Although Beth was a good girl who said her prayers every night and always paid attention to her elders, she still found many things in life confusing. It was during these times of puzzlement that Beth sought a warm seat on her mother's lap. There, teased by smells drifting out from the kitchen, she would listen her mother's soft voice dispensing wisdom and kindness and love.
And so it was that Beth came home from school one day with a question for her mother.
"Mother," Beth said, "one of the kids at school told me that way back a long time ago people used to be monkeys. Is that true?"
Her mother smiled gently down at her, caressed her golden hair with one hand, and spoke in a soft, comforting voice. "Of course not, Dear One," she said. "That's a silly idea. People don't look much like monkeys, do they?"
"Well, no. But then where did people come from?" Beth asked.
"The Bible holds all the answers, Dear One. All you need to do is listen to its words and not ask too many questions. Come sit on the couch with me and I'll tell you a story from the Bible that will show you what I mean," said her mother.
And this is the story she told:
One day, way back at the beginning of time, there wasn't anything. After that, God created heaven and earth, but earth was nothing but a big blob. Then God made light -- which he liked a lot -- and got all the darkness out of it.
The next day, God made a land up in the sky, and he moved some of the water from the ocean up above that land. And God called the sky heaven.
"Mother," interrupted Beth, "our teacher didn't tell us anything about there being water up higher than the sky. Aren't astronauts afraid of drowning?"
"One of the lessons of this story is that you shouldn't always believe your teachers, Dear One," said her mother. "Just listen to the word of the Lord."
Then the next day, God put some dry land in the middle of the water on earth, and he liked that a lot. Then he made grass, and herbs, and fruit trees, and he liked those, too.
The day after that, God made big lights called the sun, moon, and stars. He stuck these lights into the bottom side of heaven so that people could tell what season and year it was and he put them in just the right place so that astrology would work. God liked all of this a lot.
On the next day, God made fish and birds. He liked these a lot. In fact, he liked them so much that he told them to have sex so that there would be a bunch more of them later.
The next day, God made cows, bugs, hyenas and other animals. Then God made men and women who looked just like him and put them in charge of fish, birds, cows, bugs, and other things like that. God blessed the people and told them to have sex so that there would be a bunch more of them later and they could rule the world. Then God told the people that they could eat all the herbs and all the fruit on earth. He also told the hyenas, birds, bugs, and other things that they could eat all the green herbs that they wanted.
God liked all of this a lot. But he was so tired from all the work that he took the next day off.
"From this we can learn many things," said Beth's mother. "We learn that the horoscopes in the newspapers are a gift from God, that both men and women look just like God, and that bugs aren't supposed to eat fruit"
"I see," said Beth. "God created people all at once and we all look like him, right? That means that men and women are all equal in God's eyes, right?"
Her mother thought a moment. "No, of course not, Dear One. Here, let me tell you another story that will make things more clear."
And this was the story she told:
On the same day that God made the earth and heaven, he made plants and herbs, but he needed help planting them. So he made a statue out of some mud. When God breathed up the nose of the statue, it came to life. Then God made a garden in a place called Eden and put the man there with lots of fruit trees and the tree of knowing the difference between right and wrong.
So God put the man in the garden and told him to take care of it. He also told the man that he could eat all the fruit he wanted except for that on the tree of knowing the difference between right and wrong because that fruit was poisonous.
Beth interrupted, "I thought that God told him that he could eat everything?"
"That was in the last story, Dear One," answered her mother. "This one is different."
"But they're both true?" Beth asked.
"Yes, Dear One."
God decided that the man, who was named Adam, would be sad all alone in the garden, so he decided to make a special friend for him. With some more dirt, God made cows and birds and other things like that and brought them to Adam so he could name them. But even with all those animals, Adam didn't find anyone to be his special friend.
"I thought that God made the animals before he made people?" said Beth.
"Please, Dear One," said Beth's mother, "try listening more with your heart. God is very mysterious, and sometimes the things he does don't make sense to people like us. You must have faith that he does what is best."
So God knocked Adam unconscious, and while Adam was asleep, God took one of Adam's ribs and made a woman out of it. When Adam woke up, he said, "This is my relative who is made out of me." The woman was named Eve. Adam and Eve were naked, but that didn't bother them.
Now there was a really clever snake in the garden, and he went up to Eve and said, "Hey, didn't God say that you could eat all the trees in the garden?"
"We can eat anything in the garden," said the woman, "except for fruit from the tree of knowing the difference between right and wrong. God says we'll die if we even touch that tree."
Then the snake said to the woman, "God's lying. You'll know the difference between right and wrong if you eat that fruit, just like he does. God doesn't want that, so he lied and said that the fruit was poison."
So the woman went up to the tree of knowing the difference between right and wrong and saw that the fruit looked good. And because she didn't know right from wrong yet, she picked the fruit and ate it. After that, she gave a piece to Adam and he ate it.
Then, all of a sudden, Adam and Eve noticed that they were naked! They ran around and sewed fig leaves together to make aprons so that they would have something to wear.
After a while, they heard God walking by, so they hid in the trees. Then God called out, "Adam, where are you?"
And Adam yelled back, "I'm hiding because I'm naked!"
And God yelled back, "Who told you that you were naked?"
And Adam yelled back, "I figured it out for myself!"
And God yelled, "Wait a minute! Did you eat from the tree of knowing the difference between right and wrong?"
"Well, yes," said Adam. "But this woman you made to be my special friend made me do it! She brought me the fruit and told me to eat it!"
So God said to Eve, "Why did you do that, Eve?"
Eve answered, "Because the snake told me to and I didn't know the difference between right and wrong yet."
Then God went to the snake and said, "Because you told a lie, you are to be more cursed than cows, or hyenas, or any other animal. I'm going to cut off your legs so that you have to walk on your stomach for the rest of your life and eat dust. Also, I'm going to make people hate you."
Beth wasn't really sure what the snake had lied about, but she was too caught up in the story to interrupt her mother and ask.
The woman's punishment was next. "Because you did something wrong, even though you didn't know that what you did was bad, I am going to punish you. From now on you will be sad and in pain when you have children, and will be your husband's slave."
God talked to Adam last. "Because you did what your wife told you to do," he said, "the ground will hate you for all of your life. Thorns and thistles will grow out of the ground, and you will eat herbs. You will have to make your own bread and be buried when you die."
Then God made Adam and Eve some new clothes and threw them out of the garden. God was worried that if he let Adam and Eve stay in the garden, they might eat fruit from the tree of never having to die, and then they'd be around forever. God commanded an angel with a sword that was on fire to stand outside the garden so that nobody could ever get in again.
"This story teaches us many important lessons," Beth's mother said. "It teaches us that snakes eat nothing but dust and that they can talk. It teaches us that God doesn't mind men having sex with their relatives. It teaches us that bread and bushes are part of God's punishment for us. It teaches us that having sex and having children are not supposed to make women happy. And most importantly, it teaches us that women are but a small part of men and their slaves."
"I guess that my teacher was wrong about a lot of things," Beth said, "Like about where people come from, and what the sky is made of, and stuff like that. She even said that the moon isn't a light but a big rock! Boy is she stupid."
Beth's mother smiled. "Now, now. It's not nice to say that other people are stupid, Dear One. I'm sure that your teacher is doing her best to tell you what she believes to be true. She is just tragically, hopelessly wrong."
Beth thought about this for a moment. Then she smiled and hugged her mother. All her questions had been answered.
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