Twelve Bible Stories in Need of Revision
In the beginning, the earth was born. Then God gave light to the heavens and raised the earth from the water and formed the firmament that vaulted above Springfield, Missouri. And he threw all manner of fowl into the air and all manner of beast onto the earth and blew breath into the dirt to create Adam and carved Eve from the dusty rib.
Many begats later, cars were born. But God must have foreseen this, because he made the dinosaurs, whose decomposed bodies gave us oil. Therefore, oil is good, as are oil companies, as is burning the bodies of all the beasts that came before us, so we can get to Bible study on time without having to catch a bus as big as the dinosaurs that were never mentioned in the beginning.
2. Noah’s Ark
In Sunday school we raised our hands. “What about marsupials?” we said, and yes, we were told, Noah collected two of everything, including marsupials.
“All manner of creature,” our Sunday school teacher said, a little exasperated at our efforts to unman the good book.
“Yes, rhinoceri,” she said. “And yes, opossums. And yes killer bees. And wasps. And yellow jackets. And salamanders and tadpoles and scorpions.”
This made God more a crazy man than a wise leader, and Noah his fool, we thought. “Who would bring scorpions?” we said, and were told that God loves all his creatures, which made us wonder if he loved scorpions more than he loved us. He must have, because we didn’t have stingers and scorpions did, and the presence of stingers is better and more lovely than the absence of stingers. So runs a child’s mind.
But the story of Noah may be more believable now, since there are fewer species, due to extinction. Fewer pairs of animals, considering all those that have died out in the past five thousand years. The passenger pigeon. The Tasmanian tiger. The Pyrenean ibex. The golden toad. All gone.
And, of course, due to global warming, the polar caps are melting, and the sea rising—we might need a ship after all.
So, Noah’s Ark 2017:
And Noah loaded the few remaining animals, including snakes and scorpions and killer bees, which all thrive in the newly heated world, and he sailed the rising seas for forty thousand days and nights, until such time as all the animals had eaten one another, and Noah had thrown himself overboard to be away from the constant rocking of the waves, the loneliness of being the last mammal alive in all the watery world.
Job receives a foreclosure notice from Bank of America. He fell behind on his payments after his crops died because his well dried up as a result of global warming and irresponsible water policies by major corporations. During the foreclosure process, his foreign wife is deported. Sleeping in the streets, he contracts the Zika virus from mosquitoes whose population range is bolstered by their warming environment. Later, after he has scraped together enough capital to wager on the stock market, a successful margin call allows him to recoup a small part of his losses, but immigration laws prevent his extended family from joining him in the United States, and there is no amnesty offered because his last name is Middle-Eastern-y.
“Why, oh Lord, why?” Job cries, and is arrested by the police for disturbing the peace.
4. The Walls of Jericho
Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred. And the Lord said to Joshua, “Take this thing and do this thing,” this thing being the Ark of the Covenant, and this thing being march around the city. And so they marched for six days in silence except for the trumpets of the priests. No one knows what the people inside the city were doing while the priests marched around the outer walls blowing their horns and kicking up dust, because the Bible doesn’t mention any of them except Rahab the prostitute, who was supposed to be spared because she harbored spies, her profession obviously not being much of a big deal in God’s eyes.
And on the seventh day the priests all shouted, and the walls fell. And Joshua’s army went straight into the city and murdered every living thing inside (except the prostitute) with the sword—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys. Murdered. Killed. Destroyed is the word more modern versions of the Bible use, so destroyed. Sliced. Hacked. Chopped apart. And the army ransacked the city, taking all the gold and silver for the glory of the Lord, which seems strange, because since when does God need gold? And after the sacking there was the burning, and after the burning some lesson we are supposed to have learned about opposing any who have God on their side.*
5. Samson and Delilah
Samson was forced to cut his hair and buy a suit and go to interviews under rows of fluorescent lighting. He was hired by Jefferson Pilot Insurance Company, and in his cubicle on the fourteenth floor he would occasionally, between calls, reach up to touch his hair before remembering it was all gone. In the mornings, when he woke with Delilah beside him breathing softly, he would wonder what might happen if he did not go to work, not sure he could handle another day looking out the mirrored windows at the big buildings rising all around, wondering where his animal strength had gone, if he could manage to grow his hair out again in spite of Jefferson Pilot Insurance Company’s dress code.
Then with such thoughts a darkness began to fall over him at the prospect of the days to come. He was not sure he could bear up under the weight of this new world. He longed for the feats of strength he had once known, to slay the lion with his own hands, to murder the thirty men for the cloth they wore, to murder more of the Philistines for making him angry.
And each day, usually late in the afternoon, he wondered whether he might pull down the pillars of the building on top of himself and all the others who sat staring at their screens. But he had cut his hair and clothed himself in soft suits. So he wondered, there beneath the darkness of the artificial light, whether he had the strength to throw his office chair through the window so that he might walk out into nothingness.
