In the Middle of the Garden

photo credit: The Brick Bible: A New Spin On The Old Testament

photo credit: The Brick Bible: A New Spin On The Old Testament

The Bible has gotten its claws into my son Eggie’s (age 6, sometimes known as “the Egg” or “Eggs”) imagination. It all started with the Brick Bible, a surprisingly violent pictorial representation [1] of the New Testament as told through Lego blocks. After soaking in the fascination of the Lego version, the kid is itching to get at the “regular” Bible, from cover to cover.

On his own, Eggs’ been reading a bit here and bit there, making me nervous. I see the experience of reading the Bible as often one of horror and confusion. I hardly expect seminarians to make sense of it, let alone a first grader.

But I make a point of encouraging my kids’ curiosity. Hoping it leads to fun stuff, like basketball or Super Mario Bros. And tolerating that it leads to annoying stuff, like Pokemon. And sometimes bracing for when it leads to complicated, labor-intensive stuff, like religion.

Now, just a note of self-disclosure, I favor a non-literal, humanistic interpretation of the Bible. And, despite my claims of wanting my kids to generate their own conclusions, I disproportionately explain and support progressive ideas over traditional ones. I do this because: 1) I’m a snob and I think I’m smarter than the average Christian and 2) I want to offer a reasonably strong counter-balance to what they learn at church or from their peers. [2]

With that said, we start in on the book of Genesis. And the first thing we notice is that the order of creation is wrong. The Genesis author describes the earth being created before the sun.

As the author writes: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And then, on the fourth day, after creating sky and land and ocean and plants, “God made two great lights, the greater to govern the day and the lessor to govern the night. He also made the stars.”

Any kid that’s watched Discovery Science can tell you that the solar system began with the Sun’s formation, followed by the planets being made out of the dust and gas left over from that initial event. So, within five minutes, the first creation account offers our first teachable moment: science and religion are not the same thing.

photo credit: University of Oregon

photo credit: University of Oregon

The second creation account brings us another wonderful opportunity to separate religion from literal history. Here we find another version of the creation of the universe. In this one we see that man is created first, followed by the creation of the other animals of earth. Meanwhile, in the first account, God makes all the other creatures first before making man.

I want to stick with this “issue” of logical inconsistency in conjunction with religious truth. To me, it is pivotal in our understanding of what it means to be a religious person. I want to tell my kid all about how what’s true on the outside is not the same thing as what’s true on the inside. I begin to try to explain that the Bible is not so much a history book of actual events, but more a story of a relationship between God and humans.

But the kid is not all that interested in that stuff.

He wants to know if people are really made of dust, and if we’ll really become dust again after we die. And he wants to know how women could have been made out of men’s ribs. And what snakes were like before they lost their legs. And he is delighted to hear about how Adam and Eve were naked in the garden.

And I can’t help but feel like he gets it better than me. These are stories to access the imagination. The process of comparing science and logic to story is not the point. That effort of comparison is the knowledge of good and evil. It’s the ability to separate true from false, science from religion, story from history. And I’m in a hurry to help him develop this hard earned human talent.

But maybe he doesn’t need to be there yet. He loves the Bible not because he’s misled by some evangelical brainwashing machine. He loves it because it’s captured his imagination. And when something does that, you don’t come at it with an agenda, you just live in it for as long as it lasts.

sunrise outer space earth the universe journey 1920x1200 wallpaper_www.wallmay.com_44

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[1] Among the gruesome Lego-made images: Jesus being crucified, zombies being raised from the dead, and a man castrating himself.

[2] It’s surprising what kids learn about religion from their friends. Of course there’s the holiday mythology of no Santa Claus and Halloween-is-the-Devil’s birthday. We’ve heard grade school debates about who goes to hell and who doesn’t. My favorite though was one kid’s end-times theology, which included a sucker’s bet where if the world were to end on 12/21/12 this kid would lose the wager and whereas if the world continued he would win. I’ll let you meditate on the Madoffesque brilliance of this scheme.

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