Archive for August 4th, 2007

People Who Need People

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

Today’s scripture: Genesis 2:18-24 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider these questions: What might God be saying to me in this passage? What jumps out at me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two before reading on.

My thoughts on this passage (Tyler Connoley):

When people try to use Genesis 2 as a reason for denying the validity of my same-sex marriage, I often wonder, “When was the last time you read Genesis?” Because, when I read that story, I find it says just the opposite of what they think it says.

In Genesis 2, God has created the first human (Hebrew adam). The adam is called “he” because Hebrew doesn’t have a pronoun “it” — all Hebrew nouns are either male for female like in Spanish or French. However, the earliest Rabbis who interpreted this text told us the adam was neither male nor female, because God had not created the sexes yet. One image of the adam that I really like is of a creature with four arms, four legs, and two heads, similar to the image of the first humans in the Greek myth told by Plato.

God is happy with the adam, but realizes the adam is lonely. God says, “It is not right for the adam to be alone; I will make a helper corresponding to it” (Genesis 2:18, my translation). Then God proceeds to make all the animals of the earth, the birds of the air, and everything that swims in the sea. With each, God brings the animal to the adam who gives it a name, but the text tells us “there was not found a helper corresponding to it” (Genesis 2:20, my translation).

I imagine the story this way, God brings the cat to the adam and says, “Will this be a helper corresponding to you?”

The adam says, “That’s a cat.” It loves the way the cat purrs when it’s peted, and the way it curls up next to the adam when they sleep. The cat is a great stress-reliever and a wonderful companion when the adam is sitting under a tree thinking, but the cat is not a helper corresponding to it.

So, God brings another animal. And another. They all have nice attributes, but none are quite right.

When all the animals have been made, and a helper corresponding to the adam hasn’t been found, God puts the adam to sleep, and takes one of its sides (the King James Version translates this as “rib,” but “side” is closer to the Hebrew meaning). Out of that side, God makes another adam/human.

When the adam awakes, God brings the new human to it, and this time the adam exclaims, “This one, at last, is it! Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23, my translation). The adam has found a helper corresponding to it, and decides to call the new human woman. Anyone who has fallen in love knows the feeling expressed in that exclamation, “This one, at last, is it!”

The message of Genesis 2 is that humans need human companionship. Dogs and cats are great companions, and it’s wonderful to commune with nature, but they can never offer the kind of companionship other humans give us. Even if we’re not partnered, we are all “people who need people.”

And yet, some religious conservatives will use Genesis 2 to argue that certain classes of people are denied the companionship of marriage, because they fall in love with the wrong person. Arguing that Genesis 2 is all about the sex of the two humans, they say homosexuals must remain celibate for life. Worse yet, families and friends take this message and think it means they must disown their children, brothers, sisters, or friends. Having already denied them the companionship of marriage, they deny lgbt people the companionship of community.

Thought for the day: God said, “It is not right for the human to be alone.” It’s we who have twisted God’s words and added, “unless you’re gay, then you must be alone.”

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. Use the item above as a starting point, or consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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