6. The Good Samaritan
A man was driving down from Denver to Dallas when his car died. He sat on the side of the road in the West Texas flatlands while the shadows of the passing cars stretched out in front of him. His cell phone had no bars, so he just sat on the side of the road watching the cars whiz by, the semis rocking him with the wind of their passage. He counted more than two hundred cars before he grew tired of counting. He held out his thumb for a time, but when he did this, women sitting in the passenger seats of the cars reached to lock the doors, even though they were traveling by him at seventy-five miles an hour. No one even slowed but a state trooper, who waved to indicate that he could not park there.
When night fell, he slept in the back seat but grew so cold he had to get out and walk around. In the scrub brush to the sides of the interstate he could hear the coyotes calling to one another. The stars above him looked like holes shot in the night through which he could see heaven.
In the late hours, two men pulled over and beat him and took his wallet and cell phone, and though a few cars slowed while the beating was going on, none stopped. When he woke from the beating, the man walked fifteen miles to the nearest phone, which was located in a gas station. The night manager, who was just about to go home, told him he had to buy something before he could use the restroom to wipe the blood off his body, but since he’s the only one who spoke to the man, he gets to be the Good Samaritan.
7. Jesus Walks on Water
Jesus walked on water, and Lake Cuyahoga once caught fire. Neither of these things seems plausible, and yet one happened for sure. If one happened, perhaps the other did, too. Let’s say the Sea of Galilee was so polluted that Jesus was able to step on the steel tailings, the airplane parts, the oil sludge, the acid runoff, the iron ores, the tractor tires, the hulls of abandoned boats, the bricks from fallen factories, the corpses slowly decaying, the bloated bodies of dead fish, the missiles and the makings of bombs, the bullets, the martyrs and madness of all the Middle Eastern wars, the cries and discomfiture of those who live there under the arc of exhaust from approaching drones.
And when his disciples saw him walking on water, they were sore afraid.
8. Jesus Refuses to Feed Five Thousand
As evening approached, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. They need only pee in this cup, and also to prove that they have been looking for work.”
In the end, all were fed, but Jesus watched them with a wary eye to make sure none were freeloading. He had his disciples destroy all the food that was left over, because feeding them again would only make them dependent on him, and what they needed was self-reliance.
9. Lazarus, Saul, Suffering
Lazarus must have been only borne back from the brink, not reborn. Then blinked his newly opened eyes at the world around him and asked if he could go back.
Saul’s eyes were also opened, and what he saw was that it was easier to be kind. With this kindness he could become more Christlike, but we tend to forget Saul’s story.
On the cross, Jesus lamented the suffering to come. He asked why he was to be forsaken, and if we apply his last words to the world which we now inhabit, we’ll find the same silence for an answer that God gave his only begotten son.
And they slaughtered the fatted calf because red meat, and it was good. The bush caught fire because of global warming, whence came the drought in the desert from which the refugees are fleeing by the hundred thousand. Moses thought he heard God because of the Klonopin, which he had to be careful with because it conflicted with his diabetes meds. Moses, too, came from the desert and wandered for forty years without water somewhere near Syria, but now has put on too much weight.
Abraham claims he was never going to kill his son, but Isaac brings it up every Thanksgiving during the Cowboys game. Now Abraham’s sons study law at Georgetown, and each calls the other an interloper. They never come home for Christmas. Sarah drinks too much wine, wonders what happened to the time, and remembers when her sons were young, in the years after she was barren.
Daniel shot the lion with a crossbow on safari. He sold the head to a dentist for a trophy. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed not so much for their people’s wicked ways but because they lay in the path of a proposed oil pipeline. The mountains quaked not in the presence of the Lord but because of hydraulic fracking. Their tops had already been removed by the mining of coal. The rivers ran red with rust. The sun turned black as sackcloth from the smoke of the factory fires.
Onan spilled his seed in the desert and set the curriculum for abstinence-only. Jonah rode in the first submarine before we filled the seas with them. At one time, men came together to build a tower, but God caused them to not understand one another, and the tower came down.
In the valley of the shadow of death there are still waters that restore souls. All a man has to do is sit by them, if he believes in that sort of thing.
11. And God Gave Man Dominion Over Every Living Thing that Moveth upon the Earth
Just add the words “did not” to this verse. The words can be placed after “God” or after “Earth.” Either way works, depending on your interpretation. You’ll have to change some words and some verb tenses to make the new verse make sense, but we’ve been doing that since before it was written.
12. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Conquest, War, Famine, and Death, who come down out of the skies in the end of days, when man has turned against everything God has said.**
* For revision, simply replace Joshua’s name with the name of any modern army. Replace the Ark of the
Covenant with bombs and bullets, the trumpets with the treading of booted feet or the vapor trails of
drones. Burn still the city. Carry away the spoils. Still claim it’s all done in God’s name.
** Actually, this one is still pretty accurate.