The time has come today... Part one.
There is a theory concerning the biblical story of Cain and Abel I’ve always believed contained a certain amount of veracity. For those of you unfamiliar with the story of Cain and Abel it is a tale of two brothers who bring offerings to God. Abel brings a slaughtered animal which is found worthy and thereafter he is looked upon quite favorably in the eyes of God. Cain on the other hand brings an offering of agricultural harvesting from the land and not only is his offering rejected but so too is he looked upon unfavorably by God. My question of course has always been why? What exactly was wrong with Cain’s sacrifice? What was so right about Abel’s sacrifice? Does God not like vegans? Is God a steak and potatoes kind of conservative republican after all? It vexes me.
Whenever I’ve asked a clergyman about this tale I’ve always been given the same answer, “It’s the blood, boy, it prefigures the eventual sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as propitiation to God for the sins of mankind.” Of course, that is usually the official church answer to any and every question I ever ask about the scriptures. It is a stock response I believe simply serves to obfuscate the obscure and make an ignorant man appear wise when in reality a question has been asked for which he has no good answer at all.
The story of Cain and Abel appears arbitrary in nature. There is no reason or explanation for why one sacrifice is more acceptable than the other. It reeks of the, “because I said so” attitude so often attributed to God by those who claim to speak in the omnipotent one’s name. You know the process as, “do not question the man behind the curtain!” God says it is so and so surely it must be so because he says so. What? Why is God so afraid of being questioned about just what exactly he is doing and why he is doing it in the particular way he is doing it?
Sorry, I digress...
So, we have a tale about two brothers who bring sacrifices before God. One sacrifice is acceptable and one is not. However, the story gets even more perplexing. The vegan brother, after having his offering rejected and labeled as unworthy is so enraged that he kills his brother, Abel. Cain is then cursed, given a special mark and promptly sent out into the world to live as an outcast.
Now, if one adheres to the idea that every single word in the bible is literal and true, representing actual events in the course of human history the story of Cain and Abel can only be accepted at face value. Two brothers work equally hard at their chosen occupation, each willingly take the best fruits of their labors to the house of God to offer as sacrifices and one is rejected by the omnipotent one and the other is embraced. The brother who has been rejected murders the brother who has been accepted. Cain is exiled and Abel is dead. There is an important lesson to be learned here. Really?
Exactly what is that lesson? Does God hate vegetables? I thought God created them and saw that they were good. Was Cain blind to an evil within himself that only God could see? Why did Cain kill Abel? This story has always left me with more questions than answers and it just ticks me off. Perhaps as certain theories suggest, the only real way to arrive at an understanding of the story is to step out of the literal interpretation of the tale and look at it from a different perspective. What if we look at the two brothers as representing archetypes of some sort? What if the archetypes represented two different philosophies of living with the environment? What if the two differing philosophies had indeed reached a pivotal point of conflict where one way of life was indeed threatening the continued existence of the other? What would the lesson of the story be if looked at from this perspective?
To be continued...