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Much ado about things that didn't happen

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The furor of criticism over the movie, Noah, starring Russell Crowe, would be pathetic if it weren't so funny. The ignorance displayed by primitive Christians over various details of the film is overwhelming and I simply can't start itemizing and refuting it. Others have, though.

Those who are attached to the Old Testament setting for their version of Christianity claim to believe that Jesus' loving father, the God of Israel, would actually kill off all of the human race except one family, and all the land animals who were not housed on the ark. This comes from reverse-engineering theology when you have no concept of the nature of God. Perhaps you can see how important the nature of God really is when you approach this fiasco of Hollywood history.

To me, the story of Noah makes a very good case for the ancient-aliens theory. I find it far easier to believe that some forgotten travelers passed through our planet and tinkered with the local humans, and then decided they had made a mistake and wiped the slate clean. But there is a list that I do want to go through, because it is important and it looks at the story in question through a Christian lens.

Number One: the Flood as recounted in the Book of Genesis did not happen. There was a flood thousands of years ago when the Bosporus channel overflowed into the Black Sea, and I am sure that the catastrophe made a deep impression on the people of the time. It is memorialized in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which predates Genesis.

But the flood did not wipe out the entire population of the world; it was a localized natural disaster that affected the Middle Eastern people who went on to write Scripture. That's the first important point: the Noah version of the Flood did not happen.

Number Two: if you believe in the God of love and compassion that Christians worship through the consciousness of Jesus, you can say that the God that we worship would not do this. That isn't the same as saying that God did not do it; it is a statement about the nature of God. The God that Christians worship would not (and did not) murder huge numbers of people. Men, women, children, babies, pregnant women and unborn babies were never victimized by the God if Israel. We do not believe in or worship such a God. Only primitive Christians do, and they live in terror of that God every day. I don't know what further punishment anyone needs to inflict upon them.

Parents know that they can kill their small children, but for the most part they do not do so. This is something of an analogy to an all-powerful God who might have the ability to inflict huge catastrophes on Planet Earth, but will not do it because that is not his nature.

Number Three: the whole story of Noah is a morality tale, with roots in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The simple story of a flood was twisted into an allegory that tells you what will happen if you are a very, very bad person. In fact, if a lot of people are very bad over a long period of time, God may destroy them--all of them.

But as soon as this idea emerges, the question emerges with it: all of them? Even the ones who were not bad people? The babies, who were too young to be "bad?" If your answer is yes, you are not a Christian. And you should be careful how you answer such questions. I remember clearly how such questions occurred to me when I was a little girl; nobody answered them. It turned out for the best, though, because by now I have answered them for myself.

Jesus came to the realization that the God of Israel was not only just, good, righteous and powerful, he was also loving, compassionate and understanding. This is the contribution that Christianity made to Judaism; it is the turning point from Judaism to Christianity in the First Century. It is the solution to the Jewish Existential Predicament.

The unfortunate tendency of early Judaism to turn events into allegory has stuck them with the idea that God's wrath will be taken out on innocent people. So it says in the Old Testament, but contemporary Jewish theology does not say quite that, I am happy to say. At least I know that Rabbi David Kushner does not believe that God punished him and his wife for their sins (be that as it may) by afflicting their unborn baby with a genetic disease that took his life in his teen years. So theology evolves as human knowledge and morality evolve; "time makes ancient good uncouth," as the poet says. The flap about Noah is stupid and if you want to regale yourself with endless sequences of computer-generated special effects, by all means go see it. I lost my taste for that by the time I had watched The Return of the King. I'm not even tempted to watch The Hobbit or Noah.

More info: today on the Internet I saw a story about a "Biblical" role-playing game that is doing poorly, that is, few people seem to be interested in buying it. This apparently has amazed and disappointed the folks who market it. It also strikes me as the height of hypocrisy, because I can remember a generation ago when the evangelicals struck out at Dungeons & Dragons, the original role-playing game, claiming all kinds of outlandish lies. They said it was a religion, that it was satanic, that it was going to doom your soul, and the stupidity went on from there. Now somebody in the evangelical community conceives it as a good idea to market role-playing scenarios involving Biblical scenarios and characters.

In this particular game, player characters become members of a group led by Abraham and have various adventures based on "strict, literal Bible interpretation." This is nonsense. If the game is laid out on a strict and literal basis, how can the players improvise their role-playing? But that is a game master's technical question; more important is the article's mention that previous role-playing games of this nature have not fared well with the public either.

I can tell you this: Dungeons & Dragons does not introduce non-player characters such as Abraham and Moses, let alone allow a player to role-play them, for one simple reason: it is likely to offend Jewish or Christian players, don't you think? The easy familiarity with which the evangelical community is willing to use any form to hawk their ideas shows me once more that what I have said previously is true: the hucksters on the Religious Right have no real reverence or belief. The only game they play is all about money and power, counting the evangelicals who jump into bed with Republican politicians.

I would be extremely hesitant to master a game placing Jesus in a context in which players could "interact" with him. This has been a principle of D&D for many years; you do not find biblical characters in their reference books, for example. The more you love and respect real role-playing games, the more you stay away from the real world. The game world, like Middle Earth (MERP) or The World of Greyhawk (Dungeons & Dragons) serve to provide a perfectly good setting for the group problem solving and character development that role-play provides.

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