I'm With You

My friend texted me an article that apparently has been spreading around the Internet a bit among evangelical Christians. I looked at it, and didn’t think much of it, but over the last two days, I keep hearing about it from people, and then yesterday we actually had a baptist church back out of a gig next month because of it. Again, I tried to ignore it, but I keep getting texts and tweets, and apparently the thing keeps getting talked about, so I thought to myself, “hey, what if I weighed in on the conversation about what I think about things…?” :) So for those of you not familiar with the article, it accuses Gungor of ‘drifting from biblical orthodoxy’, primarily citing a blog post I wrote a few months ago that used an example of how I don't believe that the early Genesis stories are to be taken literally, and because I’m part of a group called The Liturgists that used a maternal metaphor to think about an aspect of the love of God in one of our liturgies.

So let’s get down to it shall we?

Do I believe God exists? Yes. Do I believe Jesus is the Son of God? Yes. Do I believe that Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? Yes. Do I believe that God literally drowned every living creature 5,000 years ago in a global flood except the ones who were living in a big boat? No, I don’t. I

Why don’t I?

Because of science and rational thought.

The biblical literalist may respond to this by saying that science and rational thought show that all the miraculous events in the Bible, including Jesus’ miracles are not scientifically plausible. And that is a fair point. But there is a BIG difference between individual instances and experiences of the miraculous and globally scaled matters of science and history.

You could use science to prove that people don’t normally rise from the dead, but you couldn’t use it to prove that no one has EVER risen from the dead.

This is an altogether different thing from the early Genesis stories though. You could, for instance, use science to prove that the world is not built, like some ancient people thought, on an infinite amount of turtles. We can prove that there are no 'corners' of a flat earth (like some other pre-scientific writers in the Bible seemed to think). We can prove through the fossil record that the diversity of life gradually arose over millions of years and that there was never a global flood that made everything go extinct except for a single pair of every animal species 5,000 years ago. With archeology, DNA evidence, and common sense, we can prove that all human beings did not come from two individuals 6,000 years ago. (Those numbers are achieved through adding up the years in the biblical genealogies) We can PROVE these things beyond a reasonable doubt with science.

So let’s think about the ark for just a second…Still, the biblical literalist (as I was when I was a child) believes that the Bible saying that something happened is more than enough proof that it happened like that. So there must be some miraculous explanation for it. Fair enough. But there are consequences to this. We’ll get to those later. First, let’s just think about Noah and the Ark for a second.

Genesis reports that two of every kind of animal were in a single boat floating around while God sends rain to drown everyone and everything else. Ok, so let’s imagine what type of boat this is... There are millions of species of life on this planet. Even if God miraculously fed all of these species and kept them from killing each other on the boat, how big would that boat have to be? And what sort of ecological systems would have to be in place for all the species to survive? Genesis puts the ark at 300 cubits long, 50 wide, 30 high. (a cubit is approximately 45 cm) If you do the math, there is really just NO way to fit two of every kind of animal species on an ark of the dimensions that the Bible purports.

So let's get imaginative and say that God shrunk these animals Rick Moranis style so that all the animal can fit.. What happens when they land on the mountain? How do both of the koala bears get from the top of a mountain in the middle east to Australia? Does Noah build another little boat for them and sail them across the ocean? Then what about the giant anteaters in South America? Did he go back to the mountain and then take them separately? Or let’s get imaginative and imagine that Noah and his family built hundreds or thousands of boats on that mountain to send to every continent and island with the specific wildlife. This species of finch for this island, and this species for this one, and so on for every beetle, spider, bird, lizard, mammal…etc (as well as the millions of microscopic organisms and bacteria) If that seems implausible, perhaps God just did it Star Trek style and performed a 'beam me up' miracle to everything? But if He could or would do that, why didn't it make the account? That would be pretty impressive. It would also beg the question, "why didn't he just do that in the first place?" If he was just zapping things, why didn't he just zap the bad people away rather than making millions of babies, women, children and puppies slowly drown? Then, there are are of course all sorts of moral questions to ask of a God who would do any of this in the first place.

