August 2007 Newsletter
Keith has an current day, apochryphal look at the story of Noah's Ark
We have certainly seen some flooding recently:
In the year 2007, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in the United States, and said, "Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated and I see the end of all flesh before me. Build another Ark and save two of every living thing along with a few good humans." He gave Noah the blueprints, saying, "You have six months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights".
Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard but no ark."Noah", He roared, "I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?"
"Forgive me, Lord," begged Noah. "But things have changed. I needed a building permit. I've been arguing with the Inspector about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbours claim that I've violated the neighbourhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision. Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark's move to the sea. I argued that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.
"Getting the wood was another problem: There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls. But no go! When I started gathering the animals, I got sued by an animal rights group. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. As well,they argued the accommodation was too restrictive and it was Cruel and Inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space. Then the EPA ruled that+ I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.
Then to top that, they want me to bury all the waste materials six feet under (You know what they mean) and cover it with dirt. Now that takes the cake. I told them there won't be any dirt to work with. I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission: On how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew. Also, the trades unions say: I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark building experience. To make matters worse, the tax people have seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.
So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least ten years for me to finish this Ark."
Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, "You mean, You're not going to destroy the world?".
"No," said the Lord. "The government beat me to it."
That is, of course, a long winded way of suggesting that it's all our fault and that God does not need to involve himself. I recently suggested in Church that the Bishop of Carlisle was not far wrong when he claimed that the floods in the North of England in the past couple of years were the Hand of God, punishing us for our sins. But I interpret his words differently than he meant them.
I believe that we are here as God's agents - but, since he gave us the inestimable gift of free will and since he does NOT interfere casually, we tend not to do as he asks us but as we wish! So, when he asks us to look after his creation, we abuse it - by dropping atom bombs, by building on flood plains and so on. So, since we are God's hands and feet and mouth on Earth, then our acts are in his name and thus our acts are Acts of God - and the Bishop unwittingly has got it right.
Another lesson from this story is how good we are at making or finding excuses. Increasingly I find that people do not know or have forgotten the difference between reason and excuse. Doing or not doing something may be explained by innumerable good reasons, but there may still not be any excuse at all. The murderer whose serious antisocial behaviour may be understood and explained as being consequent on a terrible childhood still has no excuse at all for that behaviour. At some point either through weakness or anger, he deliberately put to one side the norms of social life - or morals - and decided to do wrong.
I've come rather a long way from the floods and our responsibility for them. The first great flood is a story, not just in the Bible, but in the early post-creation myths of many of the ancient primitive religions. It is deeply seated in our psyche. It is a cataclysmic, end of the world event, although somehow we survive - 'somehow' means because God relents. We carry with us the fear that sometime or other God is going to lose patience - finally - and will let loose a destruction to finish us off once and for all. That is not a Christian view, but it lurks in the darker corners of our collective thinking.
The reality is that God allows us to make our own decisions and allows us to suffer the consequences - at least to an extent sufficient to teach us lessons (the refiner's fire springs to mind!). Whether or not global warming is a consequence of mankind's efforts, it is certainly true that some of the adverse consequences of global warming are down to us. If you only build on hillsides then floods don't affect you. If you do not canalize and 'tame' your rivers, you can actually live quite close to the flood plains and see the flooding happening quietly where it should and where you are not.
Licensed Lay Minister