[continuing modern parables relevant to the Anglican Church in the west and others facing similar issues]
‘You have to hear this one,’ said one of the disciples to the rest. He picked up his copy of the ‘Daily Mail’. Above an article entitled ‘Never Wear a Kilt in a Hurricane’ there was another that had caught his attention: ‘WikiLeaks Dumps E-Mails Written by Serpent in Eden’.
‘Here’s what it says’ said the disciple, ignoring the shoe that someone threw at him amidst howls of laughter from the others. ‘It’s true,’ continued the disciple. ‘Listen. “In new revelations this week by the WikiLeaks founder, e-mail correspondence originally thought deleted between the serpent and Eve in the Garden of Eden has come to light. Apparently, Eve kept the correspondence on her private server, but a team of computer archaeologists from Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts on an expedition this past summer just outside of Baghdad has discovered the server and, amazingly, deciphered the data. Just who leaked the information to WikiLeaks, the president of the college’s computer science club refused to say. What is clear is that there was much more to the serpent’s communications with Eve than was previously assumed from Genesis.”’
The disciple looked up from his reading at the other disciples. They all had faces of disbelief, so he held up the paper and pointed to the article. ‘Alright,’ said one of them, ‘read on.’
‘Apparently the first exchange was about clarifying exactly what the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was. “This is a tree that bears delicious fruit,” the serpent writes in his e-mail. “It will give you the authority to decide for yourself what is morally right. You will not have to live according to God’s commandments but will have the freedom to make your own moral determinations. This is why it is said that in the day you eat of it you shall become like God, knowing good and evil.”
‘In another of the e-mail exchanges, Eve asks what sorts of moral decisions she will be free to make, apparently not quite grasping what life could be like when pursued without God’s commandments. The serpent replies, “Eve, try to imagine a world in which your own freedom to choose is the highest good instead of submitting yourself to God’s commandments. God says that he made you female, but what if you want to be a male? God says that marriage is between a male and a female, but what if you want to marry another female? What if you just want to have sex and not get married, or have sex with someone other than Adam—an angel, perhaps? And God says that you should be fruitful and multiply, but that sounds a bit limiting to me. What if you get pregnant but do not want another baby? Well, it would be your choice whether to have or abort your baby. If God calls taking the life of another human being ‘murder’, you can tell him that you call it ‘terminating a pregnancy’. Don’t you think you have the right to make your own decisions? God is only trying to keep you under His thumb rather than give you freedom to be an autonomous person capable of your own moral choices. Try the fruit, it will set you free.”
‘A third e-mail from the serpent expands on the question of whether Eve would die if she ate or touched the fruit. “You will not die,” writes the serpent. “How could you? This garden also has the tree of life in it. These two trees together will make you like God: you will have freedom to determine good and evil, and you will have eternal life. Think of it! You will be your own god. Give some of the fruit to Adam, too, and he can also be free. The two of you can have shared conversations about what is moral or not moral. Freedom is delicious! It is the best tree in the garden, but God has told you not to eat of it. I say, Go for it!”’ The disciple stopped reading, and the disciples sat in silence for awhile.
Finally, the master said, ‘There was once a child who always wanted to get his own way. He did not like his parents’ rules. “I want to do what I want to do!” he often said. And, one day, he did. He built a cart with four wobbly wheels and a steering system that had a mind of its own. His father saw it and told him not to take it onto the road as it was very dangerous. However, the boy could not get the idea of an exciting ride down a hill out of his mind. One day, he skipped school and walked up the windy road to the top of a hill near his village. He strapped on his bicycle helmet and started his exhilarating ride at an ever increasing speed. He managed to steer around the first several turns and keep to the road. The boy felt the joy of steering himself down the hill in the cart that he himself had made. Soon, however, he realized that he was gaining on a car ahead of him. He tried to apply the brakes, but they failed. The driver saw him in her rear view mirror shooting down the hill, heard a ‘thump,’ and then couldn’t see him at all. She brought her car to a halt by the side of the road half way down the hill. She looked under the car, and there was the boy, wedged between the road and her car, half alive. The driver called an ambulance and the police. The boy was taken away to the hospital, strapped to a stretcher with a neck brace.’
The master then turned to the disciple who read the article. ‘Tell me,’ he said, ‘did the boy’s disobedience give him freedom?’
‘Yes,’ said the disciple.
‘And was it a life-giving freedom?’
‘No,’ said the disciple, ‘the boy nearly died.’
‘Perhaps he did, but not right away,’ said the master. ‘Many people call ‘disobedience’ by the name ‘freedom’, but it is not a life-giving freedom. God, however, calls ‘obedience’ ‘freedom from sin’, and that is a life-giving freedom. And I say to you, that all have disobeyed God, like Adam and Eve, and found a freedom that brings death. But Jesus Christ, the Righteous Redeemer, has died to set us free from sin and set us free to live in righteous obedience to God once again. Now, hear these words: “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”