As I chisel away at this project-series on Christianity, I discover just how experimental it is. Last night, awake at 4am, I scratched out questions and half-formed thoughts, trying to get to the heart of what I'm doing. Am I trying to prove or disprove something? Am I trying to define something? What am I really asking, and what am I really offering?
When I was a kid growing up in the church, I was told a lot of things by a lot of grown-ups. Since they were bigger and smarter than me, it never crossed my mind to question the validity of what they were saying. It was simply fact. Indisputable truth. God made the universe in six 24-hour days? Of course. The devil was a snake in the garden? No doubt. Women for all eternity will endure labor pains and menstrual cramps because one lady, one time, ate a forbidden food? Makes sense to me.
It goes on.
And maybe it's true, who knows.
But my interest lives in asking the questions. I am wondering:
What is Christianity?
Is it the thing we see living in the megachurches of America?
Is it the sex-shaming, homosexual-condemning, war-starting hate message we encounter?
Is it the radical sell-everything-you-own missionary thing we read about?
Is it as pared-down as loving your neighbor? Loving God? Do we have to say a prayer to get to heaven? What is heaven?
Who is Jesus, really? What and who is God? Is Christianity a faith worth having; why or why not?
You catch my drift.
I'm asking these questions because I think, somewhere deep down, I am convinced of something.
I am convinced that Christianity is not what many of us think it is.
I am convinced that God is not what/who many of us think he/she/it is.
I am convinced that what we know about spirituality is spindly and scant, and that no religious group should never assume they're the privileged few who have all of the right answers.
And it matters to me because these ideas haunt my mind; I don't have a choice in the matter. I just care.
I read through the creation story again this week. It was like walking through my old Kindergarten room. I remember these chairs, but was this carpet always here? Details jumped out at me in loud colors from all over the pages. Details I glazed over years before.
It's funny reading the bible again from such a different vantage point. It's as familiar as childhood streets to me; I know where the next turn goes. I know who lives in that big blue house. But, like visiting home after a long time away, you notice things. The trees are smaller than you remember; the bedrooms cozier; the neighborhood less friendly. For example, Adam and Eve may not have been the first people on earth.
If you didn't grow up like me, that means nothing to you (or you're like, "duh of course they weren't"). But many of you were taught that Adam and Eve were the first man and woman in existence on our planet. It's Sunday School 101. That kind of information was child's play. We all knew it. If you could quote the creation story word-for-word, now that would be impressive. But Adam and Eve? We all know they were the mom and pop of mankind.
Except probably not.
Because the creation story in Genesis doesn't even say that. And if it doesn't say it there, where in the world did we get that information?
What it does say is that God created mankind in his image and told them to multiply. Do you know when it seems he did this? Day 6. Before he rested.
And then, it says he "formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being." Do you know when he did this? Day 8 at the earliest, it seems. What would have been after he rested.
And nowhere in this book does it mention Adam and Eve being the first man and woman ever created. So if we care about the chronology of the creation story (and most Christian teachings do) then it is worth noting that chronologically, it appears that God made other men and women before he created Adam and Eve.
So what is my point?
In writing about this, there are a million ways it branches off. We could discuss the theory of Genesis as allegory, which implies that whether he created Adam and Eve first isn't relevant because it's all symbolic anyway. We could debate the validity of creation in the first place, arguing that God didn't create mankind, that the big-bang and evolution took care of that for us, so who cares about what the bible says? We could pare it down and pull it apart and find what is most historically accurate; what was the Genesis writer really saying about the creation of man?
Mostly though, at this time, I'm trying to point out illusion and misconception.
Because ultimately, I was taught as fact that Adam and Eve were the first of humankind. As an adult I've learned that this simply cannot be taught as truth, as it is neither historically proven or even stated as truth in the bible. Of the thousands of things I've been told about God and Christianity, this couldn't possibly be the only case in which I was misled to take as fact something that may be true, but probably isn't.
I'm interested in that.
Maybe some of the ideas conveyed to me, while misleading, are inconsequential. That's fine. It doesn't change my life very much to know that Goliath may have been shorter than my children's bible said.
But maybe some of them hold the power to change a life. Maybe some of them have changed mine; changed others; changed history.
I think that's why I'm here, why I'm writing about this. I'm asking:
What is real?