I’m quite hesitant about tomorrow’s lesson from Genesis 2:15-17; 1:1-7. the so-called “Fall” story. For one thing, (the major thing) it’s been used in the past to justify wretchedness, our general “fallen” state, “original sin,” oppression against women. Now, there are many critiques of the passage from the “hermeneutic of suspiscion” perspective. Which to use? Which to choose? To speak or not to speak? And then, what’s it like to read this, too, after an earthquake, and this morning’s news of an explosion near or in a nuclear plant.
Is this the Sunday to talk about reading the bible from the underside? From the perspective of people(s) who experienced the text of “The Fall” as really bad news for them. Or to talk in general how maybe we’ve finally learned how not to use the bible to justify predjudice and practices that rob people of their humanity, and damage human dignity: slavery, sexism, etc. Maybe it’s the Sunday to celebrate a new way of reading the bible–the deliberate decision to not use it as a proof text for systemic hatred of a whole group of people, or the systemic unhappiness of thinking of humanity as “fallen.”
Or maybe it’s a Sunday to talk about questions–engaging the questions, or the struggle to understand such passages, wrestling with texts, encouraging deep conversations among believers and readers of scriptures?
Or maybe it’s a Sunday to talk about religious transformation–if faith is there to bring us to our highest good, how can we use texts of terror, because believe me, the Fall Story is a text of terror for all humanity, actually. It sets us up, women and men for discord, for conflict, for struggles about obedience and disobedience to God, for inequalities, for blame, for mutual mistrust, and long-term misunderstandings, even for abuse. At least it has in the past.
So, how to read the text tomorrow? Maybe it’s a pattern story about boundaries, about taking to ourselves perogatives that are not ours, about violation, really, of a holy interdiction, someone else’s no. Or maybe it’s a pattern story about human nature–our desire to test our limits, to see where the edges are, to take what isn’t ours to take. There are consequences for human beings taking more than we need, or of our testing our limits as a species. How much can we do and discover? When do we stop? I was reminded of the decades of ethical debates, for example, about nuclear power, the danger from producing it, housing reactors, disposing of waste, environmental risks.
Some say the Fall story is a necessary part of our human growth. And that we aren’t fully human until we leave the Garden of naivete, the innocence of untested responsibility, and begin to wrestle with responsibility for our lives and for others. It might be a story about authenticity.
Here’s what’s up about the Genesis text on a great website from Luther Seminary:
My favorite part of the story comes later, when Adam and Eve hear the “sound of the Lord God strolling in the garden at the time of the evening breeze.” What a lovely image, to imagine, that in the most beautiful time of the day, the Lord walked, and called out to them, “where are you.”
They were hiding.
Where are you?
It’s a good question for Lent.