A Bible-licious Fable
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Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?" And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me." Then the LORD said to him, "Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven-fold." And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
– Genesis 4: 8-16.
The mark of Cain is an infamous justification for the oppression of Black Americans. Racists in this country have long claimed that the black skin is the mark of Cain, though the Bible gives no indication of what kind of mark God put onto Cain after discovering that Cain had murdered Abel. But the black folks disagreed. I don’t recall where or when I heard this story, but it’s definitely worth repeating here.
Deep in the mists of unrecorded history, in the bad old days of the unlamented James Crow, a black preacher once found himself utterly sick at heart, and not for the first time, of hearing how the "mark of Cain" was a sign that his was a degenerate race, one unworthy of full American citizenship. On his knees, weeping for his people, he prayed for guidance, begging the LORD to show him a way to help his people to overcome the demoralizing accusation inflicted upon them. So intense was his concentration that he fell into a swoon and lay unconscious on the floor. When he regained consciousness he discovered that he had received an inspiration.
For the next several days he went around his community, telling everyone he could reach that they absolutely had to be in church the following Sunday. "Even if they have to bring you in on a stretcher," he said to people, "you have to be there." In the evenings he spent his time preparing and refining a special sermon on the subject of the mark of Cain.
Sure enough, the next Sunday morning the preacher’s church was packed. The pews were completely filled and people were standing against the walls. For the first time in his career the preacher felt his heart pounding with anxiety as he approached the pulpit and addressed the congregation.
"My Brothers and Sisters," he said, "you have all heard of the mark that the LORD put on Cain."
A groan rose from the congregation.
"Yes," the preacher said, "We’ve all heard way too much about the mark of Cain. But what was that mark? Can we figure it out?
"The Bible tells us that four rivers flow out of Eden, so we know that Eden is not in Mesopotamia: that’s where two rivers come together. No, Eden is in central Africa. From there you have the Congo flowing west, the Nile to the north, the Zambezi to the east, and the Okavango to the south. That means that Adam and Eve and their children were African.
"Further, the Bible tells us that God made Adam from the dust of the ground. Well, let me tell you, God isn’t going to impress His image on just any old pile of dirt. No, God used the best soil for the creation of Man. And any farmer will gladly tell you that the best soil..." – he held up his right arm and pointed to the back of his hand – "...is this color. So now we know what color Adam and Eve and their children were.
"Now Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve’s sons, invented sibling rivalry and took it to an extreme. One day they got into a big fight and Cain killed Abel and then, compounding the sin, hid the body. Some time later God came down into the world and came up behind Cain, who was crouched down, working on something.
"And God said, ‘Cain, have you seen your brother Abel lately?’ And Cain said, ‘Naw, man, ain’t seen him.’ And God said, ‘I was supposed to meet him today, but he wasn’t at the meeting place. Did he say anything to you about going somewhere else?’ And Cain said, ‘Naw, man, ain’t talked to him.’ And God said, ‘It’s really not like him to disappear like this. Has he done or said anything lately that would lead you to believe that he has gone somewhere else?’ And Cain, with all the emotional stability of nitroglycerin, exploded in a rage and jumped up, yelling, ‘Get off my back, you stinking pile of...!’ And then he turned around and saw who he was yelling at so disrespectfully. He became so terrified that he turned as white as a sheet..." – and the preacher paused for effect and then said with a wicked grin – "...and his descendants have been that color ever since."
P’fft. So much for the mark of Cain!
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