“Adam just had one simple rule,” Milt was saying, “and he screwed it up. Just one little rule.” Milt was a patient of mine sitting up in bed, who wanted me to debate with him as he summoned each of his phrases with a mighty effort. He often interrupted himself with queries about where his glasses and phone were, and inserted vast stretches of silence between each phrase as I awaited the next stage of the conversation.
“Eve and at first the snake had something to do with that too,” I replied. Shaking his head Milt said,“Passing the buck. That’s what everybody does.” I thought to myself, the buck should stop with God at least sometimes. Milt went on, “Adam caused all of us to have serious sin. I have done serious sin.” During the next pause I thought about what a Christian told me about her tradition blaming Eve for humankind’s most colossal goof. At least Milt wasn’t blaming the woman.
After talking about sin for a bit, I then decided to challenge him as he had requested: “Milt, the Adam and Eve business is a strange story. If no one had eaten the apple (I thought to myself it must have been a fig or date or something because the Hebrew says “fruit” and we’re talking the Middle East here, but no matter; I didn’t want to confuse him.) then we’d have Adam and Eve still in the Garden, all happy and innocent and everything for all eternity, but then nothing would go forward. Only those two would be around, and you and I would not exist.”
Milt took this in and then replied, “Yeah, nobody would propagate.” Another long silence. I wondered what he would say next, and then there it was: “Karen, God put us here for a purpose.” He must have known this basic theology clashed with the reading of the Adam and Eve story as being all about sin. As he just said, nobody would have had children if the infamous fruit had sat around untasted, and then nobody would have been around to carry out God’s purpose.
Milt then went on to bemoan the religious conflict between himself and his son. Milt said the only part of religion that he doesn’t like is the proselytizing aspect. His son was involved with some missionary work which entailed being far away. Later I had spoken with the son, who said over and over that he felt called to that work.
I do think that in part, Adam and Eve flubbing up is about our imperfect world. We hold self-contradictory beliefs, and our beliefs are not always congruent with those of our loved ones. Both father and son did agree that God put us here for a purpose. But it is too bad that neither interpreted it to mean that his father’s final days was sacred time for them to make use of together. If father and son could have transcended their differences, they would have fulfilled God’s purpose for them to grow in love and understanding, the holiest and most purposeful task of all.
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