Writer’s Log: Stardate 12-1-3
I think I got an introduction for Creating Adam yesterday, but I am not sure—which is to say that one is written but I still think I could do better. I am trying to grab the reader at the beginning with something with emotional depth. The story of Adam is an interesting story, any way you look at it, but for many people it is bloodless and tame. More liberal Christians—even many evangelicals—believe that Adam was not a real historical character so his story is simply a modest literary anecdote telling a moral tale, not unlike the story of the prodigal son or the good Samaritan. On the other hand, most Americans grew up thinking of Adam as a completely historical figure but one abstracted into Christian Theology as an idea—the source of sin and death—and so not really human in the sense that we might identify with him.
Adam can be approached in many ways, of course, and probably all of them have some merit. But I think the most powerful aspect of Adam is his role as our ancestor, with all that means. Our ancestors define who we are and shape the contours of our identity. They locate the boundaries of our tribe, for better or worse. They define the “other.” Probably the most important role Adam has played in the last century is in separating us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Most Christians have a visceral rejection of evolution and often invoke the special creation of Adam in the “Image of God” as the guarantor of human uniqueness.
I tried to capture this emotional power with an interesting historical anecdote from 1550 Spain, when the pope dispatched an associate to figure out whether the native Americans—who they called “Indians”—were descended from Adam. This was a powerful application of the tribalizing aspect of the story of Adam. If the Indians were descended from Adam, they were a part of our tribe and should be converted to Christianity, treated respectfully, and “civilized.” If not, then the Spanish explorers could do whatever they wanted to them.