Painting Biblical Violence in Primary Colors
I’ve always been puzzled by the fact that we take some of the most violent stories in the Bible and turn them into happy little children’s stories and coloring pages: the flood story; the ten plagues; the genocide at Jericho; Solomon threatening to slice a baby in two. Why, for example, has the Noah’s Ark story become one of the most cheery accounts in Sunday School when it is one of the most violent and disturbing episodes in the Old Testament?
“The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD” (Gen. 6:5-8 NRSV).
Here’s how the story is usually portrayed:
Here’s how it should be portrayed, if we were picturing the story the Bible tells.
I suspect that part of the reason we’ve neutered this horror story is because we (adults) don’t want to think about the very hard questions the flood account raises. What sort of evil could humans commit that God would decide to destroy not only humans but all creation? What kind of Creator regrets creating? How can God be sorry? Why save only one family? What about all the dead people and animals bumping against the sides of the ark?
These questions are not about the historicity of the ark story. They are about the theology of the ark story. What kind of God is this? And how do we reconcile such a God with the God revealed in Jesus Christ?
It’s much easier to sing the Arky Arky song and pretend that the account is all sunshine and rainbows. But there is a dark side of God as portrayed in the Old Testament that we must be willing to confront. This is the God Marcion rejected. Are we doing the same by repainting the violence of the Old Testament in bright, primary colors?