Can somebody, for once, please just tell me why it's not a big deal if God creates humanity through a prolonged process involving death? This is my current hurtle with theistic evolution.
It is a big deal, admittedly, but that's because we interpret Genesis 1-2 as a scientific or descriptive text. I would not argue that the ancients did not see Genesis 1-2 as somehow descriptive, or as representing what happened on a physical level; it seems pretty clear that, given the state of scientific knowledge of those times, to the ancients (anyone pre-1890), the descriptions in Genesis 1-2 seemed just as good as any other idea on how the cosmos was created or developed. Genesis 1-2 was written within an ancient middle-eastern cosmological framework
(a solid dome stretching over the earth; with waters contained above the dome; firm pillars supporting the earth/dome; etc.).
Where Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 differ, though, is how each relates to 'death' (physical death, specifically). Genesis 1 doesn't seem to find it problematic; Genesis 1 takes a more 'impersonal' view of the cosmos and Elohim: Elohim is a distant creator, quite transcending to the world. I would say Genesis 1 is more compatible with current science, because of its depiction of a very transcending, impersonal deity; whereas Genesis 2 depicts a deity (who is now named "Yahweh Elohim") who is very personal, very immanent, and cares intimately for humanity so much that He creates one person initially (instead of several, as in Genesis 1). The Genesis 2 Yahweh Elohim is someone you can talk to, and someone who seems a bit more 'feminine' in character, because the man who is created is told to tend a garden. So this man has a purpose, and since death would counteract that purpose, the Genesis 2 Adam is not created to physically die.
Contrast that to the Genesis 1 human population, whose purpose is not to tend a garden, but to produce more humans: the production of more humans can continue, even if the older people die, so physical death is not a big deal (and, in fact, may be necessary, in order to provide room for the new children). However, tending a garden is different, being more dependent upon the gardener remaining alive and using his gardening knowledge. And when you garden, it really helps to have help; thus, the appearance of Eve, as someone with whom Adam can be in relationship, someone who can help Adam understand both himself and Yahweh Elohim. The strike of death would disrupt this relationship, and disrupt the tending of the garden.
In short, perhaps Genesis 1 represents a more "materialistic" view of life, in which matter is the foundation, and humans the culmination, and in which death is simply part of the process; and Genesis 2 represents a more "spiritual" view of life, in which spirit/soul (represented by Adam) is the foundation, and the spirit/soul's relationship to another spirit/soul (represented by Eve) is the culmination. In Genesis 1, death is part of the process; in Genesis 2, death disrupts human relationship, and, as a disruptor of human relationship, is not something Yahweh Elohim intended at the beginning.