Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Adam, Eve and the Serpent (God lets the kids grow up)

The "Adam and Eve" story found in the second and third chapters of Genesis is often referred to as a second Creation story.  This is largely due to the vastly different accounts of the creation of humans.  The "seven days" story reaches this pinnacle in this way:

26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’   
27 So God created humankind in his image,   in the image of God he created them;   male and female he created them.

God makes humanity in "our image":  male and female.

Compare and contrast with Genesis 2:

4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.  
(and only later...)  
22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,‘This at last is bone of my bones   and flesh of my flesh;this one shall be called Woman,   for out of Man this one was taken.’ 

Just to recap:  we all know that humans (and all mammals) are born from women.  But it just so happens that the first woman came out of man.  


At the very least, one can see the stories are saying something quite different.  

While there are troubling aspects to be found, there are also lots of places to play with this second story.  I imagine God walking through the garden, enjoying the evening breeze.  Suddenly, it occurs to God that it is AWFULLY quiet in the garden.  This isn't necessarily a good thing:  after all, God has young children.  Every parent knows (as do most children) that a strangely quiet household often holds a hidden reality.  

Sure enough, the kids are in trouble...

One of the most intriguing ideas is what we don't have without the interplay between the humans and the serpent.  Bert Marshall writes in Feasting on the Word:

One might ask what would have become of humanity if the woman had not plucked the fruit from the tree.  Everything hinges on this, and our text today deals with the chaos that ensues from--dare we say it?--her act of courage (or defiance--however you wish to characterize it).  Everything turns on this, because without it, humanity remains docile, numb, obedient, and forever trapped in the garden of sameness and blissful ignorance.  This place, as it turns out, is no paradise.  No differences, no diversity, no rebellion, no need for grace or redemption.  You can see where this path leads.  (Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol. 3, editors David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, p. 101)

It leads down a path that at the very least does not reflect the realities of humanity.

I've imagined a different version of the events in order to explore the story more deeply (since I believe these Primeval history chapters of Genesis encourages us to play with the texts). 

Adam, Eve and the Serpent
(God lets the kids grow up)

In the early days of the world, the animals became angry with God.  It wasn’t about creation---it was good after all.  No, what upset the animals was God’s overprotection of a certain part of Creation:  namely, Adam and Eve.  It wasn’t that God favored them:  the animals understood the special relationship God had with these two. Things, however, had gone to far.  Adam and Eve believed that they were the center of the universe.  They had no responsibility for anything, and no concept of a world outside of themselves.  Just the other day, Adam, while running around with Dog, crashed into Fox and severely injured his back. Eve, no better, cut branches that were sheltering Squirrel’s new home:  which then blew away in the recent windstorm.  The animals had complained to God, who brushed it off.  “Oh, they’re just children.”

The animals were clear that there was a bigger problem going on.  It seemed that God was unwilling to expose them to anything dangerous or even challenging.  Because of it, Adam and Eve were running around endangering the balance of the new creation.  Someone needed to talk some sense into these two, and God, the One who should have taken charge, wasn’t up to it.  In desperation, the animals went to Eve’s friend, Serpent, to try and talk some sense into her.

Serpent gets Eve to start to question some of the simplistic things that God has told her to do and not do:  what are these prohibitions really about?  Why do THEY choose to do and not do, and do the results (even the unintended results) matter?    Soon Adam joins in the conversation.

So later that evening, God is walking through the garden, and is shocked when the “pre-teens” give God serious attitude:  questioning God’s authority, and declaring that God is “ruining their life.”  God gets mad, and starting to realize that they could be in real trouble, the pre-teens blame each other and the serpent.  God then gets REALLY mad, but so does Serpent.  She confronts God.  “You are not teaching Adam and Eve how to care for themselves and others.  You are letting them down by over-mothering them, and you have taught them nothing about responsibility.”

“How dare you!” God thundered.  “Most of what I’ve done in this world centers around these two.  It’s my responsibility to protect them, and I would do anything for them!”

The Serpent shakes her head:  “That’s not good enough!  I thought these two were to be made in your image?  But they are nothing like you at all!  They have no concept of power, and no understanding beyond themselves.  They have to grow up some day, and YOU are supposed to be guiding them, not holding them back.”

God considers, then offers Adam and Eve a choice.  "My children, I love you with everything I am.  I would desire that nothing ever harms you:  that I would protect you all of your days so that you never experience anguish or pain.  But Serpent has a point:  my intent was for you to be in my image, and you will never be so unless you learn for yourselves. The choice is yours.  Be my children and stay protected and childlike forever here in this beautiful garden. Or choose to grow up:  go out into the world and become wise with mistakes and successes,  encounter great joys and profound sadness, experience death along with new life."

Adam and Eve were silent for quite some time.  Finally, Eve spoke:  “God, we will always be your children. But we must learn our own way.”

Adam nodded in agreement.  “It is what you created us for:  to fully experience all that life offers.”

And for the first time, God smiled.   “The journey has already begun.”

1 comment:

tonip1 said...

I like it! I still miss your sermons. It's good to have a chance to read your thoughts here.