Sunday, 22 February 2015

Against Noah

Who could dislike the Noah story (leaving aside the merciless genocide aspect for a moment)? Every child is brought up on it, toys and books galore reference it, it's a reference-point so widely shared as to be endlessly retold, whether in affectionate and moving earnest (as in Kenneth Walker and Geoffrey Boumphrey's lovely The Log of the Ark, now sadly out of print) or in satirical parody (as in Julian Barnes' History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters). Even the Darren Aronofsky movie Noah was much, much better than we had any right to expect, and had the nerve to include the drunken, naked Noah bit at the end, though mercifully it never pretended to be anything more than hokum.

Well, sparked by his being in the lectionary today, here's my beef with Noah, and indeed with Adam and Eve, his only rivals for Sunday school and children's Bible stardom. When children are introduced to the Bible, it is to a remarkable extent through these two stories, possibly merely because they both have lots of animals in them. 

Then children grow up a little bit, and, especially if they really are interested in animals and the natural world, they discover that these stories are not literally true. So naturally, they conclude that the rest of what they are told in Sunday school  is probably also made up.

I'm not actually making a point about evolution or the historicity of the Noah story. True, I do strongly disagree with the Biblical-literalist approach here, but that's beside the point. If you are a literal, young-earth six-day creationist, you should also avoid teaching these stories too much to small children,  because they will quickly discover that they are, shall we say, controversial. To give anyone the impression that these stories are the fundamentals of the faith is, almost literally, to put a stumbling-block in children's paths.

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