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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

More on Eve! Inspired by BBC4's BEYOND BELIEF.

When you've only got 5 minutes to convey the entirety of Eve's purpose in a novel retelling her story, including why you decided to retell it, you don't have a lot of time for the extras. Fortunately, I have a blog! So let me share some of the things that DIDN'T make it into my 5 minutes of BBC fame--

One of the things about Genesis 2 which seems to get overlooked time and again in this interpretation of Eve as somehow lesser, or lacking morality, or as "the problem" is the fact that Eve, by all accounts within the text, is created as Adam's TRUE equal. Not to mention the fact that Adam is standing right next to her when she engages with the Serpent -- he knows exactly what fruit she's handing him, because he was right there with her, declining to comment. If Eve is in fact a flawed being for what took place in the Garden, a truly literal approach SHOULD recognize it is a flaw she shares equally with Adam. Unfortunately, that isn't the prevailing interpretation.

Eve Eating The Apple, Rodin
(photo by me)
Instead, Eve as sinner/temptress, is so often used as a convenient scapegoat for, if not outright architect of, all the woes of man, which itself is problematic (not unique, mind you, as Helen of Troy is another example of a woman put into this same position, we just haven't based the entirety of western culture upon her "mistakes"), but it becomes a very troublesome interpretation when it is compounded with a more literal and conservative approach to Biblical Myth, which places Eve as the archetype of all women, painting us all with the same brush and giving us all the same perceived "weaknesses" as a result. Even all these supposed generations removed from Creation, Eve's sins become ours, along with all the blame for the sins of men.

It's this troublesome interpretation of myth and scripture which is at the heart, I believe, of the political debates surrounding women's access to health care (so often, those seeking to defund programs which support women's healthcare justify their position with their Christian faith. No one is trying to pretend otherwise.) There is this pervasive, if unvoiced, idea that women cannot make these choices wisely for themselves, and so government must, and, sometimes it seems, even an undercurrent of resentment that anyone BUT the woman herself should have to pay (financially, emotionally, etc) for the so-called mistakes which might lead her to a clinic -- as if women's healthcare and access to birth control, abortion, etc is another Tree of Knowledge which we women mustn't be trusted not to eat from. It's conveniently forgotten that Adam made an informed choice too, and reading the text, it's obvious that Eve wasn't seducing, charming, or otherwise boondoggling him into anything.

In opposition to this idea of Eve as the source of sin and scapegoat for the fall of man, I would argue that Eve as savior and protector seems to be a far more natural extension of her very literal Biblical role as Mother of Life. As we retell and reinterpret Myths, placing women in the position to help shape the world, creators of Solutions instead of presenting them as Problems-to-be-Solved, is just as natural. Just as women have become leaders in reality, they should be leaders, too, in our myths, and who better to start with than Eve? Particularly when Biblical Myth plays such a large role in the western world!

Myth is, after all, a living thing, meant to evolve over time. It should be told and retold, made relevant to our modern perspective and understanding even as it is a reminder of our history and the shared culture of our past. New interpretations don’t and shouldn’t REPLACE the traditional, but they certainly have a place alongside them. And before we recorded these stories -- when they were still oral traditions, passed on from mother to daughter and father to son -- you can be sure that evolutions and variations took place! In fact, I might even argue that RECORDING myth the way we have, and giving the textual result such a high position of authority has disrupted a lot of that natural process of change and growth which kept myth relevant as society and culture and our understanding of the world around us evolved.

In the end, FORGED BY FATE and the Fate of the Gods trilogy is just fiction. But it's my hope that in reading it, we might be willing to consider the value in retellings, even of the myths we hold most sacred. Even when it comes to something as foundational as Adam and Eve and the Biblical story of Creation.

More on Eve:
Fate of the Gods: Regarding Eve

More about my BBC4 appearance at World Weaver Press
And you can download the podcast of Beyond Belief, here!


2 comments:

  1. I grew up with the unusual Christian background where Adam and Eve were equals, where I actually learned about how Adam was standing there next to Eve being a silent idiot and equally culpable, if not more so. Strong women characters were always highlighted, like when Y'shua dies it's the women who go to the tomb while the men are the ones hiding up in a locked room somewhere. The more I learn about mainstream Christianity the more I'm glad I did not grow up with it.
    I have seen some Catholics/Christians connect Eve and Mary in a positive light - almost in a Mother goddess light, although they would think so - which makes so much sense to me because Y'shua is connected to Adam, so it makes sense for Mary to be connected to Eve.
    Sometimes I wonder just where mainstream Christianity came from, because so much of it does not make sense and a lot of the theology is not actually based on their sacred text. I think re-tellings of this mythology is really important, because there is so much that has gone wrong with understanding what the text is actually saying.

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    1. I think I was also fortunate in this regard -- my mother, I remember distinctly, was always outraged about the interpretation and treatment of Mary Magdalene, for example, and always highlighted the strength of the women in the Bible. I was raised to believe in a lot of the Old Testament as metaphor rather than a literal history of events, so the idea of Eve as a temptress who seduced Adam into evil or whatever never really penetrated, I don't think. There were other ways in which being raised Catholic was not so beneficial to me but my mother's encouragement to think critically about Biblical Myth was definitely a bonus, and I applied that same foundation to other mythologies as I explored outside of Christianity (which, since my mother loved all myth, was something I was encouraged to do, too!)

      I also wonder a lot. And that's why I still think these books (and books like mine) are important, because if it allows someone to think a little bit differently about Christian myth, to open up to the idea of alternative interpretations vs the strict patriarchal, then maybe they can find their way out of it and reconnect with their faith in a more productive and healthier way.

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