Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We need a new ending to the Garden of Eden

What would we be like if the Garden of Eden story had ended differently? What if there was no Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to stay away from? Or, what if it had been perfectly fine to eat the fruit of that tree so that the first humans could learn all of the good stuff?

The author of Genesis, supposedly Moses, was apparently doing his best to explain evil and suffering in the world. It's a shame he couldn't just say we aren't finished yet. The idea that we are born to be bad, to do evil, to sin, is so limiting to the human spirit. Do we do bad things because we learned from the beginning that we are bad? What if we had been told how beautiful we are, how gifted and intelligent, and how capable we are of doing good?

Whatever else was going on in the author's world or life at the time of writing Genesis, surely it wasn't all horror and depravity and calamity. And if it wasn't, then where did that goodness come from? And how did telling us we are sinners make things better? Was that the only way to get humans to believe in God? That God's main purpose was to forgive us so God wouldn't have to brutally punish us for wanting to know more?

You look at a newborn baby and they are simply gorgeous. There is nothing sinister or evil about a single baby in the entire world. As they grow and develop they are sweet and so trusting. They crave affection and care. And they respond to that so warmly, so openly.

How is it that babies are born sinners?

It is not known when infant baptism was actually started but the idea was that it was the way to wash away the stain of original sin. I love the whole baptism scene for infants, the dedication of them to God, the assigning of godparents to help nurture them in faith, the symbol of water and the sign of the Cross over their tiny foreheads. But of course I don't believe in any washing away of anything, certainly not sin in them. It's just a lovely ceremony with some really nice symbolic meaning in it--dedication to the care of the Church, reverence for children and human life, and the water as a reminder of the birthing of new life and all of its potential. Things like that. That's what it means to me. Nothing at all about sin or evil or being saved from anything.

I was at the Apple Store the other evening having my cell phone checked out. There was a young teenage girl and her boyfriend seated next to me waiting to see a technician as well. They were maybe 14 years old. The woman who began waiting on all of us was abrupt, frazzled, and grumpy. She needed to go home from a long day of probably cranky and demanding customers. Anyway, the boyfriend started getting sort of hostile, calling the much older sales clerk, behind her back, just about every bad name and slur you could think of that would humiliate a woman or any human being for that matter. Just filthy stuff. I sat there dazed by the whole thing. His girlfriend tried to calm him down but if he wasn't going to respect an older woman he sure as heck wasn't going to respect his young girlfriend. So he totally dismissed her and kept on.

The point of that, is that I wondered sitting there in the Apple Store listening to that kid, when did we all get so uncivil, so freaking angry, so abusive to one another. Kids too. What's a 14 year old boy in a public place doing talking like some drug convicted felon out in the prison courtyard?

Is he the product of evil in his heart or has he been convinced he's worthless and so is everyone else and so why not act like it?

Nietzsche, the brilliant German philosopher, once said how strange it is that when God decided to write a book he did it so poorly.

I think of that whenever I think of how lousy things turned out for Adam and Eve, and apparently all of us, in the Eden story. I wonder what we would be like if there had been a better ending?

© 2012 Timothy Moody

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