring events unfolding. The basis of time for the Hebrews moved around the Sabbath, which is based upon God’s act of creation followed by rest, renewal and then a new cycle of work. The rhythm of time also moved around the religious festivals, which reoccurred every year to commemorate and renew God’s intervention in the life of the Hebrew people.
In trying to understand the ancient Hebrews view of time, its important to note that they had no concept of a timelessness eternity, which is a Greek concept. “The Hebrews had no idea that there could be life and experience without time. For them, life was time, or better "to live was time." There was no time where there were no life events, and no life events where there was no time. In the Old Testament, life was humanity's form of existence (Job 1:21; Ps. 90:3-12) and this was time. One could characterize the difference between how the Hebrews understood time and how we do by saying that time for us is "chronological" and time for them was "qualitative.' In the Old Testament, events and persons were differentiated and arranged, not by their position in chronological sequence to each other, but according to the impact of their occurrence. The Hebrews were impressed by the weightiness or significance of things and people, not by how many ticks on a clock went by while doing something,” Ronnie Littlejohn, (pp. 53-56. Biblical Illustrator) Therefore when we read the Bible, we need to realize the focus is upon people and events, sometimes these events seem to occur at the same time because they are grouped together but in reality they are widely separated from one another by large segments of time! This happens in both the OT and in the Gospel stories!
Furthermore, “The [Hebrew] worshiper experienced past acts of salvation, such as the exodus, as contemporary and happening right then, even if the exodus occurred in the past. Time for the Hebrews was about effort and achievement. People did things. They wrote, played, traveled, slept, dreamed, performed ceremonies, went to war, and prayed. God did things too. Time consisted of the story of these events, and it had no existence beyond these. To make the most of time probably meant something like living your fife so that others mark their lives and tell their stories in reference to your actions. In the Hebrew mind, the real question was not, "What is the best use of my time right now?" but rather, "What is the best use of my life right now?" Ibid.
This Hebrew view of time, which is more concerned with the impact that God, people and events have on one another, has similarities to the indigenous view of time, which moves in cycles with reoccurring events happening. In indigenous cultures, life evolves around the ancient past when the first ancestors came into being and the world was created. It is believed that in the beginning people were closer to the gods or God. The past is more sacred and important than the future! Furthermore, the events that took place in the past must be re-enacted in order for the earth to be renewed and life to continue forward. Following the oral traditions, which have been passed on from the beginning of time, must be carefully followed to secure renewal. In the rituals of indigenous animistic tribes the people acting the parts of the creation story actually become the ancestors and recreate the world!
“Israelite festivals fell into the same definitions, categories, and thinking as her indigenous neighbors. Hence the creation is re-actualized each year in their lives…
When Israel ate the Passover, clad as for a journey, staff in hand, sandals on their feet, and in the haste of departure (Exodus 12:11) she was doing manifestly more than merely remembering the Exodus; she was entering into the saving event of the Exodus itself and participating in it in a quite ‘actual’ way." It was not in the past, something that had happened to "them then," at all. It was right now, and we are going through the experience. That is how the ancient Hebrew thought worked with time. It kept coming back and re-happening.” Kerry A. Shirts Reference from, See below http://www2.ida.net/graphics/shirtail/archaic.htm
IS CREATION ALIVE?
Animists say all creation is spiritually alive, is it? What does the bible say? The Bible says that Creation is endowed with goodness, power and divinity. Romans 1:20 says “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Genesis 1:30 informs us that at the conclusion of creation “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” From these two texts it is clear that the created world that we can see is a receptacle of God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature, hence every created thing is very good! Therefore creation is alive! The difference between animists and the biblical view is the emphasis: Animists focus on the individual spirit of each thing whereas those in the Judeo-Christian tradition focus on the Spirit of God being present in all things! This latter view is called Panentheism, God in all things.
Second, Animists say that animals, birds, fish, trees, vegetation, rocks, land formations, rivers, wind, etc. also have a soul or spirit. What does the