As a Christian, I’ll start by looking to the Bible and Christianity for ideas to help us be well connected with other people and the world around us, but I am also open to ideas from other sources.
The Bible is a complicated book. Some people seem to think that every word in it was imparted by some kind of divine dictation or supernatural mind control and this gives rise to some strange ideas, which can fly in the face of everything we know and sometimes lead to some very extreme views. This makes it easy to discredit the Bible.
It is quite possible to believe that the Bible is not a product of divine dictation while acknowledging that is was inspired by encounters with God and by what people understood about God at the time. For people who believe in God, the Bible can help us gain glimpses of God and insights into how God has told us to live. For people who don’t believe in God wisdom can still be found inside the covers of the Bible.
The first book of the Bible is called Genesis by Christians as it is about origins; the origins of the people who became the Jews.
The first chapter of Genesis contains a creation myth. A myth is a story, or in this case a poem or song, which may contain truths but isn’t necessarily factually correct. It is thought that Genesis One was used as part of the liturgy for New Year celebrations by the early Jews.
Today few educated people believe that God created the world in the way described in Genesis as scientific discoveries have shown that this is an unlikely scenario. Many Christians do worship God as Creator, but most of them see God as the One who started the process of creation and leave it to Scientists to explain how it happened.
What Genesis One does tell us is that human beings were made in the image of God. It was written by people who were being oppressed and treated as slaves during the Jewish exile in Babyon. The Babylonian creation myth said that ordinary people were made to be slaves. So, Genesis One was written for those slaves from Judah who wept as they sat down by the rivers of Babylon:
"1 By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows [or poplars] there
we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
4 How could we sing the LORD’s song
in a foreign land?" - Psalm 137
|Carving of the Babylonian Exile|
The Jewish religious leaders decided to teach their people that they were not made to be slaves, but that they were made in the image of God:
"So God created human beings in his image,This helped the Jews to hold onto their self-respect while they were being treated like slaves. It has been an inspiration to other slaves and oppressed people down the centuries. It could be a helpful thought for people who feel themselves to be wage slaves trapped in an oppressive system, too. It also tells us that all other human beings are to be valued and respected, that we are to treat no one as a slave ourselves, and that every human life is valuable. These are important principles for a Good Society.
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them." - Genesis 1:27
Quakers are mindful that there is something of God in everyone. Hindus greet one another and say goodbye with ‘namaste’, meaning ‘I bow to the divine in you’. What would our world be like if everyone adopted these practices? Could you find them helpful?