Enough of the Shame
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the first humans hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. – Genesis 3:8 (NRSV, edited)
Shame is a powerful tool in religious life. It is a hook designed to bring people back into bounds. It is built to stop us in our tracks and to look to the religious power for relief. Shame is meant to change us. To whip us into submission.
Shaming is a violent deterrent.
Which is why it’s such a shame that we employ it so often.
This passage from Genesis has been used throughout the ages to justify shaming and violence against pretty much anyone but cis hetero men.
Which is, in itself, a shame, too. Because it didn’t have to be that way.
The story opens gently. God walks the garden in the cool of the day. God seeks God’s people – as God always does – and finds them feeling ashamed.
God actually grieves their shame. Do you notice this? God didn’t want the first humans to have to experience shame. God tried to protect them from it!
They had some curiosity about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and decided to bite.
But God had wanted to protect them from it. To shield them from information God believed they could not bear. To shelter them from the violence of shame.
I believe God to be telling us, even now:
Enough of the shame. You are my beloved. In you I am well pleased.
Make now the cool of the day. See me, God, in my nakedness and love every part of me. Embrace us as we are, not as we might be. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.