Cain and Abel “Redivivus”
Yesterday, during a live broadcast of a real estate interview in Virginia, a former rejected reporter for the station walked up to the interview and fired shots by which he killed the reporter and her cameraman and seriously wounded the person being interviewed. This morning, TV news programs and talk shows are trying to figure out what causes such violent acts to be performed and how we can prevent such atrocities between persons in the future.
This is not a rare isolated occurrence. The Columbine High School and the Newtowne Elementary massacres, the murders in the movie theatres in Aurora, on military bases in Texas and in D.C., the killings of worshipers in a Charlotte church and many, many other even more horrendous acts in Europe, Africa and elsewhere have us all asking just what is the world coming to?
Many years ago, somewhere back near 1000 B.C. a man was also wondering what the answer was to the question, “If God is so good, how do evil events take place between people?” He could try to express how old a problem, if not a mystery, this sort of event could be by tracing it back to prehistory, in the story of Cain and Abel. Now I am not a Bible scholar, but I do not believe that the events of Genesis are in any way videotape recordings of real historical events. So what did the author wish to express to future readers. Let us look at the story from Genesis [4:1-9]
“Then Adam (taken from ‘Ha Adamah’ the earth) had intercourse with his wife (Eve, from ‘hawwah’, mother of the living’) and she became pregnant. She bore him a son and said, “By the Lord’s help I have gotten a son.” So she named him Cain( from ‘kaniti’, man-child),. Later, she gave birth to another son, Abel (from the word for ‘son’). Abel became a shepherd, but Cain was a farmer.” [Gen. 4: 1-2}
Each son wanted to make his father happy by gifting him some of the fruits of their labor. Nothing at all evil about that. So Cain brought him a big bowl of “Cheerios” whereas Abel brought to his Dad a fully prepared meal from one of his flock. Nothing wrong so far. Then it was Adam’s choice. He felt more like having a thanksgiving dinner than a bowl of cereal so he picked the dinner. Nothing evil so far.
But Cain was “pissed”. Somehow this had become a competition between the two brothers, and Cain lost. He wanted to be his father’s favorite, but as with every other human competition there is no satisfaction at earning a second place medal whether the competition be for a playground medal, on the sports field, or in business, or in the pursuit of the beloved, or in the race for election as President of the U.S. Competition is everywhere and winning is the goal, even when we must induce failure into our competition.
Cain felt something all of us feel at times but we must learn to handle the feelings better than Cain did. He never told anyone how he felt, instead he nursed the failure within his own mind and heart, generating imagined offenses by others who had done nothing wrong, planning to justify his feelings and plotting ways of recovering his “good” self-mage and respect by others. Such it was in the mind and heart of the Virginia killer. Following his act of revenge, his inability to live with what he had done forced him to end his unresolvable dilemma by removing himself from reality. He hoped.
The story of Judas in the New Testament is so similar. Why did Jesus choose him as an apostle? It was not an evil act for Jesus to select him, but it is a mystery. Other apostles witness a similar difficulty. James and John while gladly following Jesus, ask to be given the best “seats” in heaven and they are supported by their mother’s wishes as well. Jesus dismisses their ambition by telling them that those who are least here and the servants of others will be first in the Kingdom of heaven.
Competition and consequent failure generate hurt, envy, jealousy and a seeking for revenge, even sometimes murderous. Those who do not really believe in God, in Jesus and his teachings have no recourse except to justifiable violence to rectify injustices, real or imagined. Especially when these murderers never learned that powerlessness and need is the universal experience of what it is to be human and our radical need for God. It can be the first prayer one learns. Help!