Which Creation Story Do You Need Today?
March 14, 2023
Every Saturday, I sit in a circle with some friends from my church and together we study the Bible. We pay attention to what encourages and inspires us, as well as the many things that frustrate and befuddle us. We read and talk about these texts because they’re one place we go for wisdom and direction and we follow the way of Jesus.
This past weekend we read the two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, paying particular attention to the relationship of humans to the rest of creation.
Reading the first chapter of Genesis, more than one of us found some of it to be problematic. The author writes that humans are created in God’s image and quotes God talking to Godself, saying that humans should “take charge” of all other life on earth and should “master it.” We talked about our species’ habits of dominion: the enormous harm we’ve done to so much of the earth and so many of its species. In recent centuries, we have looked less like the loving, humble caretakers the writers of this account imagined and more like self-destructive tyrants, consuming and exploiting without regard to the welfare of the earth or our descendants.
Turning to the second creation passage in Genesis 2, we wondered if this is the creation story more of us need today. In Genesis 1, humans are made out of nothing, summoned the very speech of God. But in Genesis 2, humans are made from the ground. In the Bible’s first creation story, humans rule over the earth. In the second, we are, like everything else, made of the earth. In the first creation story, humans are the gods over creation. In the second, we are the farmers – keepers of seed, cultivators of ground, entrusted with enjoying and sustaining life.
Some people need more of the first creation story in their life. A recent asylee I know in my city has been repeatedly abused by this country’s criminal justice system. Few people on earth know his name. Fewer have shown any commitment to his rights and his dignity. This friend deserves to know that he bears God’s image, that his birthright is love, respect, and authority over a bit of good work, a patch of beautiful earth.
But most of us, children of capitalists and colonialists that we are, might also need a reminder that we are made of the same stuff as the rest of the earth. We are connected to and depend upon the earth for the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the very substance of our bodies. It is not just us that are sacred, but all the earth, which is crying out for us to treat it with gratitude and care.
Gods upon the earth or earthy creatures ourselves? Which creation story calls to you today?
For more discussion of these texts and many others, go to this year’s Lenten guide.