This post is a portion of a contribution in Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization, edited by Steve Heinrichs with over 60 contributors and art by Jonathan Dyck.
Contributions to Unsettling the Word offer re-visions of Biblical narrative and other create explorations of the Biblical narrative.
From the introduction by editor Steve Heinrichs: “My prayer, above all, is that our hearts will be so stirred, our minds so lovelingly unsettled by what we encounter in this text, that weare moved to works of mercy, risks of solidarity, and costly acts of reparative love. The Bible must be lived (and enjoyed) in streams of justice, or it is a dead word.” (Unsettling the Word, xvii)
So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” – Ruth 1:15-16
It is 1936. I live near the Red River in Winnipeg. I am a brown woman looking for safety in a land that’s fast becoming white. After residential school, I married into a minning family, married a handsome husband, married a white Christian man. I was poor and they were wealthy — until sorrow came upon our doorsteps. Like a cold wind sweeping through a tent, tuberculosis took most of our family. Including my husband.
My mother-in-law begged me to leave her and to return to my Indian home in the Northwest Territories. Dene land. I refused.
“Your path is my path. Your ways are now my ways,” I tell my mother-in-law. “I will walk with you until the day I die.”
Why should I return to a land that’s a stranger to me? I’ve lost the language of my people. Lost the customs. Lost the traditions. The old prayers are but a fading memory. I now pray to a new God. The real God. The one — I’ve been told over and over again — and only God.
My sister Orpah has kissed us goodbye. She’s returning to her land and to her heathen traditions. My heart breaks. Isn’t she afraid of being an outsider in her homeland? She’s been away too long! How will they welcome her with her foreign ways? I pity her. And I’m sad that she’s going back to those pagan ways.
And yet, I admire her. Even respect her.
. . .
For the rest of the story of Orpah re-visioned by Vivian Ketchum, read it in Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization.