Smart-Aleck Responses to Biblical Stories
|The Rest of the Story
by Kendra Lachniet
Remember those great Bible stories from your childhood? My Sunday school favorites included the creation story, Noah and the flood, Moses and the burning bush, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den, Samson and Delilah, along with the many stories of Jesus’ birth, travels, and miracles. The stories were sanitized and simplified for our little ears and minds.
Later science and history enlightened me to the fact that Adam and Eve probably ate a fig or something, not an apple, since apples did not grow in that part of the world. The wise men did not visit the infant Jesus at the manger, but probably as a toddler somewhere else. And the clean straw-lined wooden manger in the quaint little barn where Mary quickly and quietly bore him and wrapped him in a clean white blankie is slightly fictionalized. Little details were left out or changed, but the message remained the same.
We were not sheltered from the violence of the Bible as children. Cain killing Abel, Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery, killing of babies in Egypt, and ooooh—every kid’s favorite: Ezekiel and the valley of bones! Creepy! As long as God wins, adults had no problem sharing these gorey tales.
Children love to see someone get their comeuppance. Even children know that King Darius was a moron to pass a ridiculous law saying people couldn’t ask anyone, including God, for anything. And we were thrilled to see Daniel’s devious co-workers, who set him up, then ratted him out, get tossed to the lions. We cheered when the lions tore them limb from limb! Being raised on Grimms’ gruesome fairy tales, neither did we have a problem with David shattering Goliath’s skull with a rock, then chopping off his head! We likened him to the big bad wolf, so good riddance.
It was easy to accept all the violence. Our parents sang us lullabies in which babies fall from treetops when the bough breaks and put us to bed listening to us recite “if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Why shelter us from the stonings and beheadings? We were tough little cookies.
But now I know we were sheltered. Sometimes when I read the Bible now, I think, Hey, when did they put that in there?
They left some stuff out when they told us these stories in Sunday school. I’m guessing violence was okay, but once Adam and Eve donned their fig leaves, nudity was OUT. For children, the story of Noah and the ark ends with the covenant and the rainbow. A nice happy ending anyone could enjoy. But now I read that Noah then planted some grapes, made himself some wine, and got smashed. His son found him drunk and naked in his tent. How embarrassing! Then again, whatever happened to knocking? Or flapping? Or whatever you do at a tent door? Fitting punishment to have the vision of your naked father forever engrained in your memory, ill-mannered son! I think I hear Paul Harvey’s catch phrase: “and now you know the rest of the story.” Can we go back to the rainbow?
I prefer the Sunday school story of Sodom and Gomorrah too. The children’s Bible just says the men wanted to beat up the men in Lot’s house, not rape them. Of course, if nudity was unfitting, sex was certainly off-limits. The children’s story completely leaves out the part about Lot offering his virgin daughters in exchange for leaving the men alone. You have got to be kidding! Why is God saving this Father-of-the-Year again? And I used to think Lot’s wife got what she deserved. She was told not to look back, and she did, so God turned her into a pillar of salt—and not the cute little Morton girl kind of salt, but the rotten-egg, smelly, yellow burning sulfuric kind. A little harsh maybe, but she didn’t follow directions! (Then again, my past report cards indicate this was challenging to me too.) Now I have a little more empathy with her. Her entire family and all her friends are being buried in lava, her hometown destroyed, and she couldn’t resist taking one last look. I stared for hours at National Geographic pictures of the remains of Pompeii, and I can’t say I’d have more restraint. It’s like a train wreck. Raise your hand if you’ve watched Bridezillas, Toddlers & Tiaras, or Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo. It’s hideous, appalling, and impossible not to watch. But wait! That’s not the end! If the story ended here, the lesson is clear, but we adults have to hear the rest of the story. The two virgin daughters decide they have to get their dear old dad drunk and sleep with him so they can have children and carry on the family name! How about we give Dad a chance to find another wife and produce some sons if that’s so important? I have just two words: Ew! and Yucko! And the Bible writers put it in there like it’s normal. No biggie! I don’t get it. Now I’m grossed out and confused. What am I supposed to learn from these two stories? 1. If you’re camping with your family, you’d better watch the booze consumption lest you pass out naked in your tent and your child walks in on you. 2. It’s okay to sleep with first-degree relatives, as long as you’re drunk. 3. It’s better to rape women than men. Oh, and 4. Follow directions or die!
Sometimes the Bible doesn't tell us the rest of the story. The story of Joseph has lots of detail, but I wonder what happens next. I try to put myself in the place of the people in the story. When I read about how Jacob gave Joseph a special coat, I wonder what he was thinking showing such obvious favoritism. Didn't he realize how this would affect the relationship between Joseph and his brothers? I had the impression from previous stories that Jacob was a bit smarter (and sneakier) than that. Then Joseph gets a little cocky, telling his brothers about his dreams of them bowing down to him. Are you stupid, Joe? Maybe they went too far selling him into slavery (okay, definitely), but I think they might have been teenagers because when I was that age, this seemed like an excellent idea. (Believe me, I’d have given someone a deal on my brother!) But what about after the reunion? Is Jacob willing to just forgive and forget what his sons did? And wouldn't he be just a little resentful that Joseph was just so busy saving Egypt that he couldn't even send a message to dear ol' Dad letting him know he was doing okay? After all, seven years of feast, seven years of famine--no word in over fourteen years? I know, God's will, blah, blah, blah. Just saying-- Family reunions probably were a little awkward after all this. If Joseph inherited any of his dad’s personality, I’m betting he played some pretty awesome pranks on his brothers besides the one with the cup. But the Bible doesn't tell us the rest of the story, so we’ll never know.
The end of the Bible’s story is clear to me. Jesus lived, suffered, and died for us so we could have everlasting life with him in heaven. The end. Oh, but no! Someone decided we needed the book of Revelation, which mucks things up a bit and throws a good portion of believers into a tizzy. Is this book literally telling what will happen at the end of time? Locusts with the faces of men and the tails of scorpions? Mutants beasts of all kinds? Dragons waiting to devour babies? Death on horseback with Hades following behind—isn’t that the Greek myth? This book is so confusing! Some people even send their kids to camp to learn to be soldiers in God’s army should they live to see those days, training them to help God in hurrying the descent of unbelievers into hell. Hallelujah! Praise the NRA! (Oops.) Most people feel the book is telling us something using symbols, which we have to interpret. Good luck with that. Mostly it’s just made people look foolish—maybe just a final way of keeping us humble. I’m not sure how this book made the final cut, except that it includes a threat at the end about that very thing. Genius!
So maybe I’ll join the likes of Thomas Jefferson and edit my Bible, not in the same way he did, of course. I’ll leave the book in one piece, just mentally editing. I’d leave in the miracles, virgin birth, and Jesus’ resurrection. I’d leave out the long lists of family lineage (boring), weird Old Testament commands about hygiene (we have Kotex® and Purex® now, so…), and those two adult endings previously mentioned (T.M.I.). And I’ll just skip Revelation, which I don’t find very revealing at all. I’m perfectly content to wait until that time comes to find out the rest of the story.
Footnote: If Revelation is literally right, I risk losing my share in the tree of life and in the holy city because maybe this is considered taking “words away from this book of prophecy.” I guess that trumps faith. But I hope it was just a way to assure its inclusion in the final draft because it also says the dogs will be left outside the gates, and you know it won’t be heaven for me without dogs, so that has got to be wrong.