"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Gardeners, Born and Bred

        Humanity has always born a profound curiosity about his origins. The Bible contains one set of explanations, complete in itself. Though "modern" people largely consider the Bible's creation story to be metaphorical, science hasn't managed to contradict it, or provide satisfactory answers of its own.
        Biblical creation is sufficiently nonspecific to avoid scientific debunking. Yet, given the probability that the details are fabricated, one must also grant the possibility that it is essentially true. Whatever might it mean?
        Perhaps the healthy skeptic could suspend disbelief just long enough to examine the Biblical creation story's essence. Allow it, for a time, to speak its wisdom, even if it is only allegory. Every allegory, after all, has its message, and this particular one has demonstrated its profound power over the centuries. That in itself should qualify it as a significant source of wisdom, not to be taken lightly.
        So, let's go to the story recounted in the Bible. Adam was God's man. In fact, Adam and man are the same word in different languages. In today's phrasing, man was God's Creative Property; He conceived, designed and built man as the creative expression of Himself. After creating the rest of the universe, man was to be God's crowning achievement, for He created man in His own image to become creation's steward, its gardener.

The Job Description
        While Adam enjoyed all the joy, privilege and reward of living as steward over God's creation, he also bore the solemn responsibility to care for it. Part of that job description was to obey God in the one matter with which God found it necessary to constrain him; while Adam was to enjoy all the fruit of the garden, he was not, under penalty of separation from his Creator, to partake of one particular pleasure. Whether the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a literal tree, or metaphorical, matters not in the least to the principle in question. Whatever it or its fruit looked like, or whatever it meant to eat of it, God made it strictly off-limits.
        As the creation account unfolds in God's word, we see Adam stepping up to the plate, so to speak, by naming all the animals—no small feat in itself. Later, we learn that Adam was not only man, but human, in that he was lonely. Acknowledging a need in Adam that the man couldn't even define, God used a key part of Adam to fashion the Woman who would fill that void.
        So, man became mankind, God's gardeners, created to reproduce in His image to care for the rest of His creation.

A Serious Error
        Anyone who's a Windows computer user knows about the Serious Error. No one understands it, but it tends to shut down the operating system. For whatever reason, one of the new humans committed a Serious Error. That person found a fatal attraction in the one thing God had forbidden. Maybe the source of temptation was the serpent, and maybe the fateful object was a spectacular fruit that glistened in the morning sunshine. And maybe it wasn't, but what does it matter?
        The point is, through whatever mechanism, humanity chose to flout the one constraint that God had placed upon them. Perhaps, in the pressure of the moment, they simply forgot that God forbade that particular indulgence. No, the text indicates that the tempter addressed the issue in the form of a question. So they hadn't forgotten.
        Did they not believe God meant it? Well, they knew God personally. What in His personality or temperament would have indicated that He was kidding?
        Or, perhaps they simply didn't take the commandment seriously, preferring to risk His wrath in order to get what seemed attractive at the moment. After all, God was a God of love, wasn't He? Surely He wouldn't throw them out for just one minor indiscretion, would He? In view of contemporary mankind's attitude toward rules and rule-givers, this explanation seems quite likely.
        From the Genesis account, God didn't find their "minor indiscretion" at all funny. In fact, their "error" was sufficiently serious that God "yanked their plugs" from the Source of eternal life, and since they obviously wanted to live by their own standards, He accommodated them with banishment from the garden to make their own way in the harsh, cruel world.

But That Was Then ...
        Let's fast forward a few dozen centuries to see how far we've come. Risking the appearance of tree-huggers, let's forget our conservative politics for a moment and gaze about to see what our "garden" has become. How do we stack up as stewards and gardeners of this planet?
        Have we respected creation by using its resources responsibly? Or have we coveted the pretty fruit until the "tree" is in danger of being stripped bare?
        Have we used the intelligence of a common dog to not soil our own habitat? Look, for the answer, to our cities' filthy streets, to our polluted water and air, to our refusal to commercially develop non-wasteful energy sources. Let's face it; for an intelligent, creative race, we seem awfully slow at our lessons.

Drop Your Bludgeons, People
        So, dear skeptic, is it not possible to find valuable lessons in the book you believe to be full of human errors? Have our "enlightened" lives shown more wisdom than that old, dusty Bible?
        And, dear Bible-toter, standing on ones belief in God is meaningless if we refuse to learn more from Him than sterile, religious doctrine. He said we will love, because He first loved us. Do we?
        Does Christendom demonstrate Christ's love? Does Humanism demonstrate the highest ideals of humanity? Come on, children, let's quit bludgeoning one-another long enough to listen to what the other guy has to say.
        What this planet and its population need to survive is to abandon the inbred prejudices of our know-it-all attitudes, and set about learning from those with whom we disagree. Conservatives need to consider the possibility that unfettered enterprise may be corrupt to its roots, that freedom and autonomy carry with them the solemn responsibility to acknowledge their Source, and that self-government can only work in the context of self-control.
        And liberals need to consider the possibility that we humans aren't the center of the universe, that "quality of life" requires standards of morality and self-respect, far more than a guaranteed standard of living, and that the "free lunch" is, and always has been, the lie we love to believe.
        Earth's gardeners, one-and-all, step up to that plow, take hold of that spade, bend your backs to our God-given responsibility. Whether-or-not we believe in the job Giver, we each have a job to do if we're to survive, and there is nobody else around who will do it.

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