Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Cinematic Noah and the Biblical Literalists

Rarely do I find myself in agreement with op-ed writer Kathleen Parker, particularly her political analysis, but her piece on the response of biblical literalists to the movie “Noah” was quite good.

She noted that the National Religious Broadcasters threatened to boycott the film unless Paramount (the film’s distributor and co-financer with New Regency) issued a disclaimer that the movie is not a literal interpretation of the Genesis story. Parker sarcastically writes, “It is good to have fundamentalist literalists explain exactly what the Bible authors intended, especially since a literal interpretation would keep moviegoers away or put them to sleep.”

Parker is right to note that biblical writers had a “keen appreciation for parable and metaphor.” And that’s exactly what the biblical story of Noah, as well as all the stories in the early chapters of Genesis are—parable and metaphor.

These stories are religious stories, metaphorical narratives that convey spiritual truth through literary art and mastery. They are not reports of the early history of the earth and humankind.

They can be profoundly true spiritually, even if they are not factually or historically true. As Parker suggests in her piece, many of us in the modern world tend to be tone-deaf to metaphorical, parabolic language.

It should be noted that there is history in the Bible; it’s not all creative fiction. But the biblical writers did not mind spinning and embellishing history to serve spiritual and theological ends.

To interpret a story like Noah literally is like dousing a camp fire by emptying a city’s water tank. It drowns out all flames of spiritual awareness and spiritual passion. It extinguishes any spark of interest in spiritual truth. It just leaves one cold and wet and angry, ready to boycott and oppose anything that would threaten one’s biblical certitudes.

I wish more Christians would grow up.
           



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