I initiated this blog with the prose poem Un-Named God because it captures the central concerns of my 'serious thoughts'; next, I turn to one of my journals for some stray thoughts. In this entry from a decade ago; I was thinking about how different perspectives change things and how our images of God are formed. In scripture stories there are essential messages, but both the message and our images of God are colored by the story told.
December 17, 2004
Thoughts . . .
Men and women see the world through different eyes and express understanding with different voices.
Each human awareness is colored by the observer.
When we turn to scripture, what we know of God comes through words of individual men.
Accepting that God’s message is true . . . we might ask: how has it been effected by those who are giving voice to the message?
And we might ask further: where are the women’s voices?
The voice as spoken becomes the ‘reality’ that shapes the living.
And what is ‘divine inspiration’? I doubt that God dictated any story whole to anyone; rather, one received the essence of a thought/idea, weighed it against Truth as he understood it, then wrote it into a story __ thus did the Bible come into being.
The first thing the Bible tells of is creation; followed by the appearance of the human and the condition of innocence, lost innocence, and consequences.
Retelling the Story
If we look at Genesis—the very beginning of scripture—as written, the story is told of God placing the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the center of the Garden of Eden and forbidding the human couple to eat of the fruit . . . but Satan tempts them, saying they will be like God if they eat the fruit. The woman picks the fruit and eats, then gives it to the man to eat . . . (here we see the male author blaming women for original sin . . . and thus justifying millenniums of oppression of women and establishing the superiority of the male gender) and then we see God, learning they disobeyed, so in anger, drives them from the Garden.
Had a woman written the story it might have gone differently . . .
In the beginning, God placed the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden, saying to the human couple it was their choice to eat or not; but for their own good he cautioned them not eat it because it was the nature of The Garden to hold only the good, so if they ate of the fruit and came to know evil (it would become part of them) they would have to leave. They would then have to make their own way in the world.
When Satan told them that if they ate the fruit they’d know all things like God, Adam became restless. He wanted to be like God. He was curious, ‘what was this thing called evil?’ and he longed to see that world beyond the Garden. He talked of adventure to Eve, how exciting it would be to explore the unknown. She’d listen and agree that it sounded interesting, but she was more content with the garden and it didn’t seem wise to go against God’s advice. One day as they sat under the tree Adam said:
“Eve, reach up and pick me one of the fruit.”
“I think that’s not a good idea” she said.
He laughed and said, “Come on, Hun, trust me, it will be OK.”
“But God said not to”
“No, God just advised against it—and how do we know what we are missing if we don’t’ try it?”
“No, we shouldn’t” she pleaded.
“Come on, if you really love me you’ll do it.”
“Well, . . . I don’t know.”
“Go ahead, just pick one. That one right above your head.”
As she reached up gingerly, he said, “Great going, Hon! Now take a bite and give it to me.” She did.
After a while as the awareness of evil seeped into them, they knew they could no longer live there. Together they walked out of the garden as God watched them leave with great sadness, knowing the tribulation ahead.
If we distill each story to the basic point, we find the same essence in each: The garden can only be occupied by the innocent, in human nature there is a desire to be god-like, to know all things, and the lure of the forbidden is strong. God gave human brings the freedom of choice; with that freedom they often make choices to their own detriment.
But the basic point is cloaked in a story, and the story often eclipses the point. In the masculine story we see the character of God as demanding, wrathful and punishing. We see blame assigned only to the woman. In the feminine story we see a God advising and explaining while leaving the choice open and the consequences spelled out. We see an interaction between the man and woman, with the woman yielding to the man’s persuasion, pointing to shared responsibility . . . while a compassionate God sadly watches as the no-longer-innocent children go forth.
Where is truth to be found? In the essence only. The story suggests a possibility, and different perspectives illuminate different possibilities. When complex understanding is filtered through only one perspective truth is distorted.