“Once upon a time . . .”
Or, if you prefer . . .
“In the beginning . . .”
That’s how the story starts. It’s a familiar story. One that we’ve heard time and time again in the Christian household. I opened with the line, “Once upon a time,” not to offend anyone but to show that we should think about the Genesis story as that, a story. And by “story,” I don’t mean to suggest that it’s not real or truthful. What I’m suggesting is that we shouldn’t get too hung up on what follows the opening lines -- if those were really 24 hour days or if the serpent could really talk or if the first people had belly buttons.1
The point of the story is that the G-d of Israel, YHWH2, created all that is, visible and invisible. Not only did the Jewish people tell this story in this way, they told it with a particular thought in mind -- that their G-d not only created everything but that the people G-d created were the best of all creation. They were given the highest place of honor -- to be G-d’s representative in the world. We see this in the very first chapter of the story --
“Then G-d said, ‘Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us’ . . . ” (Genesis 1.26; CEB3).
There was a purpose for this --
“ . . . so that [humanity] may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on the earth. G-d created humanity in G-d’s image, in the divine image G-d created them, male and female, G-d created them” (verses 26-27).
Later on, G-d tells humanity that they and all the animals and “everything that breathes,” have been given a vegetarian diet (verses 29-30). There’s no killing animals for food “once upon a time.”
Finally, when G-d finished creating everything, G-d stepped back with a G-d size step and looked at everything and said that it’s all “supremely good” (verse 31).
This is extremely important. So important in fact that I want to make sure we get it before we proceed. It’s something we have overlooked for at least 500 years. The ancient Celtic Christians understood the creation story as a birthing story. Everything that came into being was birthed by the Spirit of G-d. Therefore, everything is infused with G-d’s DNA (if you will). The Light of creation is at the heart of all life. This proclamation that everything G-d made is “supremely good” includes all of humanity.
The next door neighbor who revs his car engine every time he pulls into the driveway.
The depressed kid who checks us out at the grocery store.
The single dad working every hour he can so he can make enough money to feed his small children.
The deadbeat mom who fails to support those children.
Even our enemies.
Even the Nazis of the Second World War.
Even the Taliban terrorists.
Even the American terrorists.
Even the people who sell children in the sex trade market.
The G-d who created all of us said we are “supremely good.”
But, obviously, something’s not right. Something went wrong somewhere.
But, before we go there, we must remember that this “supreme good[ness]” has been embedded within all creation. The “divine image” has been imprinted in every human being. Whatever comes next, this is the foundation of all creation and every single person.
Do we understand this? Do we grasp this? Do we believe that in our very souls?
Most of the religions of the world hold this to be true. Although it may be buried deep within, covered by layers of “falseness,4” humanity and all of creation is “supremely good.”
Most religions, that is, except for most of the Christian religion.
Most of us in the Christian household don’t believe this. We’ve been taught that, while that may have been the case “in the beginning,” it’s certainly not the case now and hasn’t been the case for a very, very long time.
However, we need to recapture this. Churches everywhere need to add this back to their belief statements. Whatever else happens in the story (and there’s plenty), this is our foundation.
This is where we come from.
This is who we are at the deepest level.
We are all made in the “divine image” and are “supremely good.”
All of us.
- You would be surprised how much time is wasted on arguing about such things.
- Pronounced “Yahwey (yaw-way).” It’s often translated as “the LORD” in most English Bibles.
- Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Common English Bible. © 2011 Common English Bible. All rights reserved. www.commonenglishbible.com.
- Christ of the Celts, John Philip Newell. Copyright © 2008 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. Published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741 -- www.josseybass.com.