Afterward to Peter on Genesis: Why does it matter?

Afterward to Peter on Genesis: Why does it matter? August 4, 2008

Part I: A freaky little book

Part II: A Convergent Conversation / Small Gods
Part III: The Human Face of God / And the LORD saw what He had made…
Part IV: A few things missing
Part V: An Evolving Covenant / The Initiatory Challenge
Postscript: The Expulsion from Eden
Afterward: Why does it matter?

I’m writing this from New England Yearly Meeting Sessions 2008. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for the last two or three days, so I’ve been away from the blog for a while.

I’ve written six impassioned posts after an in-depth reading of Genesis and a perusal of several commentaries. I’ve gotten dozens of lively and intelligent comments. But I’m coming back to it now with a much broader question than any I’ve asked so far: What does it matter? Having learned what I’ve learned about J and P and E, and about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, what has that told me (if anything) about G*d, or about Quakers, or about my own spiritual life?

The Bible was written by writers, and I’ve long felt that much of what those writers wanted to say has been lost, crushed, twisted, and sometimes outright perverted by later so-called “Bible based” traditions. All religious sentiments aside, as a fellow writer I feel it is my calling and my sacred duty to read through the text, not for comfort or for inspiration or for edification, but simply to hear what it is they were trying to say.

The Bible is also a huge part of Quaker tradition, and even though I am a non-Christian Quaker, I feel it’s important to have a reasonable familiarity with it. Beyond that, listening to Christ centered Quakers has made me think that a lot of the allergic reaction I (and many people) have to the Bible doesn’t come from the Bible itself, but from the ways that it has been misused.

Walter Cronkite once said something similar about the American flag and the extreme right wing of American politics. It’s a great symbol; why let them have it? Liberals are patriots, damn it, and if words like patriotism and symbols like the flag become the exclusive prevue of right-wing nut cases, then liberals have lost something powerful and precious.

This seems even more true of the Bible. Those who would turn the Bible into The Infallible Word Of God make it into an abomination. The stories in the Bible breathe, and the people who lived them and who wrote them down are my brothers and sisters, and… Imagine a child king, snatched from his bed in the middle of the night, dressed in regalia and propped on a puppet throne by powerful factions he cannot comprehend, to be used to justify the tyranny of a regent. Like the voice of that child, the voices and experiences of the writers of the Bible are lost when their stories are decreed to be doctrine and dogma.

Leave the kingdom and its factions aside. Listen to the child.

My next few posts will be about Sessions, but I wanted to finish up this series on Genesis first.

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