I’m not really sure how many parts there are going to be for this, but I figured we’d start here. I’ve been threatening to share this for a while. Many of you may already be familiar, but I’m sure seeing it in print will help.
If we go by the literal word of certain holy texts, God is an a-hole. He’s a controlling jerk-wad with serious possessiveness issues, a mean sadistic streak (not redundant), frankly seems to also suffer from MPD and “honesty issues”.
If we’re supposed to subscribe to a God like that, do you really think this is going to bring the world to a place of love and peace and understanding? ”Love me or I’ll smite you” doesn’t result in love; it only creates fear and ultimately resentment.
No, the literal translation of some parts of holy texts cannot possibly support the idea that God cares for us in any way, so there’s obviously another interpretation.
(The Old Testament is notorious for allegory and parable. If you try to read most of it literally, you’re going to break your brain.)
Come along with me on this one:
The short version is that Noah was just a man and, according to my theory of evolution, a direct descendant of Adam and Eve since he lived to be 950 years old. (That’s not important to this part, but it’s kind of neat.) Noah had a drinking problem. It was pretty bad, even leading him to curse his own son in a drunken stupor. Not such a great candidate for father of the year.
Noah’s drinking was triggered by dealing with people who blatantly and completely ignored the Word of God. He himself wasn’t terribly special or amazing, he was just a priest, not a prophet, but it aggravated him to see that happening.
So, God made a deal with him. He said, “Hey, Noah, I love you so much, I’m going to help you out big time. Built a big boat [a symbol of promise, commitment and trust] and put only what’s important to you and important to me. I’ll take care of the rest.” Noah builds a big boat for all things that are truly important – plants, animals, his family – and then God sends the mother of all storms.
Water is nearly universally the symbol of emotion. (I only say “nearly” because while I’ve never run across it not meaning “emotion”, I also haven’t read every single symbolism analysis on the planet.) A storm in terms of this symbol is intense emotional upheaval. Along comes this storm for forty days and nights, and all the while the storm rages, Noah is kept afloat in this “promise”… but no alcohol, just his loved ones.
It cannot possibly be a coincidence that it has been observed for thousands of years that it takes forty days to make or break any habit, and it also takes about that long for a body to detoxify from just about any addictive condition.
After the storm comes 150 days (or more, depending on which version you read) where the violence has stopped, but the emotion remains, and only God’s love (promise, trust) keeps Noah and the loved things afloat. This means that even after the detoxification (the habit-breaking), the emotional enormity was still a significant threat and that it still wasn’t safe for Noah to reenter the social world.
When he has finally come near the end of his time in the boat, he sends out a raven to look for land. The raven here represents resentment, anger, and determination based in bitterness. ”Screw you guys, you can’t make me drink anymore!” However, in fear lies weakness, and anger is founded in fear. It’s not until he sends out the dove – the symbol of unconditional love and (more importantly) compassion – that he’s able to receive an affirmation of peace (the olive branch) and find solid ground.
When he does finally get to dry land, he has no reason to drink, no influence at all but to be surrounded by his loved ones and to return to the very important task of being the steward of the land.
Here’s an important factor: In most versions, the whole part with the youngest son coming in and seeing his drunk father naked has been places after the Flood, but frankly, that just doesn’t make any sense, even if it were meant to be a “God is an a-hole” story. It doesn’t factor into the lesson in any other way, and why include it if it were not important? The logical explanation is that through the many, many retellings, it has been misplaced either by accident (a legitimate mistake) or on purpose (to justify the editors’ own drinking problem).
So, if you know how to read it, God’s not that big of a jerk after all. You just have to be able to read between the lines to get to know Him through His texts.