My reflection on Chapter 2 (“Being Human”) from the book We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren.
Of the two creation stories found in Genesis, I’ve always resonated with the second one, the one found in Genesis 2. Genesis 1 is an all-orderly and systematized creation, a place for everything and everything in its place. Moon there, stars there, plants there, and human beings there. But Genesis 2 presents a messiness to creation—at least when it comes to the appearance of humans. The one human has loads of animals to name and know, but does not have a helper fit for that human, so God creates another. The humans are given an abundance of good things from the hands of the Lord God, and are warned not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (God probably should have used reverse psychology here. Of COURSE they eat from the tree.)
The messiness of their lives began in that garden when they, as McLaren indicates, misjudged God and decided to play God themselves. The messiness of their lives continued as they ate of that tree and now recognized their brokenness, their refusal to trust God, their tendency toward selfishness and manipulation, their lack of self-control.
What was once all orderly and systematized is now a creation run amok at the hands of fallible humans. It could have been so different. But it wasn’t. Here in Genesis 2 we gain an early understanding of human sin, and whether or not you agree with the doctrine of original sin, it’s clear we are not all that different (or better or wiser or less selfish) than Adam and Eve.
McLaren makes clear that although we are created in the image of God, we make choices along our journey which take us pretty far afield from what God intended us to be. McLaren writes, “We can use our intelligence to be creative and generous, or to be selfish and destructive.” There. Pretty much sums up that human predicament of ours.
Then McLaren asks, in his discussion section, for us to consider when someone has been destructive with us—playing God and judging us. (Or, conversely, when have we judged others and played God.)
Funny how a person can remember hurts from years ago, even if those hurts have been dormant and placed in a little corner of the mind that one doesn’t go to very often. While my story was not a moment where I was judged cruelly, I did feel its sting. I decided to pull it out from its little storage bin in my memory to sift through again here. It is one of the reasons I abhor anonymous comments (like the Sports Fan Line that used to be part of the Harrisburg newspaper sports page). When someone can remain relatively anonymous, they feel empowered and bold to say anything without caring about consequences.
I was editor of my college newspaper. Originally, it was a job that was going to be shared with another classmate—we worked well together, and I looked forward to sharing the challenging responsibilities of the editorship with her. As it turned out, she decided to graduate early, and about six weeks before my senior year began, I learned I would be editor alone. It made me a bit anxious, as there were things with which I was unfamiliar, and the workload would be double. I recall the first few months of publishing this weekly paper were a bit rocky. Recruiting more staff, dealing with equipment that was sluggish or persnickety, tackling hot potato issues on campus and then offering editorial comment—some weeks were tougher than others.
Then I got the long, anonymous letter. It was shoved through the bottom of my office door one night. It was all critical critique. Some of it was quite accurate. Yes, there was too much white space in the headline area—we needed to use bigger headline fonts. Yes, a few photos were blurry, and the caption didn’t capture the essence. Yes, our layout was haphazard, and selection of front page stories was questionable. The letter covered it all, one minute item after another. In exquisite detail, the author of the letter picked out every error, every mediocre bit of journalism evident. And of course my editorials were critiqued, too. I felt ashamed; I did experience hurt.
I didn’t know who wrote it, though I had a suspicion or two. But what did it matter? The judgment rendered was fairly spot on. I had much to learn in editing a newspaper. Yet I had to wonder what the point was. The person or persons didn’t offer to help me. The person or persons didn’t offer one small crumb of encouragement. And they knew they were anonymous. They knew me, but I didn’t know them.
Of course, I got over it. The newspaper chugged along, improving as the months went by, and in the long run I was glad I had taken up the challenge. However, it did give me food for thought as I discerned a career in journalism…
I really hadn’t thought about the anonymous judge who sent me that letter in a long time. But I think of how there are many anonymous and cruel judges out there, playing God, and eviscerating people over the internet, on Facebook and Twitter. Leslie Jones, the comedian and actress, has been cruelly trashed on Twitter, and recently had her Facebook hacked. The vile stuff put out there about her—well, if you or I were on the receiving end, we would be afraid to leave our homes and just want to pull the covers over our heads. I am aware of several female journalists, such as Jessica Valenti, who constantly receive disgusting comments. Whatever it is that Leslie Jones and Jessica Valenti have (Courage? Willingness to be themselves? Chutzpa?) apparently makes others see fit to crush them, defame them, destroy them with obscene commentary.
See the mess we human creatures have gotten ourselves into? Eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, fail to trust and rely upon God, insist on going our own way on the journey, and we threaten to destroy one another. In our hands, creation continues to run amok.
There is so much of which to repent. May God grant us time for the amendment of life.
Our next chapter is 3: “A World of Meaning.” See you on the journey!