Sunday, October 4, 2009

Genesis Reflections (Proper 22 Year B)

Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 8
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10: 2-16

As I read the passages for this week I paused for a while with Genesis. I felt quite sad as I read those very familiar words. What was supposed to be a lovely story about the origin of the human race has been so often used to promote domination and abuse of both human and non-human animals.

Just before reading these verses I opened my e-mails one of which included details of the upcoming Walk for Farm Animals to promote ethical and compassionate treatment for the animals. Unspeakable cruelty is being done to animals every minute to produce food most of which we don’t even need. Nor is it just farm animals who are the victims of cruelty.

How did the human race get from the privilege of naming and caring for the animals to our present day situation?

Women, too, have been controlled and dominated by men who assume that these words give them the authority over them. In my opinion, these verses have been misinterpreted and misused. Partly, it is because of the change in language. Try reading the Genesis passage and substitute human being for man. It gives the passage a very different feel.

For anyone wanting to study the language in detail I recommend God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality by Phyllis Trible. I love her interpretation of the Genesis story. It makes the most sense to me especially in view of her knowledge and study of ancient languages.

Trible talks about how the first human being was “sexually undifferentiated (neither male nor female nor a combination of both)” p.98. Then after the second human being is created the human beings are sexually differentiated.

As Trible says,

“One is female, the other male. Their creation is simultaneous, not sequential. One does not precede the other, even though the time line of this story introduces the women first (2:20). Moreover, one is not the opposite of the other. In the very act of distinguishing female from male, the earth creature describes her as ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ (2:23). These words speak unity, solidarity, mutuality and equality.” p99

Perhaps that last sentence of Trible’s is something to ponder as we consider how we treat others.

Another clue as to how we treat others can be found at the end of our final reading in Mark.

Here children are being brought to Jesus. The disciples rebuke those bringing them. It is so sad that discernment is already being made about who can be part of this new, evolving Christianity. Yet Jesus tells the disciples that it is “to such as these the Realm of God belongs”.

In a society where many children died young, where children had no legal rights, where children were considered the lowest of the low. I believe that in this scene Jesus is telling the disciples that the Realm of God welcomes all those who are outcasts and have been dominated.