An Apple or a Car
“JANE, YOU MISSED the turn,” Lucia said as they crossed the arterial road on their way back from shopping.
Jane remained focused dead ahead. “Something I want to see,” she said. “It will only take a few minutes.”
Lucia knew exactly where she was headed — to Auto Dealer Row. Some new models came out in the last few weeks, and Jane’s obsession was new cars. She didn’t need a new car. Jane just wanted to look.
A few days later, Lucia met with her childhood friend Tobias Renquist, now Father Renquist, the priest. They met to talk periodically, sort of a friendly exchange of ideas with the vague goal of gaining either a new slant on Christian philosophy for Lucia or a homily topic for Tobias.
With the weather warm and sunny, they sat down on the bench in the little enclosed garden between the church and the rectory. “How are Gary, Sam, the twins, and Alexandria?” Tobias inquired.
“All are well. The kids are growing like weeds,” Lucia told him. “I leave for work in the morning, and when I come home, they’ve grown another inch. And how about you? How are things here?”
Tobias sighed. “As we have discussed, the hierarchy needs to get its act together. They have completely forgotten the purpose of God’s church. They’ve gone into circle-the-wagons mode. No one takes responsibility for all the harm.”
“You sound ready to leave,” Lucia said.
“No,” Tobias assured her. “Better to work from within than without. But what shall we talk about today? I don’t have a lot of time. I have a young couple coming in for pre-marriage counsel. They’ve been together for five years, so it’s just a formality. What am I going to say to them since they know each other so well already?”
“Temptation is everywhere,” Lucia observed. An idea struck her. “I think I may have an idea for a sermon. I think I hit on a way to revisit the Genesis story.”
Tobias grinned tightly. “Been there, done that. I think over my career as a priest, I have found hundreds of ways to relate that tale.”
“Just give me a minute to brainstorm the details for you and then you can decide,” Lucia said. She got up to pace. She often walked when she talked, and she thought her walking increased her circulation and therefore improved her thinking. “Okay, listen to this,” she began.
“As you know Adam and Eve had it all. They had so much. They had no idea what it was to be cold, hungry, thirsty, sick, or afraid. Nor had they ever seen any natural disasters because they were surrounded by peace and the weather was so perfect that they could spend all day naked up to their neck enjoying everything that the Lord had procured for them. Adam and Eve were intelligent. They understood very well the Lord’s instructions concerning obedience. In other words, they knew that they had complete freedom, except that they could not touch the apple tree. I don’t know why it had to be apples. It could have been oranges or plums, but that day the Lord must have been in an apple mood.”
“Lucia, we talked many times about details that bear no relation to the meaning of a story,” Tobias said. “I don’t hear anything I have not heard bazillions of times before.”
“I haven’t gotten to the analogy, so just wait. So one day, Eve strolls by the apple tree, the same way we look at brand-new cars for sale.”
Suddenly, Tobias brightened. Lucia went on. “All of a sudden, the serpent gets close to Eve and begs her to taste the apple. He tells her he has been waiting for her for several days. All he wants her to do is to take a bite as a favor to him. Just the same way a salesman seduces a customer to test-drive that shiny brand-new car.”
Pretending to be the salesman, Lucia jangled her keys in front of Tobias. “Here are the keys. C’mon. Help me out. The boss is watching. Let me show him I’m doing my job.” Lucia switched to the sibilant snake. “C’mon, Eve. Just touch the apple, do it for me.”
“I think I’ve used the ‘just touch it’ metaphor before.”
“Be patient and listen,” Lucia admonished. “Eve says, ‘To touch is not to eat, right?’And the salesman says, ‘Driving the car does not mean that you’re actually buying it, right?’ So Eve takes the apple in her hand. It’s lovely — red and shiny and perfect in shape with a delicious aroma. The customer slides behind the wheel. The car is shiny and new, inside and out. And it has that new car smell! The serpent encourages, ‘Taste it. Taste it. Where’s the harm in a little taste?’ The salesman says, ‘Just give it a quick spin. Where’s the harm in a test drive?’ With the apple so close to her lips, Eve cannot resist taking a bite. Sitting behind the wheel, the customer cannot resist starting up and pulling onto the street. Eve swoons down to a grassy mound, mesmerized by the taste of the forbidden apple. The customer says, ‘I’ll take it,’ mesmerized by the smooth ride and deft handling. The customer signs the sales contract. Adam finds Eve on the grassy mound, nibbling at the apple. He freaks! ‘Woman! Are you out of your mind? What are you doing?’ Eve holds out the fruit to him and says, ‘Don’t say anything and taste this incredible fruit!’ The apple is so shiny and red and smells wonderful. Adam reasons that since Eve already had a bite, the damage is done. He takes a big bite. The customer’s husband sees his wife pull the new car into the driveway. He freaks! ‘Oh my god, what are you doing buying this car?’ The man’s wife says, ‘Don’t say a word and get into this amazing car.’ Her husband sees how shiny and aerodynamic the car is, and it has that new car smell! He reasons that the car has been bought, so the damage is done. He gets in and takes the car for a spin around the neighborhood.
“Then, all of a sudden, with the flavor of the apple still in Adam and Eve’s mouths, the Lord arrives and berates them, ‘I can see that you have disobeyed me. Both of you have eaten from the forbidden fruit. Now, at once you must leave paradise forever!’ Eve falls to her knees and tries to explain to the Lord the weakness of her character, saying she only did what the serpent told her. Just like the customer tells herself she was only trying to help the salesman to sell a car. ‘And you, Adam, what can you tell me?’ demands the Lord. And Adam whines, ‘This woman that you have given me really pushed me to bite the apple!’ And the husband reasons that his wife bought the car, so he has to drive it. And the Lord intones, ‘Adam, not only have you disobeyed me, but then you blame Eve! You have made the mistake of your lifetime. You knew Eve committed a sin, and you had time to reflect upon her conduct and still went ahead and knowingly you made the choice to disobey.
“Thus, the two sinners were thrown out of paradise because they ate the forbidden fruit, deliberately disobeying the Lord. And now the modern couple is condemned to pay for a car they can barely afford. Who then committed the biggest sin in either case, the man or the woman? Two people with the same moral background committed the sin. And this explains to us that there is no masculine or feminine sin because a sin is a sin. The challenge now is not to behave like either one of these two but to have the courage to follow social and divine norms in order to be able to enjoy peace of mind and tranquility of spirit during one’s lifetime.”
Tobias thought hard, considering all Lucia said. This could make an intriguing sermon, he thought. Turning to Lucia, he said, “So, your friend Jane is looking at cars again?”