posted by killre
One minor reason why the days of August seem so damnably dogish is that America's pantheon of television networks, with but few notable exceptions, are vomiting forth for our consumption previously digested tripe-- some of which was only marginally satisfying the first time around and certainly tastes no better now.
Normally, this stomach flu of a phenomenon would pass without much comment, but the other day I noticed the bug had affected a niche in the broadcast spectrum that one would at first blush think immune: cable news. Of course, cable news for the most part isn't about news; it's about politics. As such, it sails or founders subject to the hot wind emanating from politicians-- most of whom have flown the foul-smelling chicken coop known as Washington, D.C. for their summer vay-kays, leaving the business of running the beehive to the nameless drones who actually do the thankless day-to-day rather than simply talking about it. (All the talkers being gone is, I'm sure, a vacation of sorts for the drones.)
It is for this reason that the de facto face and voice (for better or worse) of MSNBC, one Christopher John Mathews, has taken his own much-needed respite to get his head straight and turned over his two hundred-odd minutes of original programing per week to Michael Smerconish. Smerconish's primary job is keeping Mathews' chair warm so his puffy posterior doesn't go into shock when he returns from whichever National Park he will proudly tell us he just visited. Smerconish's secondary job seems to be regurgitating all the still-unresolved political issues from the past couple of years that are, they assure you, Pressing Concerns, though not so pressing they can't be put in a holding pattern for a few weeks while our elected representatives work on their tans.
All of that is why on Thursday we were treated to a four-month-old clip of Congressman Joe Barton, a Republican from the grate state of Texas, saying the following during a congressional committee hearing on climate change:
"I would point out that if you're a believer in the Bible, uh, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change... and that certainly wudn't a-cuz mankind had overdeveloped, uh, hydrocarbon energy."
You need not consult polling data to know most congress-type-persons are not as highly regarded as we would like them to be. One reason for that might be the use of phrases like "if you're a believer in the Bible" in the middle of a scientific discussion. Another reason might be the way they lean smirkingly toward microphones and utter things like "wudn't a-cuz."
Actually, the above quote represents an, heh, evolution on the part of the Republican party from their original stance on climate change. While they still won't call it "global warming," they have at least realized that flat-out denying it is akin to two men at a cookout seeing the thermometer tick from 80 to 81 and one of them stating, "That didn't happen." Now their argument is, "Okay, it happened, but it isn't because the thermometer is right next to the grill."
Most people would look at the clause "if you're a believer in the Bible" and say the operative word is if, and I can't tell them they're wrong. The yes/no nature of if, however, is too simple for my purposes. I choose instead to focus on the word believe, because when belief is the discussion the inherent questions go from "Yes or no?" to "What?" and "How much?"
I believe, for starters, that the Bible exists. Does that count as believing in the Bible?
I believe that the Bible is not A book; it is an anthology: a treasure trove of many ancient writings --most, but certainly not all, theological in nature-- written by many different authors over the course of many years... sort of like an ancient Norton Anthology of American Literature (third edition shorter), but substitute "Hebrew and Greek" for "American" and "Saint Paul" for "Norton."
Whereas Norton has eight editors, the Bible has an incalculable number of editors, translators, transcribers, canonical councils, et cetera, each of whom in some small way contributed to the hue of the final product, as if each one dropped a tiny bead of colored paint into an oversized vat of flat white. Norton checks in at over 2600 pages while the Bible describes Armageddon somewhere shy of 1400, but to be fair the Bible uses smaller-sized type and a far more efficient layout. (The amount of empty space with which Norton surrounds the poetry of --well, I'll let you fill in this blank for yourself-- has to account for, like, 380 pages alone.) Both weighty tomes contain poetry, correspondences, essays, short stories, dynamic characters, compelling plots, moral allegories, historical dramas...
Ah... historical dramas-- that's where the two collections begin to differ, less in the nature of their content than in the perceptions of their readers. There is virtually no dispute over whether the entries in the Norton Anthology are fiction or non-fiction. Somewhere, though, in the swirls and rapids of the river of time, those who "believe in the Bible" have lost sight of the fact that its entries were never intended to be historical documents. To use them as such is to misuse them. Ending the practice is --surprise, surprise-- the first tentative, toddling step toward making the collection more relevant to a wider audience. Oh, there's plenty of chaff mixed with the grain, to be sure, but then the same can be said of Norton.
