Reframing Jesus: Listening for the Contextualised Christ Figure in Aboriginal Communities

Author: Labhaoise Upton

Upton, Labhaoise, 2021 Reframing Jesus: Listening for the Contextualised Christ Figure in Aboriginal Communities, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This project explores the inculturation of Jesus Christ among Aboriginal nations along the dingo songline, with a focus on the Spirit, and incarnation of, Jesus Christ existent in Australian nations before invasion. Approached through a Catholic lens, the project engages with the 1986 Papal Address to Aboriginal Catholics to open a door for non-Aboriginal people to learn from Aboriginal visions of Christ.

The research was carried out as a listening project, employing the methodology of reflexive ethnography and sacred space concepts. It sought to privilege Aboriginal voices, and to remain accountable to their wisdom by actively engaging with an Aboriginal Reference group throughout.

Through sample interviews across a range of settings, I enquired into the nature of how the Christ-figure sits within Aboriginal cosmologies. This listening illuminated diverse visions of Christ, who largely connected to Country and people in roles familiar across Western Christianity. Drawing from the Western theologians Karl Rahner, Celia Deane-Drummond, and Denis Edwards to articulate my cultural frame, I recognise elements of the Wisdom tradition and the cosmic Christ in the Aboriginal knowledge shared with me. This frame is used to present ways to move forward in creating a more culturally-inclusive Church that recognises the spiritual authority and autonomy of Aboriginal peoples.

Keywords: Aboriginal Christianity, wisdom, cosmic Christ, songline, Lumen Gentium, Pope John Paul II, Black Jesus

Subject: Theology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2021
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Nicola Hoggard Creegan