Creation Stories–Is Life But A Joke?

In a very readable, very refreshing essay, Jason John, Australian ecological PhD and divinity minister, says the world is full of Creation stories. Indeed, Genesis has two; two very different accounts of how things started–Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Which will you choose?

Despite his academic background, John tells things in a very earthy way. These stories are centuries older than the New Testament. He updates their context when quoting Jesus, who said, ‘25…You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave’ (Matthew 20:25-27, New International Version). Given that context John asks, ‘Which of the two competing Creation stories are more Christian?’

He notes that over the centuries the State has preferred the former, since it can be more easily construed to support property and dominion. But is that Christian? By the way, Eugene Peterson’s biblical translation, The Message, though very modern, still posits ‘God’ commanding humans to ‘Take charge!’; however, Peterson doesn’t use ‘dominion’ or ‘rule over’, preferring ‘be responsible’ instead. But is it enough of an eco-centric change, or do we still need a newer, more up-to-date translation, or do we need a whole new story?

Things change. Our understanding of our relationship to the divine changes. There was a time when we thought god/dess lived on a mountain, when god/dess was a white-bearded, white-skinned male. When god/dess was like a human. The times they are a-changing.

But it’s another Dylan song that’s my earworm: All Along The Watchtower, with the line, ‘There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.’

Or there’s Bruce Cockburn’s Tokyo; the third verse begins, ‘Dragon of good fortune struggles with trickster fox.’ Like you, I’m struggling; is it with the dragon of good fortune or with the trickster fox?

Or even the Book of Job, where Job is a pawn in a wager between god/dess and the adversary.

As my contemporary, Douglas Adams, notes in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ‘space is really big.’ Without lots of energy and a warp drive, we’re stuck here. This planet is it. We’re on our own. No Vulcans. No Yoda. No Vogon poetry.

I don’t see a warp drive or lots of energy. Or Vogons. (But I see bad poetry; write some of it myself.)

Oh well. Arlo (it’s his 65th birthday July 10) says songs can change the world (even if it’s just coincidence); he wrote at least one of them; his dad, Woody, woulda been a hundred on July 14–he wrote several more, including This Land Is Your Land–but that was 1940. Would he have the same sentiment today if he were his great-grandchild? Yep, the times they are a-changing.

Can we change our tune? Or is life going to try with another species and we’re just miserable failures, or is the whole point NOT to strive, or is this just a cosmic joke? Or, or, or…. Or is there a god/dess, and what’s our creation myth? John presents a third creation story, one which is ‘fully evolution-embracing’ and ‘life-centered’ [ewl, 120].

He ends with a parable and two prayers [ewl, 123-124]. It’s the parable of the prodigal son, who was lost and joyously welcomed back. His first prayer hopes that the younger brothers and sisters [that’s the prodigal one, that’s us] ‘look around at the shit we’re in, and return humbly to reality. May we seek a way back to the family we thought we could transcend and ignore. May the Earth welcome us back graciously, and may any older brothers amongst us find it in their hearts to celebrate rather than condemn.’ The other prayer goes like this, very familiar, though he adds a bit:

God grant
the serenity to accept what cannot yet be changed,
the courage to change what you can,
the wisdom to know the difference,
and the humility to ask for help on the journey.

What would Jesus do? What did Jesus do, and say? How small does that eye of the needle look now?

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