Monday, May 5, 2014


Dear Blogspot: get a freaking clue and put in a cut command WITH A FREAKING END TAG. Thank you.


Learned how to pronounce (badly) molon labe today.  A cancelled appointment opened up a good four hours for studying. Sun is out and shining. Life is good.


Memory Is A Tricky Thing, #187: I read the Baen Fantasy Contest guidelines the other day, and could have sworn the line went “political drama where nothing happens” and not ( as it currently reads) “political drama without any action.”


'Go sir, gallop, and don't forget that the world was made in six days. You can ask me for anything you like, except time.' - Napoleon

Thoughts on the movie Noah -

Short version: I saw, twice. I liked.  Thought it was fairly scripturally sound, and that the variation from Genius were more like the difference within the Synotic Gospels than the differences between those recitations and that of John. Wonderful special effects, thought the actors really brought out the humanity of the characters.

Long version:

As an animal-oriented person, I always loved the story of Noah’s ark.  (Heck, I loved most of the Genius stories.  Because they were stories - people did things.  Things happened.  Wonderful things. Numbers, on the other hand…)  As a child, exposed to the more-or-less sanitized versions of Maxwell’s Bible Story, I was most interested in how the details of the ark’s journey would have gone – how to keep the lions from eating the zebras, for example, and just how he kept the rabbits at two.

(Having Bill Cosby’s records playing in my parents house as a regular thing didn’t help.)

Joss Weldon took a stab at the physics of the issue -   

(River Tam:   We'll have to call it early quantum state phenomenon. Only way to fit 5000 species of mammal on the same boat.)

but never did that much with it.

(Which is a bit of a shame, seeing as the metaphor of Serenity as an ark on a journey of salvation was right there, ready to be taken up, played with, mocked, subverted, and mangled, just as Weldon did with nearly everything else.  Dad nab you, rat bastards at FOX…)


It would not surprise me to find that this is the general take on the Noah story – that it’s all about this guy who loves and saves animals.  Much like Mad Frankie, we have internalized the warm fuzzy and rejected the harder parts of the lesson.   (This keeps happening in biblical animal stories – everyone remembers the whale that et Jonah, yes?  How about the vine that died?)  In an interview, Russell Crowe related as much, inside the movie universe – that people who save animals must be good, right?

Turns out, much to the distress of my pre-teen self, that the Noah story is not about the animals.  It never really is – Star Trek is not about Klingons, Avatar is not about blue giants, and none of the Thor movies is about otherworldly aliens, nor superhuman godlings, nor the Nine Realms.

It’s about us – us, and the God that made us.

In that context, Noah-the-Scripture is about listening to God, living under God’s guidance (or not) and living with other humans.  All those messy human/God things, and very little about the sparkling wonderful things of creation.

In that context, Noah-the-movie is the crazy guy – rejected by his community – who spends a very long time preparing for something which any reasonable person could tell you was without precedence.  Noah is about that crazy guy and how he fashions a mechanism that saves the animals of the earth – yet lets all the rest of humanity drown.  Noah is about how alone even a whole family can be, without a wider connection to the rest of humanity.

And Noah is about learning to listen to God.

The production values for this film were very high – frame after frame of frameable art.  I thought the acting was very well done, and the writing supported the acting and the film’s art.  In particular, the Cainite king had all the best lines – spoke all the thoughts and all the objections that have rattled around in my brain.  A friend had issues with the relative passivity of Noah’s family members, but I can see the reactions of real people, trying to hold a family together, unwilling to shatter the bonds of the last humans in the world.

Other reviews have hit on the most visible theological concepts (the Watchers, a pre-Covenant God, the other two wives) but I accepted the version presented without much issue.  For the Watchers – the whole concept of angels and grace and divine control is beyond my ken and my sphere.  It is a matter for angels, not for men.  The world shown in the film is not the one we currently inhabit.  Other issues (racial diversity, veganism, accents) I do not consider to have a large enough impact on the story for mentioning.

As for the other two wives…

Many critics of Christianity point to the heavy hand of the OT God as one of the most off-putting parts of my faith.  And I can’t say that they’re wrong.  (I’m still grieving over Pharaoh’s horses and charioteers.)  But in many (not all – not that I’ve found) in many cases, what is put forth as cruelty and harshness of God can more easily be read as a failure of humanity to live up to our potential.

In the case of the Noah story as put forth in this movie, there is room to view Noah’s “final solution” as a human error in understanding God’s plan.  Surely not all of humanity was to enter the ark – not all animals were taken, after all, and it appeared that an overwhelming majority of humanity had fallen into habits of cruelty, depravity, and violence that rejected the guidance of God.  One need only look at the damage done to Ham during his brief tutelage under the Cainite king to see why permitting a large number of such people on the ark was not practical, in terms of establishing a humanity washed clean of those sins.

(If anyone wants to suggest that bringing young women on board would have been perfectly okay, on accounta young women couldn't/wouldn't harm/warp anyone, dude. Get off my island, and go find some other place to ruminate on women as helpless things by definition.)

But there is a wide space between “all humanity wiped out” and “save everyone”.  Noah errs – and I think this is pretty clear in the film – by assuming that God intends the first.  It would be very hard to argue Scripturally that God intended the later - wanting everyone to repent and everyone repenting are not the same things.  Which leaves that space in the middle – space which, Scripturally, has been taken up again and again by multiple people: Lot’s family, Noah’s, the 10 righteous, the woman who hid the Israelite spies, etc, etc.

A God who would wipe out all of humanity is not a merciful God.  A God that would permit horror to go on without consequence is not a just God.  If we demand that all of us be saved, we are claiming that none of us should be held to a higher standard. This is the error of those who think that our sins are without consequence.  (And day to day, our numbers are legion.) If we demand that God do away with all of us, we are claiming that none of us should be granted forgiveness. This was the error of Noah, and of some anti-human environmentalists.

I think that many hold to some version of “many will be saved, but not all”.  This solution is not perfect, either – and again, it is mostly due to human error.  When we start assuming a perfect knowledge of who is acceptable to God, of who will be saved and who will not – that road is paved with Pride, lined with Envy, and shaded with Wrath.  This is the error of those of us who forget that Christ died for Cain, and Pilate, and Hitler, and Ted Bundy, and every hateful, murderous, soul to every walk the planet.

Did one of those repent, and beg God for forgiveness, and resolve to sin no more – God would have shouted in delight, a hundred times more glad than when any of us more ordinary sinners comes creeping back to confess our sins.

I get, I think, why Noah refused to bring any of the Cainites onto the ark.  And I would have understood why he would have hesitated to do so, even if he did eventually relent.  But I would like to think that if it had been I, that I would have opened my heart and mind to God’s guidance, and taken as many with me as the ark could have held.

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