Monday Morning Meditation with Rev. Dr. Emmett Weir
“And He said, “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat? And the man said, “The woman of who, thou givest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” And the Lord God said unto that woman “What is this that thou hast done?” And the woman said, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”
~ Genesis 3: 11-13
One thing can be said about Pope Francis I without fear of contradiction…he is certainly a bold, innovative thinker in every respect. A theologian though he is, capable of writing and speaking in the most complex concepts of Moral Theology and philosophy, he has the rare flair for expressing himself with wit, clarity, charity and simplicity so that all may understand him. He has demonstrated that he Is not afraid to tackle such “burning issues” as abortion and human rights in a manner described by Archbishop Patrick Pinder as “refreshing!” or, as Darold Miller would pit it, The Pope, at times can even be…provocative! For, he is always saying something new or rather saying things in ways which are bound to gain the attention not only of Christians but of “people in all walks of life.” Like the Master himself, who spoke in parables, drawing profound messages from “the ordinary things of life, The Pope Francis has a method of expressing ancient eternally valid truths in ways bound to arrest the attention of the contemporary “man on the street.”
Yes, he has dealt with all kinds of “burning issues” in his unique thought provoking manner. And so, now he has come up with a warning to beware of “fake news” comparing it to the machinations of “the crafty serpent” of the Book of Genesis.
Now, the moment anyone these days mentions “fake news,” one almost automatically thinks about The President of the United States Mr. Donald Trump. For, if he did not “coin” this elusive expression, he has certainly brought it into the main stream of discussion today, to the extent that wherever anyone wants to discount any report, they label it “fake news.” So far, then, The Pope and The President seem “to be on the same wavelength” in warning against “fake news.” But, when The Pope compares it to the “crafty serpent” of Genesis he goes beyond the statement of the President. For, bear in mind that according to “Genesis”, the crafty serpent tempted Mother Eve, who in partnership with her husband, Adam, disobeyed the Word of the Lord. (By the same token, it can be said that in collusion with Adam, she rejected the divine command).
So what can we “living in the world today” learn about dealing with “fake news” from Pope Francis, President Donald Trump and Mother Eve? Much indeed! Doubt me? Hold on!
Now, let us turn to the third chapter of The Book of Genesis. For, here we have the account of what the theologians call: “The fall of man” or, using exclusive language it may be described as “The fall of humankind.”
The writer has already described the beginning of the universe culminating in the creation of the humankind. The account of these creative acts of God occupy the first two chapters. Now, Moses comes to deal with the beginning of sin.
The biblical account of the origin of sin is extremely intriguing, and of most profound and eternal relevance. Yes, the tantalizing, enticing mysterious attraction of the forbidden…the strange fascination that the slithering reptile, the snake as always incited in humankind…the human propensity “to pass the buck” – to blame everyone and everything except ourselves for our misbehavior…all play a most significant role in this unfolding dramatic episode.
Accordingly, it may be presented thusly:
The scene: The Garden of Eden
Place: The Tree in the middle
Dramatice personae: The crafty serpent in the tree, the curious Eve, the passive Adam, and the scene around the Tree in the midst of the garden behind it all God the Creator
You see, at the end of the first two chapters, everything is in order. God has created all things and indeed is pleased with His creation, pronouncing it all good. The sun, moon, the earth, the creatures of the land, sea and air and at the pinnacle of His creation is humankind (Genesis 1-2). Then…suddenly, Satan in the guise of a serpent, “the most crafty” of all the creatures in the universe, appears on the scene…and all hell breaks loose!!!
So there you have it. Adam and Eve gather around the Tree (the tree which they were forbidden by God not to touch or eat of its fruit!) and there in the Tree is “the crafty serpent.” Interestingly, the serpent elects to engage in conversation with the woman. (Was it because Mother Eve was more talkative and inquisitive than the more pensive Adam?)
Reader, note carefully the subtle manner in which the serpent approaches Eve. For, he cunningly begins by planting doubts in her mind as to whether God was really thoroughly determined to act decisively when He commanded Adam and Eve not to tamper with the Tree.
Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1 NIV). Now, watch this! The serpent not only seeks to plant doubts about the intention of God, but widens the scope to include any tree.
Eve, to her great credit thus far, corrects him by declaring the true position, reporting, “We may eat from the tree in the garden, but God did say, ‘you must not eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it or you will die.’” (Genesis 3:2, NIV)
But, the crafty serpent is encouraged by the fact that he has succeeded in eliciting the interest of the curious woman, Mother Eve. And so he proceeds (ever so persuasively, persistently and methodically!)…to break down her resistance.
The vividness of the temptation of the devil came with amazing freshness and relevance to this writer when he heard The Rev. David Hall read this passage in Genesis in a contemporary translation:
“That’s a lie” the serpent hissed. “God knows very well that the instant you eat it you will become like Him, for your eyes will be opened – you will be able to distinguish good from evil.”(Genesis 3:4, The Living Bible)
The pertinence and “provocativeness” of the evil’s temptation is brought out in this paraphrase:
When Eve asserted that God had commanded them (Adam and Eve) not to eat of the tree in the midst of the Garden: “Fake news! Fake news!” retorted the Serpent. God is trying to fool you and keep you in bondage and ignorance. For He knows that the moment you eat of the fruit of this tree, you will be on the same level as He is! Fake news!
Reader, note carefully the devil’s strategy here. He tempts Eve (and by extension Adam!) by subtly suggesting that God had ordered them not to eat from the tree in the midst of the Garden, as a means of keeping them in subjection in the confines of the Garden. If they would simply ignore the divine command then, presto! They would be on par with God. It was a blatant, cunning appeal to human pride and ambition, that same greed for power which led to the construction of the Tower of Babel. The temptation was such that Eve could not handle it. And so she “yielded to temptation, ate of the fruit and gave some to Adam and he also ate it up. Delicious!!!
Events take a rapid and inevitable turn in the wrong direction. The cunning serpent disappears from the scene. God appears on the scene, examines the first couple. They admit their guilt and are expelled from the Garden. And as Theologians in all ages unite in declaring, the sin of Adam leads to the involvement of all of humankind in sin. The true liberation of humankind from sin came through the shedding of the Blood of Christ, the Divine at Calvary. (John 3:16, Romans 3).
Why, then, did Adam and Eve (for one is as guilty as the other) succumb to the temptation of the serpent/Devil?
The answer is at hand:
They believed the devil’s subtle suggestion that the divine command (not to eat of the fruit of the Tree in the midst of the Garden) was indeed… “Fake News”!!!!
What is the “moral” of all this? It is a warning to us, not to succumb, like Adam and Eve, to the subtle temptations of the Devil. Positively, it is a solemn reminder to us that we cannot, on our own, resist the temptations of “the world, the flesh and the devil.” Ultimately, it is a call to us to keep our eye on Jesus, the Conqueror over Sin and Death, and in so doing we can indeed, overcome temptation.
Let us, then following in the Footsteps of the Master, heeding the advice of The Pope, be alert so that we may reject “Fake News.” and let us, instead receive “The Good News.” This, incidentally, is just another way of saying, “preach the Gospel” for Gospel (a German word) simply means “Good News!”
Could it be, then, that Augustine was warning, prophetically, of the dangers of “fake news” when he exhorted “preach the gospel and if necessary…use words!!!”
LORD GRANT ME THE WISDOM AND COURAGE TO DISCERN AND REJECT “FAKE NEWS” AND THE FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE TO PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS THROUGH CHRIST I PRAY. AMEN