When I was twelve, I had the biggest crush on this older Italian boy from bible camp. His name was Mike Panfili and he was dark, tall and gangly and had long, wavy hair. I liked Mike mostly because he was cute and smart and a little subversive, and he liked things like Pink Floyd, Jesus Christ Superstar, and electric guitars.
I remember one day, sitting around our counsellor who was reading us chapters from the book of Genesis, and Mike being Mike, kept on interjecting, asking all these tough questions, and pointing out the apparent absurdities. I was enthralled and impressed and I had no idea who Darwin was but the fact that Mike did made me like him even more. Eventually, we all got riled up and it became this pre-teen firing squad, a rapid succession of questions and concerns, one after another.
Our counsellor, poor girl, got so flustered and nervous (she was probably only 17 at the time) and decided to put down the book entirely, and made us go play dodgeball instead. Funny, they always scheduled sports after bible class; it’s as if they knew we needed the physical release.
That was the last time I recall reading Genesis, before this week. Having finally read it now, fully and completely, I’m struck by the feeling of being twelve again. I think that’s because I can only seem to perceive it through a twelve-year old brain, no matter how hard I try.
Theological and scholarly opinions aside, most of it still seems dark and primitive and strange and sordid. The God of Genesis seems contemptuous and vengeful, mostly. Stories I thought were much longer, like the Tower of Babel and Sodom & Gomorra, are in fact only a couple sentences. The story of Joseph and his brothers, to my surprise, takes up almost a third of the book.
So much of it is cryptic and random and so completely removed from how we live and breathe today. And yet, we’re still killing people, hating them, judging them, drawing up lines and boundaries, and finding justification for it all in the lines of this ancient text.
How do you teach Genesis to a twelve year old? That said, how do you even teach Genesis to an adult?