Thursday, February 19, 2009

a familiar refrain

It's pretty well impossible to get round the fact that the god who stars in the Old Testament is not a nice guy. There are numerous instances of gobsmacking cruelty and barbarity throughout, but I'll just focus on one event: the Flood.

Kids tend to like this story, with the animals tramping into the ark two by two, joined, we can imagine, by love and loyalty, eager to face a new beginning. But outside the ark? Apparently we needn't worry about the people outside the ark, not to mention the other living things. We're assured that they all deserved to die:

5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” [Genesis 6: 5-7 – ESV Bible]

Of course the god's judgement is infallible, so if he says [or somebody says that he says] every person's thoughts were continually evil we aren't really in a position to demur. As for all the other creeping and flying things, the fact that the god is sorry that he made them should be enough for us.

But of course it isn't, not for any thinking feeling person. It was this part of the story - of drowning, desperate people, of toddlers and six year olds swimming and struggling desperately for disappearing higher ground, seeing their siblings and parents washed away, seeing dead babies and animals floating by – that haunted me. It didn't get much of a mention in the sermons.

Yet the sermonisers and interpreters can't quite wash their hands of this crime. On's page about the Flood, under 'Points of interest from the story', the interpreter kindly informs us that God's purpose in the flood was not to destroy people, but to destroy wickedness and sin. So the god really wanted to get rid of unspecified 'wickedness and sin', and the only way he could think to do that, in spite of being all-powerful, was to destroy every living person, not to mention, again, all the other living things. I should've paid attention to this explanation when I was younger, but somehow it slipped by me. All I kept in my head were hundreds of drowned babies, and screaming, gurgling children. And later, in association, the bowed, cowed children following their wicked parents into gas chambers. After all, the Reich's purpose wasn't to destroy people, but to make everything cleaner and brighter for the chosen ones of the earth.



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