The lack of postcolonial theology in Aotearoa New Zealand


What does it mean to be an indigenous Christian? Does your indigenity inform your Christian faith or does your theology inform your indigenity? 173 years since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, can the Church body in New Zealand truly say it has discussed indigenous spirituality past the political lip service of biculturalism let alone affirming Māori rights as Tangata Whenua (people of the land)? Does post-colonial theology even matter in New Zealand where, although systemic and social racism still exists, the racial tension has largely given way to the renaissance and nurturing of Māori te tino rangatiratanga (indigenous self-determination)?

Post-colonial theology has been slow to develop in New Zealand (compared to the already established or rapidly growing movements in South America), besides the odd Emergent parish, I have yet to be convinced that the Church body isn’t naïve or ignorant of the broader scope of theological social issues in Aotearoa. Sermons on the poor, the oppressed, the outcast and Christ’s love for social justice, have failed to incorporate any practicality towards the indigenous people groups of New Zealand; and do I dare say that the champions of Māori theology have sold out to the spiritual apologetics of a watered down indigenous Christianity?

There are both shards of brokenness and glory in all cultures – hopefully the Church body in New Zealand will enter more into the post-colonial conversation around what it means to live out Christ in response to the indigenity of the Tangata Whenua. I believe that following the way of Jesus doesn’t constitute the removal of my indigenous identity. Both the way of my ancestors (Tikanga Māori) and the way of Jesus (an ethos of love, redemption and renewing between God, humanity and creation) can co-exist.

I believe standing up for indigenous rights in my geopolitical context is more focused than a blanket ‘help the poor and oppressed’ sermon that beckons no practical spirituality let alone regard for ‘unsaved’ cultures (indeed in every socio-economic category – health, income, crime, education and housing – Māori make up the worst statistics; e.g, 16% of the population yet 50% of the prison populace).

The post-colonial conversation brings an anthropological zest to what it means to encounter each other’s cultural humanity. It means more than having ‘cultural days’ or reading scripture in another language. Entering into this territory could mean a redemptive revamp of evangelism, missions and ministry outside the narrow confines of a mono-cultural capitalist Jesus. Like the kaleidoscopical spectrum of white light separated (and united) by a prism – I believe God’s creative image of love is glorified by the technicolour of humanity.


Ko Arawa tōku waka (I belong to the Arawa canoe)

Ko Ngongotaha tōku maunga (Ngongotaha is my mountain)

Ko Rotorua tōku moana (Rotorua is my lake)

Ko Te Arawa tōku iwi (I belong to the Arawa Confederacy)

Ko Ngāti Whakaue tōku hapū (I belong to the Whakaue people)


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