Aida and Steve
A few days ago, I was thinking about what should be said in the church about Women’s History Month, and I happened to hear a sermon about the Adam and Eve story. And I was just thinking about how unfortunate it is that, in the Bible, women’s history starts with this wretched story.
I think it’s safe to say that I and many feminist-minded men and women have an innate aversion to this story. It is potentially wholly offensive to women. Of course, man has to be made first! And the woman isn’t even given the distinction of being made second! After the man, God makes dogs and cats and cows and turtles and vultures and flesh-eating bacteria, and—only then—after flesh-eating bacteria—it occurs to God to make…woman! And she isn’t even made as an independent being like the dogs and cats and flesh-eating bacteria. No—she has to come out of a disposable piece of the man! And the only reason God thinks to make her is because the man is lonely and needs a helper. And let’s not even get started on how the woman gets scapegoated as the original sinner for just eating a piece of fruit! It’s all enough to make a feminist scream. I can hardly read this story without cringing.
But, as I said, I recently heard a sermon about this passage by a more conservative male pastor who obviously does not share my feminist hang-ups about the story. But I decided to clench my teeth and suppress my annoyance, and I resolved to just hear what this guy thought was good about the story. He talked about how he uses this passage at weddings, and what impressed me was that he wasn’t talking about Adam as the man and Eve as the woman, but he talked about Adam and Eve as a loving couple, without mentioning their genders. And he talked about how the story reminds us that we are created for companionship and love and human relationship. And he talked about how, when we find a loving partner, we are made to be helpers to one another. And he talked about how there is no shame in our nakedness and our sexual intimacy and our becoming one flesh with another human being.
And, you know what? I thought those were really lovely truths! And I realized that I have trouble getting to those lovely truths because I feel so hurt by this story. And I feel so hurt because lots of men throughout history have decided that the most important lesson in this story is a lesson about the place of men and the place of women. And that lesson—which I absolutely reject—overshadows all of the beautiful truths and insights in the story.
So I’ve been wondering in the last few days what it would be like to put away those rigid, unfortunate genders in this story. Instead of Adam and Eve, what if we did read it as Adam and Steve? Or what if we read it as Aida and Steve or Aida and Eve? When I tried this, I found that it did open up the story for me!
So…just in case it is useful for any of you, I am going to copy this passage with a different gender combination. For me, it’s helpful to read it as Aida and Steve, woman then man. But—to mix things up from hetero-normalcy—I present to you the story of Aida and Eve, woman then woman. And as you read, I encourage you to explore questions like, “Do I like this reading? Am I offended by it? If I’m offended, why is that? Does it make me think differently about myself or the people around me?” So here goes…
“…then the Lord God formed woman from the dust of the ground, and breathed into her nostrils the breath of life; and the woman became a living being…The Lord God took the woman and put her in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it…Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the woman should be alone; I will make her a helper as her partner.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the woman to see what she would call them; and whatever the woman called every living creature, that was its name. The woman gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the woman there was not found a helper as her partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the woman, and she slept; then God took one of her ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the woman God made into a woman and brought her to the woman. Then the woman said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Woman this one was taken.’ Therefore a woman leaves her mother and her father and clings to her wife, and they become one flesh. And the woman and her wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”
Genesis 2:7, 15, 18-25
(This was originally shared as a devotion on one of Church of the Village’s Wednesday morning prayer calls. Join us any Wednesday morning at 7am for 20 minutes of devotion and prayer. Ph: (559)546-1200, Code: 533-689-191#)