The creation story is common to Jews, Christians, and Moslems, yet only the Christians saw original sin, the Fall, in the story. Jesus never mentions it. And some Christians today now see it differently as well. Part of our heritage is the group called Universalists, who believed a loving God would not send anyone to Hell, and that there was no such thing as original sin that meant we were born sinners.
Early in my seminary days when I was studying the Genesis stories of creation, I had an enlightenment. The Story of the Garden of Eden is about the innocence of childhood, not about the first two adults in the world making us all sinners. Sometimes, leaving home is like leaving Eden as we grow up and go on to our next stage, perhaps our next path. I view the Bible as an ancient wisdom library, full of stories with many meanings, that can help us to live better lives and to help transform the world into a better and more just place if we find the right interpretation, or more accurately, the interpretation that makes sense to us deep down and on a universal level. Think about the Garden story as childhood and the tree of knowledge is maturity, growing up, bit by bit, learning, discovering, being.
Let me share a poem I wrote about it:
Adam and Eve, the serpent, and the tree
Did not God make all three?
What is right and what is wrong?
The day is short, the evening long
When we are scared of the unknown,
We long to know how not to be alone.
When rules are given and we are told
We barely understand for we are not old,
A piece of candy, a delicate vase
and caught, we put on our innocent face.
Remember the delicious feeling of no clothes?
Running outdoors, bathing under the hose
Innocent childhood full of fun
Till old, mean, time on us had run.
We left the garden sadly
If we were not supposed to eat
why make so attractive the treat?
Adam, Eve, the Serpent, and the tree
and God the Father, He
Too soon we grow up and leave the nest
Yet it is our childhood the parent loves the best.
What kind of parent would it be
who shows us pretty fruit from tree
but tells us not to touch or eat
Soon boring seems every other treat.
We are only human after all
We did not foresee the great fall.
Were we not created thus?
Surely then it was His fault, not us. – A. Severance
The sin here is separation from creation, which or who some call God. Feminist theologian Sallie McFague, in her book from the late 1980's, Models of God, suggests that we might want to use the earth as a metaphor for God's body: 'The ecosystem of which we are a part is a whole: the rocks and waters, atmosphere and soil, plants, animals, and human beings interact in dynamic, mutually supportive ways that make all talk of atomistic individualism indefensible. Relationship and interdependence, change and transformation, not substance, changelessness, and perfection, are the categories within which a theology for our day must function." There is fresh new thinking about this ancient puzzling and controversial story. This not only brings to new discussion about gender, especially about Eve getting the blame for original sin, but also about the divine image. Writer and translator, Stephan Mitchell has written a new translation called simply Genesis, where he says in the introduction: "The God of Genesis is a human creation, not the God at the center of the universe. Whenever God is presented as a character, that presentation is partial therefore false. God is not a character in a story. God is the whole story. Words such as God and Tao and Buddha -only point to the reality that is the source and essence of all things, the luminous intelligence that shines from the depths of the human heart..." I always keep in mind and in heart the love which is another name for God, the love that mysteriously makes us love our family- parents loving their children and children loving their parents -more than just genetics or biology, because animals seem to have some sort of instinctual protective feelings for their young that often looks like love. And I think the Bible must be read in terms of a sacred, sometimes called divine love, which or who some call God, that is not a person in the sky who is only 'our father' but a love of connection that can help us feel like we are all connected to the universe and even make up life itself. Someone called sin, 'self-inflicted nonsense,' and in Spiritual Energies in Daily Life, Rufus M. Jones, writes: 'The Greeks always held that sin was 'missing the mark'-that is what the Greek word for sin means-failure to arrive at, to reach, the real end toward which life aims. Sin is defeat.' The knowledge of good and evil comes with experience, but also with love, a profound love which believes in the possibility of an original blessing, that all children are born with a potential that needs to be nurtured and loved for it to fully bloom. We need a village for that, or a church which preaches love, hope, universal kinship, and interdependent web of which we are all a part. Sin can be seen as separation from that, not as a breaking of God's rules, but a breaking of God- of love. Sin is not loving- loving oneself, love each other, indeed, loving life itself and realizing in that love, the sense of the holy, the divine, the sacred, the force of Love him, her, or itself, which or who some call God and some, as they say, spell God with two 'o's. I believe in Good! 'Love and do as you will,' said St. Augustine, yet it was also he that really gave us the doctrine of original sin. Let love be our guide towards the mark, the way.
Folk singer and songwriter, Peter Mayer, has a wonderful song called 'God is a River,' and the first time I heard it, I thought it could be UU hymn:
In the ever-shifting water of the river of this life I was swimming, seeking comfort; I was wrestling waves to find A boulder I could cling to, a stone to hold me fast Where I might let the fretful water of this river ’round me pass
And so I found an anchor, a blessed resting place A trusty rock I called my savior, for there I would be safe From the river and its dangers, and I proclaimed my rock divine And I prayed to it ‘protect me’ and the rock replied
God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids
And a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage
And a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer
So let go – Peter Mayer
We are part of nature, all the more reason to realize that sense of the Greek word for the earth, Gaia, and the idea that it and us are a living system, interdependent. 'What we do to the earth, we do to ourselves,' says native American Wisdom. American philosopher, John Elof Boodin, (Cosmic Evolution) writes: 'As an Intrinsic Longing for Unity: We do not understand, but somehow we are part of a creative destiny, reaching backward and forward to infinity-a destiny that reveals itself, though dimly, in our striving, in our love, our thought, our appreciation. We are the fruition of a process that stretches back to star-dust. We are material in the hands of the Genius of the universe for a still larger destiny that we cannot see in the everlasting rhythm of worlds. Nothing happens but what somehow counts in the creative architecture of things. We fail and fall by the way, yet redeeming grace fashions us anew and eliminates our failures in the larger pattern. The pangs of pain, of failure, in this mortal lot, are the birth-throes of transition to better things. We are separated for a time by the indifference of space and by our blindness which particularizes and isolates us. But in us is the longing for unity. We are impelled by a hidden instinct to reunion with the parts of the larger heart of the universe.' I believe we are all 'Blessing Seeds' with the potential for great growth, for growing love and peace and justice and harmony with nature. Love is what waters us to make us grow and the earth is our mother and father. Religion should be about teaching us how to love better and how to help the world love better and more fully. May we realize our oneness with the universe and all that is holy. May we walk together down the path of life and love.
Amen, Peace, Shalom, (Peace in Hebrew), Assalaamu Alaikum (may Peace be upon you in Arabic), Abrazos a todos (Hugs all around) Namaste, (A Hindu greeting the divinity with me greets the divinity within you) Blessed Be, and one more blessing that I adapted from the Spanish long before I went in to ministry. ‘Vaya con Dios’ is Spanish for Good-bye, but literally is ‘Go with God,’ do I adapted it to say ‘Vaya Con Su Dios,’ ‘Go with your idea or interpretation of God.’
Peace, Love, Shalom, Salaam, Blessed Be, Namaste, Abrazo a Todos,Vaya con su Dios