Not to say this is chaff --I actually find it interesting-- but the Bible includes the lyrics to an ancient musical that was to be performed at marriage receptions by the entire wedding party. Most of you won't want your kids reading it: some sections are a tad bawdy.
That's okay, though, because the Bible balances it with a collection of bedtime stories for children. It is called The Book of Genesis. It is therein that we find the story of the aforementioned Great Flood, a.k.a...
The Story of Noah's Ark (a synopsis):
The Lord spake unto Noah, and saying, "I have looked upon the whole of My creation, and most of it is pretty kosher, but I experienceth deep regret, as any intelligent designer would, over the hot mess that is the human race, so I have decided to smite it. However, the birds of the air and the creatures of the land have done no wrong, with the notable exception of the snake, of course, but for reasons I'd rather not get into I have decided to spareth him nonetheless. Whilst I am all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful and can do anything I want simply by spaking it, I have decided I don't want to dealeth with the details and am appointing a caretaker to saveth the animals in My stead. Since thou art the human who has shown the least *ahem* impiety, you're it."
Noah stoodeth slack-jawed for several heartbeats, then sayeth he unto Him: "Ohh... kay."
And the Lord spake again unto Noah, commanding, "Thou shalt buildeth thee one big-ass boat --I will hath the Archangel Michael draweth up thou some plans, he's into that sort of thing-- and gathereth thee unto thou specimens of every animal upon the Earth, that they may stinketh up the joint until such time as it is safe for them to getteth busy repopulating the Earth. Heareth Me well on this: upon no account wilt thou draweth comparisons between thyself and the other primates. Also, the boat will be madeth of wood, so I'd be very, very careful how I handled the termites, were I you."
Noah's shoulders slumped. "Can't You just kill me now?"
"No!" spake the Lord. "On the contrary, thou shalt liveth to an age so ancient and ripe it will literally defyeth credibility for millennia. Of course, for the vast majority of that time thou shalt be older than the very dirt beneath thy sandals, so it won't be much fun. However, thou wilt taketh thy family with thou: thy wife, thy sons and their wives. Thou will needeth the manpower. Besides, just between thee and Me and thy wife's libido, I can't really counteth upon thou to rebooteth the species, now can I?"
Noah pursed his lips. "So, everybody dies? Friends? Neighbors? In-laws?"
"All but those I hath named," answered the Lord.
Noah shrugged. "Okey-dokey."
And so it cameth to pass that Noah and his sons built a great big boat and gathered unto them specimens of every animal upon the planet, even those of which they had no knowledge. Some sayeth they gathered two of each; others sayeth seven of each; still others sayeth seven of some and two of the rest --whomever edited The Book of Genesis was way sloppy-- and all this they did while suffering acute self-consciousness owing to the strange looks they got from the neighbors. Some merely said the boat was frivolous. Others decried it as an eyesore and tried to get an ordinance passed banning the construction of such monstrosities, but the legislation was still in committee when it started to rain...
And the rain, rain, rain cameth down, down, down. It is said it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, which isn't enough to floodeth the entire planet, but whenever this criticism is raised, defenders sayeth the number 40 was used in those days to mean "many" or "too many to count." This argument would have more merit were it not used by the same people who claimeth The Book of Genesis is 100% factually accurate.
Anyway, it rained. A lot. All the people who were not aboard the boat perished, as did all the animals not aboard the boat, except, like, the ducks and the geese, for which the Great Flood was really no big deal. And the boat was upon the deep for, uh, a really long time. More than 40 days and 40 nights. Then it cameth to rest upon the mountains --plural-- of Ararat.
Noah cameth forth from the boat and built an altar unto the Lord, and upon that alter he sacrificed one of the animals he had worked so damned hard to save-- which would seemeth counterproductive, but it's what he did.
Then the Lord spake unto Noah again, and saying, "I experienceth again deep remorse over smiting the creatures of the Earth-- even the humans, hard though that may be to believeth. Casteth thine eyes over yonder and see the rainbow I have set over the Earth. It is a sign of my promise to never again smite the Earth by flood. I'll probably just slow cook it next time...
"Oh, and one more thing: Never, ever, ever breatheth a word about how I stoleth the whole flood idea from The Epic of Gilgamesh."
P.S... Bud "25 or 6 to 4... or 211" Selig must go.