This week’s homily was motivated by an particularly insightful response to last week’s essay, “God as Valentine:”
“I am of the mind that the practice of the time should not be mingled with the theology/belief that we in today’s world have or should have for who God is.”
What’s so exciting about this response is that it addresses, with laser focus, the reason so many of us are hurting right now: We have accepted ancient scribes’ vision of what God is, what God wants, what God does and through what practices God should be served.
Is it possible that the ancient scribes’ view of God might not be real? Their view of God is based on their limited knowledge of everything from genetics and geography to astronomy and physics. Most of those who heard their stories were illiterate, not intellectuals.
Our understanding of life on this planet has evolved; yet we place our faith in ancient scribes who believed that the earth not only was flat; it was the center of the Universe. The ancients believed that God demanded live sacrifices. Today, we call such sacrifices satanic.
What changed: Us or God?
If we had a better understanding of what God is and what God does, we wouldn’t feel so abandoned or punished when Life flips us on our heads. Is our faith in the words or in our God? As Stevie says, “When you believe in things that you don’t understand, you suffer.”
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand this: In the ancients’ version of human history, God planned a mass murder; he declared that he would ”wipe out” every plant and tree, and all but a few living creatures. He then waited patiently for decades for Noah to build an ark so that God could stow away a few survivors.
Then, the scribes tell us, after that long wait, God turned on the spigot and forgot about the ark. On the 40th day, they wrote, God “remembered” (Gen. 8:1). Are we to believe that God is not omniscient or that the ancients weren’t sophisticated storytellers?
Not sure? Try this: As their story continues, the rain suddenly stopped; but the waters didn’t recede for another 110 days. That seems to have confused poor Noah–and we certainly can understand that. He had to have been delirious by then.
Let’s face it: 150 days on a luxury cruise ship would drive anyone batty! What would be the mental condition of someone confined to a vessel with one window and one door–and filled with fecal matter and carcasses of animals (and perhaps humans) who didn’t survive the life-threatening and unsanitary conditions? Without a 150-day supply of food and potable water, how did any of them survive?
The ancient scribes didn’t think that through. They could only write what they knew.
An omniscient God, however, certainly knew what would happen under such inhumane conditions. So what does that say for this version of history being from God’s mouth to the scribes’ ears? What do you say when a 21st Century construction contractor in the Netherlands devotes nearly four years of his life replicating the vessel to the exact dimensions that the scribes provided?
As the ancient story goes, Noah trusted a dove, who didn’t escape the horrific conditions on the ark by flying out of the open window, to be smart enough to bring him proof that the water had receded. The fact that the bird returned wasn’t a miracle. But returning with a freshly plucked olive leaf? (Gen. 8:11) Every plant, tree and bush on earth was root-rotted. The ancient scribes weren’t aware, but we know that dead bodies contaminate water; so how on earth did an olive tree grow?
And how on earth did they devise this ending to this story? After leaving the ark, a grateful Noah built an altar to God, took some of the surviving animals and birds and inhumanely killed them, as a sacrifice (Gen. 8:20). Help me out here: They had miraculously managed to survive the grotesque conditions with little food and water, among carnivorous predators–to end up on a butcher’s slab? Raise your hand if you believe this.
Keep it raised if you believe the next sentence in this saga: “The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.” (Gen. 8:21).
Yes, we are to believe that:
- God found the smell of the dead meat soothing. (Did the aroma waft up to Heaven?)
- God decided that killing everything and everybody wasn’t such a great idea after all–and said that He would never do it again (God makes mistakes?)
- God came to the conclusion that humans are simply evil. (Wouldn’t an omniscient God would know that before the genocide?)
I know someone is going to object: We shouldn’t question what God does.
Of course, that presumes that God is so impotent that He is threatened or angered by our desire to understand Him. More important, it presumes that God is not fully evolved and that man is not evolving toward Godliness.
Are you open to the possibility that God has been waiting patiently for centuries for us to evolve enough to ask these common sense questions? Is it possible that God has been waiting for someone–maybe you–to disassociate him from these barbaric, inhumane acts and clear His good name?