I love A.L. Kennedy's essay on Genesis in the book Killing the Buddha edited by Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet.
Kennedy writes, "...I was conceived in Australia, then born in Scotland at 3:57 A.M. on October 22, 1965 A.D. These are facts that I take on faith - I can't remember anything about them."
Okay, I think I was conceived at Fr. Bragg, North Carolina and was born in Bath, NY on 12/25/45 or so I have been told. Everybody says I was born on the same day of the year as Jesus. Do you think this is true? If so, what does it mean?
Kennedy writes further:
"We can't fix a date for the opening of time. According to James Ussher, once archbishop of Amargh, God began to create our heavens and our earth and everything herein on the evening before October 23, 4004 B.C......The Eastern Orthodox Church didn't specify a day but set the year of creation at 5508 B.C., while ancient Syrian Christians were sure it was 5490 B.C. A variety of the faithful of many religions have made a variety of other calculations, in cyclical and linear time, in order to pinpoint the birth of everything. Modern physicists are less precise-they propose a moment of singular significance, expanding from an infinite temperature and into potential life somewhere between 10 and 20 billions ago."
Now, I've visited the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky 2 years ago and I saw the dinosaurs roam with the human beings, so I got to tell you I am plenty confused about what and whom to believe about the origins of Homo Sapiens and Terra Firma.
Having read Genesis I think it is a great and awesome story which is totally symbolic and metaphorical like any great myth. Why anyone would believe and want to teach people that it is literally true and that God created the earth and life in 6 days makes me feel sorry for their poverty of thought and imagination. I want to tell them that you can't pin God down. God works in mysterious ways. God gives us the brains that we have so that we can puzzle out how the world works and it wasn't created in 6 days as we know them that is for sure.
How it all works we have to take on faith as much as we take on faith the date of our conception and birth. We have no conscious memory of these events but here we are in the flesh so we can guess that something along the lines of what we have been told are probably reasonably accurate.
Whatever your favorite creation story, I hope and wish that it empowers you, excites you, fills you with wonder and amazement at this precious thing we enjoy called life. The gift of the wonderful creation story of Genesis is not it's literal truth but the mystery, awe, and wonderment that it inspires. Is the myth of the creation of the world any different really than the myth of our birth since we weren't there to consciously verify any of the facts of the situation that we have been told?
What have you been told about your conception and birth? How much is true and how much is hyperbole and family myth? Since there is no way usually to know for sure what creation story do you tell yourself about your birth? Were you wanted? Were you planned? Were Mom and Dad deeply in love and wanted to conceive you or were you a "mistake" or even worse, an upsetting event in their lives? Were there other children born to your parents and where do you fit into their years of fertility and creation? Most birth stories from a family perspective, if the truth were known, are messy and dysfunctional. People are rarely conceived and given birth to in a story book fashion. Cain killed his brother, did any of your siblings want to kill you? Did you want to kill any of your siblings? Abraham claims that God told him to kill Issacc and plenty of parents these days kill their own children voluntarily in abortion. I don't know whether they believe that God is telling them to do this or not. Maybe? I know most women who have abortions struggle with the decision. Could you have been an abortion and not be here to even ask the question?
This bible study raises many questions and the most basic of course is why was I born? Why were we created? How were we created? For what purpose?
"Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so..." so goes the Sunday school children's hymn. Not all people believe this, probably not most Unitarian Universalists. Does the Universe love you? Is life a blessing or a curse? As a Psychiatric Social Worker I have known hundreds of people over my 41 year career who believed that life was a curse and killed themselves and in some instances other people.
While Genesis describes a creation story it also describes a lot of anti-creation and death dealing from Cain killing Able, to Abraham being willing to kill Issacc, to Joseph's brothers abandoning him in a pit to die, etc.
Makes you wonder what kind of a creator God these early people imagined. Even more I wonder about the creationists in Petersburg, Kentucky who teach that the creation story should be taken literally. If these creationists are right, Humankind is in big trouble.
This is article #2 in a series on Bible Study.