And this is just scratching the surface of the Noah story. This is not even addressing the very clear geologic record, problems with inbreeding, food, predators, ecological systems, or a hundred other things. Still, is it POSSIBLE that it’s true? COULD God have shrunk all the species and miraculously sustained them on the ark and then Star Trekked everything into place around the world after the boat landed and changed the fossil record to make it appear as though it never happened? Of course, it’s possible. What’s not possible? It’s possible that God created a ‘mature' world 5 seconds ago, and all of our lives are just memories that he created in our heads right now. But is it plausible? Is it reasonable? I don’t happen to think so.

And it’s kind of weird to me that so many people seem to be talking about this, because from what I know of Christians, A LOT of us don’t take these things literally. I would be very surprised to find a single respected and educated theologian or biblical scholar that believes that one MUST read Noah’s flood completely literally down to the last detail to be 'orthodox.’ That’s crazy!

So why does this happen? Why do some fundamentalists create this dichotomy where you must either BELIEVE THE BIBLE (meaning that you take everything literally no matter what science says) or say that it’s a lie?

I would contend it has very little to do with actual biblical scholarship, and far more to do with social groups. Because NO REASONABLE PERSON takes the entire Bible completely literally. It’s not possible. The Bible says God is a rock. Do you take that literally? The Bible talks consistently about the corners of the earth. The people that wrote the Bible thought the earth was flat. When they envisioned ‘the earth’, they envisioned it with edges and corners, not as a spherical planet. But not too many people today are going around arguing that God is a geologic entity that lives in the sky that created a flat square of land surrounded by ocean with heaven above us and Sheol below us… Why not? BECAUSE SCIENCE SHOWED US THAT THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE. So we rightfully re-read and re-interpret the Bible, just as people have done for thousands of years.

So, how come these Genesis stories aren’t being re-read and re-interpreted by the fundamentalists yet? And I say yet, because I believe that a hundred years from now, hardly anybody is going to be arguing for a literal reading of those stories… I think it’s partly because of the way that fundamentalists tend to huddle together out of fear. And in an attempt to shut the evil of the world out of these huddles, they also tend to shut out all of the good and true things that the world has discovered as well. These huddles tend to emphasize things that don’t really matter to anybody but those within the huddle. It’s a way of knowing who the other huddlers are. Those boundary markers can be things like “we don’t dance.” Or “we don’t play cards.” Or "we don’t drink alcohol.” Or “we believe that there was a literal naked couple in a garden 6,000 years ago.”

So what’s happening here is some people thought Gungor was in their huddle, and now we are displaying some signs that we might not be, and they are freaked out a little bit by it. We might be one of ‘them!’ And if we were one of the outsiders (the dangerous, worldly people who threaten to tear apart the huddle), how can they know they are safe?

But listen, huddle people… I’m for you. I really am. And I’m with you. I was raised in the huddle. Some of the best people I know are in the huddle. But you don’t need to be so afraid. You don’t need to repress your intellectual ability to ask questions and seek truth in order to stay in the shadow of the huddle. Because, let me tell you something, there is light outside. In fact, God is both inside and outside of your huddle. And you can still love God and love people and read those early Genesis stories as myth with some important things to teach us. Not all of you will be ready to do that, and that’s perfectly ok. But know that if you create these dichotomies where we force people to either fall into the camp of scientifically blind biblical literalism or a camp where they totally write off the Bible as a complete lie, you’re going to rob a lot of people of some of the richness that the Bible offers. You’re going to create a lot more jaded, cynical people that are completely anti-religion out there. And you are going to continue to repress the questions that lurk in the back of your own mind. And that’s just not healthy. That sort of thinking actually quashes and limits human thriving in the world. So that’s the danger of this sort of fundamentalist thinking.

Still, I am sorry to any fundamentalists that have felt confused or tricked or something by us in this issue. We have always tried to be upfront about our wrestling with doubts and questions of faith. But despite our best efforts, people have assumed because we sing a lot about ‘creation’, for example, that we must be young-earth creationists. So, no World Magazine, Charismanews, Christian Post, and whoever else is talking about this…Gungor is not, and has never been a fundamentalist band seeking to spread young earth, biblical literalism across the planet. Sorry if that disappoints you. Still, I hope some of us can use this opportunity to find unity within disagreement rather than turn it into another fundamentalist witch hunt over something extremely peripheral to what really matters.