I’ve always been a problematic Catholic. My parents exist on opposing ends of the religious spectrum with my dad staking great importance to church attendance, biblical reliability and strong Catholicism; whereas my mom (although technically “converted”) disregards and outright disclaims many of these traditionally Christian perspectives for a more “spiritual” stance in life. I think growing up amid this ideological conflict created something more of an objective view for me since my parents never gave me entirely cohesive answers concerning religion.
This definitely made me one of the more skeptical kids once I started to attend Sunday school as a kindergartner; these classes turned into a biyearly, rather than annual, experience for me, since my mom largely considered the classes a waste of time.
Early on, I remember a group discussion about the Book of Genesis, led by our instructor Penny. Penny, a half-deaf, boisterous old lady with artificially red hair and an engaging attitude, was a remarkably easy person to talk to, provided my voice was raised to the right decibel. I recall questioning the story of Adam and Eve, as it seemed similar to fanciful Greek mythology.
“It’s just a myth, right? It’s not real?” This was the gist of my queries after class.
Penny was uncharacteristically subdued. She reminded me to “trust the word of God” and that was pretty much the end of that conversation.
I enjoyed attending mass and doing volunteer work there, but my Sunday school time spent at my hometown church for the most part didn’t feel particularly enlightening, and any literal interpretation of God’s word seemed increasingly less likely to be credible. Any questions I had about God or the Bible were met with quotes from the Bible from the passage I didn’t understand to begin with, so I gave up on trying to find original answers from my older peers. Lectures were rigid and at times very discriminatory and political; and during one instance a different instructor made Brooke, a shy, devout friend of mine, cry by telling her that her soul wouldn’t evolve unless she voiced her prayers with the class. From that day on, I took a mental note that religion doesn’t necessarily make an institution less inherently hateful.
It’s difficult to address creation without evaluating the intentionality of a godlike figure, or whether or not a God exists. As many questions as I had concerning my faith as a young Catholic, the only personal truth that never faltered for me was my belief in a Creator; even if I had personal arguments with God, I never doubted that there was a figure to metaphysically shake my finger at. For the longest time, I imagined Him as an old, bearded man in the sky with the authoritative, booming voice of James Earl Jones as Mufasa.
Now I suppose I see Him as more characteristically “human,” perhaps similar to how God is portrayed in the Fray song “You Found Me.” Here, God is just a caring, world-weary man smoking his last cigarette at an intersection.
Songwriter Isaac Slade elaborates, “I kept getting these phone calls from home—tragedy after tragedy… If there is some kind of Person in charge of this planet—are they sleeping? Smoking? Where are they? I just imagined running into God standing on a street corner like Bruce Springsteen, smoking a cigarette, and I’d have it out with Him.”
If the vastness of God was compressed into one person, I like to think His personification would be a pretty relatable guy with a complex emotional range; someone who’d be strongly empathetic and knowledgeable…. Maybe he really would just chill on a street corner for a while, reliving a sense of woe like a retired superhero, bemoaning those he couldn’t save, whose free will led them down darker paths.
Regardless, I believe the creation of man to be intentional rather than a by-product of the chaos; so while evolution is clearly the most realistic view of creation, at some point during the evolution of man I personally feel like God chose a point with which to endow man with a consciousness; and that, biblically, this was “the origin” during which God shared an enhanced empathy and self-awareness (not just with man, but with other creatures as well).
Perhaps the story of Adam and Eve is supposed to represent this in a metaphorical sense. (Most people don’t take a fundamentalist view of the Bible anyway—unless, of course, it’s selectively quoted to aid a political agenda.) Although I firmly support the theory of evolution—the idea that species evolved over millennia to become anatomically diverse—I like to think that the Bible is a complimentary piece to the human puzzle meant to emphasize man’s moral/spiritual birth and development. Certain parts may be chronologically accurate, but much of it is allegory, parable, and metaphor—man’s interpretation of God’s word. So, in essence, the biblical creation story is a branch on the evolutionary tree that describes a point further down the human timeline when man was made aware and self-conscious.