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Category: Bible

Creation

04

Genesis 1:27 makes clear the equality of men and women as imaged after God’s own self. What then are we to do with the second creation account, the one where Eve comes from a rib, lives as a helpmate, falls for the forbidden fruit, and ultimately gets kicked out – with Adam, it must be admitted – of the garden?

What we could do is think about not what the story says to us, but what it might have meant to its first hearers. And why. Because this second account is not a happy story. It includes wrong decisions, deception, secrecy, shame, and ultimately, punishment. And the story has long been used as instructive. But cultural deconstruction – a critical literary process that requires the reader to reverse her cultural expectations – reveals a few interesting ideas:

1) Adam and Eve live as nomads, freely partaking in the riches of God’s garden. When they leave God’s garden, they are cursed with the responsibility of making their own garden, of becoming agrarian, a cultural system that requires specialization of tasks, a system rife with all kinds of inequality.

2) The curse is echoed in the murder of Abel, a shepherd, by his brother, Cain, a farmer. Cain is physically marked with his curse. And he builds a city, further covering over (exploiting?) God’s garden with his own constructions.

3) The people who passed down this creation account, generation after generation, were a nomadic people. They had sheep. And goats. They traveled (except for when they were slaves). Continued conflict with their agrarian, sometimes urban, neighbors led them to build cities of their own, to request a king, to collect wealth. To stop living as nomads.

What, then, if this creation account – the one that seems to cause us so many problems around sin, around male-female relationships, around identity – were a story of what went wrong with “those” people rather than a story of how “we” were created? What if this account is an explanation early Israelites gave to their children in order to make sense of their crazy, sinful, and out-of-balance-with-God’s-world neighbors?

What then are we to do with the second creation account

Feminist Theology

02

What if Mary were “the disciple Jesus loved”? What if Esther were a woman “after God’s own heart”? What if Junia were the primary writer of the New Testament epistles? What if God created them – both female and male – in the image of the divine? What if the story we’ve believed – about hierarchy, about power, about apostolic succession – is really just a story of what we’ve become, not the story of what we were or what we were meant to be? What if the story of freedom is the real story?

If it’s not true, then the Church is a tool of oppression.

If it’s true, then the Church as organic, egalitarian community has succumbed to a masculine culture.

That’s what’s called a lose-lose proposition. And the only way to deal with it is straight on. We have to face what we really are. We have to deal with the mess we’ve made. We have to admit that doing so will take both time and work. Hard work. And a lot of time.

We start by re-imagining what it means to be the Church, and starting with an inversion of gender shows us one possible beginning. What if “womankind” stood for all humanity? What if “Jesus came to save all women”? What if we only spoke of the “motherhood of God”?

When we laugh aloud (or privately scoff) at such a suggestion, we reveal the truth of the argument. Whatever it is that makes us uncomfortable deserves further inspection.

I’m not arguing for the feminization of theology or of the Church. Instead, I’m arguing for freedom and for a freedom that extends to all. My hope is that the Church might become truly counter-cultural, truly transformational, truly revolutionary, that the Church might become Christ’s body, offering saving grace and liberation to a culture in chains.

What if the story we’ve believed is really just a story of what we’ve become

Breath Prayer

08

On a Sunday night in October, the regular worship leaders for high school youth group both had other plans, so I took advantage of the opportunity created by their absence to try something new. I asked students to choose one of about 60 different “breath prayers” I’d created by taking short phrases from Psalm 119. Students worked for 45 minutes on collages of photos, words, colors, and other images cut from magazines while focused on the breath prayers they had selected. My plan was for the collages to give us something to do with our hands in order to cut down on distractions during the time of worship, but many of the finished pieces were complex and beautiful representations of the prayers themselves.

During the exercise, I encouraged students to experience the time of prayer as a time of freedom; so even though I wanted them to have an experience akin to what Alonius called “only myself and God,” I made it clear that getting up for a snack, answering the door for trick-or-treaters, conversation, laughter, simply being together were all completely appropriate activities during our worship experience. Even so, our time together was a time of almost complete silence. Students were completely absorbed in their prayers and their creations. In fact, as parents arrived to pick up their children, many students had trouble finding a clear stopping point. They wanted to continue, longed for completion. Most left in silence.

The next afternoon, I had coffee with one of the students who’d been part of our worship experiment. We discussed homework and parents, music and poetry, philosophy and the Church, all of the usual topics. But we also touched on the proximity of God, the experience of Christ, the power of a phrase both breathed and lived, an experiment with prayer that had changed us both.

the power of a phrase both breathed and lived, an experiment with prayer that had changed us both

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