How we perceive things creates our world. But things are not always as we imagine. A brown field site can be the most prolific nesting site for nightingales and a piece of green belt of little value to agriculture or nature. Yet it is received wisdom that brown field sites should be built on first.
Peter Hall gave us a wonderful example of the fallibility of our perceptions in his Bible study and sermon a couple of Sundays ago. He reminded us that there are two creation stories in Genesis, which expand, balance and even seemingly contradict one another. Had I remembered that? No! He also explained the play on the Hebrew words ‘Adam’, the name given to the first human, and ‘Adamah’, the word for the red earth from which Adam is created. There is no female form of the name Adam in Hebrew, but if there were, it would be Adamah. Such are the subtleties contained in the creation story.
When God decides to make a ‘helper’ for the single human, it is not as a subordinate. The Hebrew word implies someone who may be an equal or, even at times, superior to the one being helped. This aspect of the two creation stories depicts a close, loving and supportive relationship, rather than the superiority of man over woman.
So it is with nature. We have interpreted the Biblical creation stories as putting us at the top of the tree, just below God and therefore in charge, in a position to control and exploit the natural world. To have dominion over things – whether people or the natural world – actually implies stewardship. When a ruler was unable to look after his large kingdom, he appointed someone to ‘have dominion’ over it, to take care of it on his behalf.
“Did you know, Grandad, that back in the day women couldn’t vote and had to fight to be able to?”, said my 10 year old grandson.
“Yes, Tay, amazing isn’t it. And it wasn’t till my mum, your great grandma was 13 years old that women were allowed to vote. What’s more, from 1662 onwards, women who got married in church promised to obey their husbands and that lasted until 1928, the same year as women got the vote, when a new prayer book came out.”
“And you wouldn’t have seen many women at football matches either.”
That was the conversation we had coming home from the match at Stockport County last Saturday, where we had been sitting next to a mother and her daughter and son. Both mother and daughter were wearing the hijab.