In the history books, our best guess as to the oldest civilization is inMesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It is in this ancient civilization that our story starts. Archeology has uncovered a lot of traits of these first primitives that seem to correspond quite well with our race today.These people had many different beliefs. Most of these beliefs came from the scientific community. They saw that the crop grew according to certain forces that they couldn’t control. A year with little rain meant people went starving.If the sun decided to stay in the sky for too long, then the crop was scorched,and both animals and people were affected.
It was in these outside forces that were beyond human control that the idea of god or gods developed. The ancient civilization of Mesopotamia had a God of the gods named Anu. From the very first through all the other civilizations, there is a God of the gods…
What happens most often is that the people depend on these gods to provide for them.If the god of bread doesn’t cause the yeast to rise, then he is angry at you.And if the hunting god doesn’t allow you to return from the hunt with a kill,it is the fault of the whole city. If the sun god scorches the crop, and causes a famine, then someone, or something, somewhere has upset the gods. It all leads back to being in right relationship with the gods.
Now,if you do the right thing, and everything goes your way, you offer a sacrifice to the gods to show that you are grateful. If the gods are happy with your offering, then they will continue to bless you. If they are not, then they will stop blessing you. So if you offer a tenth of your first fruits, and then the gods bless you, what do you offer next year? You can’t offer the same amount as last year, because now you’ve made more. You would insult the gods.
If you didn’t get the gods blessing, then what do you do? You have to offer more,because the gods are angry. Whether you are blessed or cursed, you must always offer more, because the gods are always demanding to be appeased to greater degrees. This might be how we end up with gods like Baal who would require the priests to slash themselves with swords so that the blood runs, and offer up the firstborn male child. It might be how we get Asherah, who demands that when you worship her, everyone strips and has sex with everyone else who is around.Whether male or female, you grab the closest person and you “worship.”
The book of Genesis was written, most likely, around 1400 B.C.E. This writing was revolutionary. It tells of a God who is one. This is the God of gods, and He created the heavens and the earth. But He didn’t stop there. He created male and female in His image. And He gave them the command to rule over the earth and to tend to it. Genesis speaks about this God who doesn’t require man to appease Him. He simply requires that man would be one with Him, as He is one yet many (creator, spirit, word).
When you read the Bible, it continually goes back to this idea of being one. It continually points to God and says, “Be one as I am one.” This is the birth of community. Even the book of Leviticus, with its 613 laws, is a revolutionary presentation of freedom from what tradition and culture had taught.
So,when you get to Christianity… It isn’t so much about attending a congregation or serving or doing. It is about being. It is about displaying freedom for freedom’s sake. You no longer have to live like this. You no longer have to serve the gods of this world who demand more and more from you. The pastor whois running around frantic, you can be free. The man who works 2 jobs because he can’t afford the mortgage can be free from both debt, and from the obsession of keeping up with the Joneses. The high school boy who gets picked on and tormented can be free from the hatred in his heart for himself and all the others around him. The girl who cuts herself to make sure she can still feel can find freedom from the numbness and unreality of this life.
God’s primary message of the Bible is “You don’t have to live like this. The gods are not angry, and you are welcome to be my people.”