Thanking Eve

Jul 25, 2007
I really did mean to post about how the Jehovah's Witnesses went. They showed up a couple of weeks ago -- just when I'd decided I didn't want to deal with them and was running off to buy groceries. But no, they were early. And once faced with a bald-faced assertion of God's Plan, I just can't walk away. No, I have to argue.

Truth told, it was quite civil (I never did mention which other religion I was...) even if most of the debate was not only pretty standard but downright cliche. I did manage to shovel in my college lit professor's argument about the Garden of Eden story, though, which I've always liked. I doubt it'll ever convince a Christian, but it makes the story a hell of a lot more compelling for someone with no investment in the idea of Original Sin, so I thought I'd share.

We were in a Gothics class, discussing the concept of veiling. The Veil is a big thing in Gothic novels; in the earliest ones, it's the point of the whole book. When you draw the veil aside and see what it is you've been scared of this whole time, the story's over. Or, a personal illustration my professor told: She was a kid, maybe five or six. Mom always let her play in Mom's room when Mom was getting ready for work -- which is a special treat when you're five or six, all those shiny pretty things you aren't allowed to touch when Mom isn't keeping an eye on you while she's putting on her mascara. Just, Mom said, don't open that box on Mom's nightstand. It's private.

What's that going to do to a six-year-old? Of course. One day Mom leaves the room for a minute, and the temptation is just too much. What might be inside? Candy? More pretty jewelry, or perfume, or makeup? Something good, obviously, or you wouldn't be told not to open it. My prof was always very good at describing her disappointment upon finding a box full of individually-wrapped balloons. And not very good balloons, either. All the same color! (Yes, this is indeed the Bluebeard story but with condoms. I loved my lit prof.)

Mom, of course, was mortified, and six-year-old lit prof still couldn't figure out why she'd gotten in trouble. All that fuss over a box of balloons. The moral of the story, of course, being that the only interesting thing about the box was the fact that she wasn't allowed to open it. If Mom had shown her what was inside when she asked, she's have been bored and gone away.

The parallel to Genesis is obvious, although unfortunately we have to lose the condoms. "Here," says God, "Have anything you want. Except this, a huge and impressive tree smack in the middle of everything else, which you can't touch because I said so." Well, what's that going to do to a newly-created sentient race? Note here that when you argue about this point with JWs, they remind you that God also said "lest ye die," and invoke him as a watchful-parent figure. This is, of course, a perfect opening for the condom story. I have never been brave enough to tell a condom story to visiting JWs; maybe someone else will be.

So of course Eve does what any kid does when faced with an overprotective parent, and God shrugs his shoulders in a remarkably calm way for the Old Testament version of that particular deity, and Adam and Eve go out into the wide world and start making curious kids of their own. All of which just doesn't sound like the story of The Entering of Evil Into The Heart of Man, not really. It's more like a coming-of-age story. One day God looks down and notices his kids are kind of outgrowing the Garden, it's not got much interesting in it after all, and darn it, they no longer accept Because I Said So as a reason. Time to buy them a microwave and some milk-crate furniture and let them out on their own.

Like I said, you'll probably never win over a JW with this argument -- it's just looking at the same story from a vastly different point of view, and it's point of view they're trying to convince you on. But then again, if you're arguing with JWs with the intent to win, you're doing it wrong.


cathy said...

That's a great way of looking at the Genesis creation myth. I'm going to share it with some religion scholars I know.

Willow Myrina said...

My best friend once turned a JW completely away from religion. It started with:

"So, how many places in heaven are there for Jehova's dear follwers? only 144000? and there are over 2 million followers? well unless your God decides to get an extension, I'm afraid I'd stake my beliefs where the odds are a little more in my favour."
And went on from there. It's something I'd certainly like to try, just for the enthralling experience in itself.

In Love And Light.