Blending your spirituality smoothie


You know when you start to make a smoothie and everything is loud, the blender is shaking, and you think it’s about to explode?

That was me at age five realising that my beliefs contradict each other.

Growing up in a Māori Catholic family, I struggled to exist within two worlds. My spirituality has never been here nor there, but a constant blend between both Catholicism and te Ao Māori.

Before primary school, I attended Te Kōpae Piripono in Taranaki. At Te Kōpae, I was enriched in te Ao Māori.

I always felt loved and protected by God and ngā Atua.

But because my family have always been very devout Catholics, instead of attending kura kaupapa, I was sent to a Catholic primary school.

It was a huge culture shock.

When they started teaching about the commandments, I was baffled by the first one: “You shall have no other gods before me”.

After that lesson, I stared into space, thinking, “Are Atua gods?

Have I been a bad Catholic?

Does God not love me?

Can I not say karakia anymore?”

In my naive mind, ngā Atua and God had all existed in harmony, ensuring all was well in the world, and helping each other out.

I was quickly proved wrong.

At six years old, I watched some girls from class stab pointed sticks into the ground for fun.

In true Kaitiaki nature, I rushed to defend Papatūānuku. I sobbed, “Please stop, you’re hurting my Māmā!”

They ran away laughing and went to our teacher, supposedly ‘crying’.

Instead of my teacher explaining cultural differences, she yelled at me. I was scolded for spreading lies.

She said that Papatūānuku is just a character from a book—she pointed to the cover of In the Beginning, stating it was just a made-up story.

I was left wondering which creation story was true.

Experiences like this continued throughout the years.

At this point, you would be forgiven for thinking I would relinquish my Catholic faith out of resentment, but spirituality is embedded in me.

My spirituality gives me hope and peace of mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I have found great conflict with the Catholic church and the weaponisation of religion—from its role in colonisation to the church’s opinion on some topics.

I love my understanding of God, and I’ll stand by Him, but my values clash with those of the men that speak on his ‘behalf’.

After years of being told my beliefs are wrong, and embarrassed to be a Māori who is also Catholic, I have come to the decision to bugger everyone who tells me my beliefs are wrong.

I’ve realised, who knows?

Who are they to tell me what’s true and what’s false?

At the end of the day, respecting other people’s beliefs is all we need to do. We don’t all need to believe the exact same thing.

If you’re like me, struggling to blend your spirituality smoothie, I can only suggest keeping the blender going. Eventually, it will all smooth out.

  • Whakairitaua Rukuwai (Taranaki, Te Ātiawa) studies at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University Wellington.
  • First published in Salient. Republished with permission of the author.
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