So ... it wasn't Eve's fault? Adam, you bast--!

Time for a little re-visioning. When I sat down with my two best friends to start this blog, I had mad visions of changing the world with our witty comments and bulletproof arguments. But in the intervening time, it seems God had other ideas. Ideas like a rash of hospitalizations the likes of which I have never experienced (so far in 5 years of ordained ministry); ideas like 40 people from the neighboring church showing up for an Ash Wednesday service we never planned, publicized, or even scheduled. (I did it anyway and it turned out beautifully). Real ministry is a wonderful thing, even when--especially when--it demands more than you have to give. So instead of lengthy blog posts about the nature of sin, or article 37, I am forced to ramble as concisely as possible.

And after all, isn't brevity the soul of wit?

Or, "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." (And, as Homer Simpson responded, "Takes one to know one! Swish!")

So, on to the topic:

I love reading Scripture--it's one of the parts of my job that does not get tiring. (Well, when I'm forced to read Scripture and do guided meditation, I get a strange urge to regurgitate. But any other time, I love reading Scripture).

I also love trail running. Trail running is a pasttime mainly for masochists and idiots like myself who find a perfectly good hiking trail and decide to run it. My legs and shoulders are asking me why, oh why, did I decide to run (not jog) 6.8 miles of steep, hilly forested Appalachian trail?

So what do reading Scripture and trail running have in common? The potential to trip you up. When I go trail running, I spend most of my time looking at the ground. There are rocks and roots just waiting to snag my foot and end my running days forever. There is a section of trail I run at least once a week, yet every time I run it, I find a new rock, a new root, a new rabbit hole under a pile of leaves. I really have to watch the ground like a hawk, so I could potentially run right into a black bear or a mountain lion, and end up on one of those "I Shouldn't Be Alive" shows, or gracing the local paper with the following headline:

Local Pastor Gets Mauled by Bear Due To Lack of Faith.

Yep. I live in the Bible belt.

Back on topic. Reading Scripture has the potential to trip you up, too. You can go over the same passage a thousand thousand times, and still find something you never noticed before. Most recently, I found myself having to preach on the First Sunday of Lent (Revised Common Lectionary). Ahh, the Garden of Eden. Original sin. Eve's fault. Really, is there anything more to say?

There is really only one interpretation we all have in our minds anyway--the snake tricked the woman, who then tricked her husband into eating the apple. The whole thing was the woman's fault, right? I mean, she got the worst punishment. All the man has to do is work hard forthe rest of his life. The woman has to go through agonizing, dangerous childbirth while her husband goes golfing and goes to office parties and diddles the secretary. Well, that's the reading that gets drilled into our heads by mainstream Christianity and even Western literature. It is the woman's fault. Adam just sinned by accident.

I can't begin to count the number of times I have heard this sentiment here in the backwoods of the South: "How come I gots to live with adigital sin? After all, it was a woman what et the apple first."

Desperate to take issue with this interpretation (which I learned in an Episcopal Church sunday school, by the way, at the tender age of 8, from a nice old lady in a hat), I ran roughshod over this Scripture passage (Genesis 2:15-3:7) several times, until I noticed this gem for the very first time (the italics are mine):

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food ... she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her.

So what was Adam doing while his wife--with whom he had become ONE FLESH, was being tempted unto death? Was Adam still in a state of such blissful, ignorant Paradise, that he did not know what his wife was doing? Or was Adam not willing to take the step himself, hoping to foist blame on his wife, with the knowledge of good and evil lodged in his gullet? (Blame everybody else is exactly what he did: "The woman YOU gave me as a companion ...") Sounds like Adam needs to get himself to a twelve step group.

I can almost see Adam, played, of course, by Steve Martin, saying, "Well, excuuuuuuuuse me!"

The truth is that Adam failed first. And the clue to this lies in the fact that, even though the woman ate the fruit first, their eyes were both opened at the same time, after they had both eaten the fruit. The two are one flesh, and Adam's sin made the woman's sin possible. Their destinies are tied together, as are their punishments--and perhaps the two will find grace as they help each other to bear them. (But wait till you meet their kids ...)

Now, obviously, there are many good (and many more not-so-good) theological explanations of original sin that do not seek to blame Eve. I'm not here to talk about that. After I have spent the day visiting someone in jail, the hospital, the psych ward, or a FEMA-rejected trailer, I'm not interested in esoteric proofs and such. I think I'm doing OK if, at the end of one of my sermons, Billy Bob Thornton comes up to me and says, "Mmmm-hmmm. I like the way you talk." Or perhaps Rip Torn: "Gol-darnit, pastor! You use your tongue purtier than a 20-dollar whore!"

So it seems that I have tripped up on a big root. It wasn't the woman's fault after all. Guess I'm going to have to shout it out in all the churches in the South. Hey folks! I just saw Adam, and guess what he was singing:

Some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I know it's my own damn fault.

(Sorry, Jimmy).


Doorman-Priest said...

Welcome back. It's been far too long and I've missed you all. I note that while you've been busy the boys didn't manage to lift a finge to hold the blogging fort. My wife says that's the natural order of things.

Doorman-Priest said...

Sorry, M.V. I just impugned your manhood. I didn't read carefully enough and thought the post was from NYMIH.

So sorry.

Malt Viquor said...

It's OK; my wife impugns my manhood all the time ... although usually behind closed doors ;)