Friday, August 5, 2005

TRUTH or truth?

I ran across this recently but I’ve been dipping in and out of several books and I’m not sure who wrote it. There’s a good chance it was either Kathleen Norris or Malcolm Boyd. The gist of the passage was that when we try tie truth with a capital T to provable fact we end up distorting both.


When extremely conservative religious scholars-unfortunately they’re usually Christian-insist that certain stories in the Bible are fact they end up distorting their science beyond all recognition.


The earth is about 25,500 miles around. Even if it’s an unmoving ball at the center of the universe you can’t make the sun stand still without destroying the star closest to us. Once you put the earth in its orbit around the sun and set it spinning at the more than one thousand miles an hour you need for a twenty four hour day-well let’s just say that more that the walls of Jericho would have fallen down. The walls, both armies, the trumpets, the Jordan River, and the Mediterranean would have ended up somewhere on the other side of Persia. Along with everything else that was and wasn’t nailed down. The truth of the story? God may have promised the Hebrews a land of their own but they couldn’t win it without His help. And by the way it’s purely a tribal story. I can’t read about the body count of the conquest without cringing. The idea of collateral damage isn’t anything new. As long as they aren't "us" who's counting?


The story of Noah has at least two versions/authors and both were apparently drawing on an earlier Babylonian myth. One problem is that the Babylonian mythology puts the flood at about 430,000 years ago, the Biblical version at about 4,300 years ago. Somebody misplaced a couple of zeros somewhere along the line.


If you Google the term “The Black Sea Flood” you get links to a fascinating story. The short version is this. Approximately 7,500 years ago there was a fresh water lake in the area where the Black Sea is now. Recent archeological finds show the shores were heavily populated with farmers who were ancestors of the early Semites (Hebrews, Babylonians etc.) and Indo Europeans. The Mediterranean and Sea of Marmara were over 400 feet higher than the lake. The higher waters were held back by land on the banks of the Bosporus River. The seas rose as the last of the great glaciers melted and the seawater broke through. What started as a trickle became a flood. The final flow is estimated at the volume of 200 Niagara Falls. Every day for at least 300 days. The lake level would have risen six inches a day and spread a mile a day in some places. It’s estimated that the roar of the falls would have been heard over one hundred miles away. The effect on the people living next to the lake, especially the ones closest to the original break through would have been devastating. Imagine trying to keep ahead of the rising water. Salt water now, not fresh. Moving every day, day after day for nearly a year. Trying to keep family, flocks and what you could carry on your backs together. Talk about a wallop to the tribal psyche.


It doesn’t matter whether somebody named Noah built an ark. The truth is that the rift between Creator and Creation had become so wide that the Creator considered wiping the slate clean and starting over. But there is hope even in destruction and the whole of creation wasn’t destroyed. But, trying to make physical truth conform to spiritual truth leads to truth with a small t and distortions of science that would send a double jointed contortionist screaming for the Advil. And more liberal theologians get caught in the same trap. Only on the other side. By concentrating on picking out everything that couldn’t possibly happen and focusing on what can be proven both sides get caught in the fact trap and lose sight of the Truth. Oh, and while God basically promises not to wipe us out Himself, there’s nothing said about stopping us from doing it to ourselves if we really put our minds to it in a fit of collective insanity.


I’m going to go out on a limb here. I don’t think it matters whether a teacher named Jesus really existed. I’d like to believe that He did. It doesn’t matter whether miracles were performed. I’d like to think they were. Sitting people around a table usually implies family or those very close to you. The Truth is that there is room for everything and everyone at the Creator’s table and the distinctions disappear. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, gay, straight, fat, thin, black, white, pink, purple, Hebrews, Canaanites, humans or the rest of Creation. Of course, the theory is great, we’re having big problems carrying it out (imagine Atlas with the world on his shoulders), and nobody can hurt you like family.


Now that I think about it (insert tired sigh and a slump here) a lot of the back and forth shouting begins to sound a lot like “mom and dad love ME best.” (the sound effects here are optional and only limited by your imagination)


sistercdr said...

I think you're really onto something here.

lisaram1955 said...

My goodness...this is wonderful!  But, of course, the right-wing Christians would never buy it...  The KNOW everything, after all.  Lisa  :-]

ibspiccoli4life said...


Great post. I have this really interesting book that attempts to explain some of the Biblical stories and other ancient legends with science. The one about the sun stopping in Joshua they attribute to an asteroid or some other large object hitting the earth; it's a little fuzzy in my head right now but basically a similar event happened in 1917 or 1918 in Russia and across Europe people said it was like it was daylight all through the night. I'll have to pull that book out and refresh myself on the exact cause, but it was really fascinating.

I think what bothers a lot of people about science is the truths are always with a small "t"; they are always tenative and based on our current understanding and, of course, subject to change. People want big "T" but with it comes the need to close down and stop looking around.