In Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" is God trying to touch humanity or pulling away
Somewhere in my past I once was host of a radio show on WABC, New York that focused on dogs and animals in general. On our May 22, 2011 broadcast something happened that changed my life. Dr. Laura Hobgood-Oster was on the line. She is a professor of religion and environmental studies at prestigious Southwestern University. The subject de jour was the role of animals in religion. I asked Dr. Laura of what significance was the eating of animals in the Bible? Her response shocked and sent chills down my spine - and has awed me to this very day!
Her response was, and I’m paraphrasing here, when God expels humans from paradise and gives them permission to kill and eat the animals, it’s really in the context of placing a CURSE ON HUMANITY. This is an interpretation of Genesis accepted by many theologians of religious tradition. Hmm, God curses humanity forever, sounds nasty! I walked out of the studio that day revolving the thought over and over in my mind, unable to absorb the full implications.
Across the board, most theologians agree that the best interpretation is that Adam and Eve were vegetarians. When Adam and Eve are in paradise with all of the animals, the humans were not eating animals, and the animals were also not eating each other! But after the “fall” when God is angered by Adam and Eve’s sacrilege, he orders them to leave paradise, and makes the lion hunt and eat the lamb. God gave them all of the food of the trees to eat in the garden, but “the fall” changed everything. At the fall, humanity's relationship with god was broken, as was humanity's relationship with all the animals. God curses us and from that point forward our relationship with animals will be one of violence, instead of one of peace. In essence cursing humanity for its indulgence. It’s pretty clear from the text that this is not the perfect way to live.
Fast forward a few thousand years. Here we are being ravaged by a global pandemic caused by an invisible virus that jumped from animals to humans in markets where live animals are butchered and served up bloody fresh. Viruses are DNA or RNA molecules that science is confounded to label as alive or dead --they live somewhere in between the two. If that does not sound like the scourge of God, well then my ears are wide open.
Past the current pandemic, humanity is facing an ecological disaster as yet unheard of proportions in the coming two decades. Methane is an odorless gas that is mostly generated by burps and farts of cows grazing, the ones that we kill for meat. Recent studies indicate that methane is 80 times more effective in warming the planet as the poster boy baddie, carbon dioxide. Additionally, in order to graze and feed all these so called ‘livestock’, forests are being cleared, forests that are the oxygen producing lifeblood of humanity.
Is humanity cursed due and by our addiction for dead animal flesh? To some theologians that is the only interpretation of the bible that makes sense. These are not monks in the year 312 that hobbled together a document that they thought allows for humans to breed, survive and most importantly, garner supreme power for the official church. Theologians are not priests; they are impartial observers of fact and students of tradition and text. Certainly a strong case can be made that we are indeed cursed at origin. Look around you, wars, earthquakes, bacterium, murder, prions, climate disaster and of course viruses – all converging to destroy human life for no apparent reason except to finally be rid of our species.
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6). God’s vision of the peaceable kingdom is a return to that paradise, a day when all of God’s animals (both human and non-human animals) are vegetarian again, a day when the innocence lost so long ago by humanity will once again triumph, led by the purity of the metaphoric child.