I hate it when something has been staring me in the face and I miss it for say, oh, thirty years. Something obvious and horrible has been pointed out to me and I am embarrassed that in all the time since I declared my lack of belief in the divine at age 9 that it has never occurred to me until now. Christian friends be warned, you may not like what I have to write here today.
Even as a little non-believer I always thought the story of Noah’s Ark was “cute.” All those animals being led two by two and the dove bringing the olive leaf seemed harmless enough. Who doesn’t love stories about fuzzy lions, bears and antelopes finding their way out of the flood? Well, maybe the rest of the Antedeluvians.
You see, if you accept this story as being literal, then you have to accept that God killed a lot of people by drowning them. Drowning is not fun. It is frightening and painful. Your response may be to say that God only killed the wicked, but he killed everyone, including small children. I’ll leave aside my usual problems with “Suffer the children,” maybe you really think it is OK for children to die for God’s glory. How though, do you ever make it acceptable in your head and your heart to make a child die in an agonizing and terror inducing fashion? This from a group that comprises the vast majority of the “pro-life” movement (though in the interest of being fair, I need to point out that that movement does not necessarily compromise the majority, vast or otherwise, of Christians.)
Now maybe you don’t take it literally. Maybe the Bible for you is a collection of stories to inspire and contemplate even if you do believe in the divinity of Christ. The largest growing segment of Christianity, however, does take it literally. They believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. How they square this with the above knowledge I just do not know. Maybe they decide not to take that part literally, but if they do that, how do they make those distinctions? If you are just picking and choosing what really happened and which is just an inspiring story why take any of it literally and why should I take you seriously when you say the Bible is the word of God? It all seems arbitrary and self serving to me.
Even if you do not take it literally you are sharing a story, often with your children because, after all, Noah’s Ark is the “child friendly” story in the Bible, this horrifying tale. You are helping them to internalize that human suffering, even the suffering of innocents, is OK if God says so. Many otherwise open minded and compassionate Christians are helping to condition their children to more readily accept the fire and brimstone version of their faith. I feel a little bad for pointing this out to those people. I know it is a bitter pill and I am ruining what they thought was a relatively harmless part of their traditions. I just cannot in good conscience stay quiet about it.
I cannot really blame people of faith for not seeing this earlier (unless, of course, it had been presented to them) after all, I did not see it and I’ve always been critical of religion. Now that we do see it though, I hope at the very least you reflect on your traditions and what they say and do.