Daily Reflection
February 7th, 2007

Barbara Dilly

Department of Anthropology and Sociology
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Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17
Psalms 104:1-2a, 27-28, 29bc-30
Mark 7:14-23

The Genesis story reminds us that God created the earth a long time before the creation of man. Scientific evidence supports claims that the earth had been a pretty active planet long before humans came on the scene. The Genesis story says the earth was a place of beauty and there was plenty of food to eat. Scientists have a pretty good idea of what it must have looked like and the kinds of plants and animals that made up the food chain. The Genesis story says that temptations of evil were also there. Scientists do focus on that matter.

We humans learn from the Bible and other religious texts that from the very beginning of our fragile existence, we were vulnerable to evil. While anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and theologians all have different ways of thinking about “evil,” they all recognize that there is something troubling about the human condition. From the perspective of an anthropologist, I can say that we know human beings are rather self-centered creatures who think more about short term individual concerns than what is good for all of creation on the long term. And, we tend to see reality from the perspective of our own experience and not the experiences of others. This makes it difficult for us to work with others to solve problems. It also makes it easy for us to project blame for our problems on others. The study of the development of human civilizations reveals story after story of peoples who thought they had all of their problems solved, only to find that they had created some they couldn’t resolve: war, famine, inequality, disease, and environmental degradation. Time after time, people who had accomplished great things have had to start all over again.

The Old Testament reveals our ancient story of coming to terms with our need for God to protect and sustain us on this earth. The Psalmist sings praises to a great and glorious creator God who gives life and food to all creatures. This God is not only the giver and taker of life, but this God can renew the face of the earth. Secularists have identified a human spirit that keeps people going, no matter what happens to them, but people of faith believe that this spirit comes from God. People of faith believe that when we let the spirit of God reside in us, no evil can threaten or destroy us. In fact, we can be renewed by this spirit.

It is what is inside of us, not what is outside of us that sustains and protects us or causes evil thoughts and behaviors, says Jesus. That seems pretty basic, but Jesus knows that we are ever trying to define what is evil in terms of what is external to us instead of what is in our hearts. Sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists understand this problem in terms of social expectations, cultural norms, and psychological dispositions, all things that are in our minds. Jesus offers yet another way to understand our problems. He tells us to listen to what he says with an open heart as well as an open mind. Today I pray that our hearts and minds are touched by the spirit in which we are created: The spirit of life and light, the spirit of all good things, and the spirit of renewal. May we be open to this spirit in all that we think and do.

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