A flood of attention has been given lately to the Noah story, what with Russel Crow’s prophetic debut. Judging from religious conservatives’ griping in social media, I’m gathering his portrayal of the Genesis legend was as passable to fundamentalists as his uninspiring Javert was for musical theater aficionados. (Omg*ddess–Christians and gays hating on the same Hollywood celeb for once. Mark it.)
It’s interesting to me that producers for a film about the ship-turned-floating-zoo anticipated the weathered plot would make such a splash. Additionally interesting to me: that they were right. (At least if you’re measuring your prophets in terms of profits.)
The heart of the storm
There’s much ado in the current culture wars about cataclysmic outcomes sure to follow national and international passage of equality for all families, queer and straight. One need look no further than the fearmongering the state of Utah is deploying in its current round of courtroom attacks on gay families, to see the ugly face of social senility strutting as statesmanship (#seanreyes).
Unfazed, we continue to build our houses upon a rock of increasing global solidarity for queer people. It is tempting to respond in kind to each trolling malefactor, trying with futility to deny that their sinking shack was built all along on sands of ill-conceived “tradition.” We can allow these alarmists breathing room, though, even as their last resorts are engulfed by an ocean they experience as chaos and sin. Let them hyperventilate into their brown paper bags and vintage Bible readings. (Just don’t let them use the law as a weapon against our most cherished family relationships.)
Once the panic attacks are over, they will see their vividly imagined storms were not, in fact, rights of conscience hanging by a thread. To boot, vicissitudes in society are not spiteful golden showers from heaven. There is no Design to humiliate broken humanity.
The rains came down and the floods came up
We see in the anti-queer movement a poorly chosen contract of mind control and fear, with at least fifty shades of spiritual BDSM. One’s unresolved inner demon, mistaken for the voice of Almighty anger, generally sets the stage for tortured powerplays regarding submission and dominance of wills.
Soon and very soon, those dwindling few, still psychologically chained to the center of their ark, are going to look up to see a legion of doves bringing olive branches to them, in the forms of children and families against whom they once felt the militance of eradication. Why? Because they will be their own families; their own grandchildren; and their own children’s grandchildren.
I’m not expecting Noah to be a watershed cultural moment for religious cinema, a la Charlton Heston does Moses (or Ben-Hur; or El Cid). But it is possibly an indication that the flood waters of Christian conspiracy and apokalypse-freude had a moment of much-needed emotional release. It’s also a reminder that the promise of cinematic indulgence for deep cultural feelings is a sure way to turn a few bucks at the movies.
If big studio productions are going to soak in financial dividends from modern tensions projected onto ancient prophets, my vote is the next in queue be father Abraham. That would be a wonderful ambition for some daring soul, to bring the Patriarch of half the world’s religious zeal to the silver screen, serving Mesopotamian realness. (Although adapting the Mormon version of Enoch would tickle my utopian sensibilities.)
Ultimately, it will be the promise of human rights that covers the earth like a flood. Humanity is a family, dysfunctional as we may be. And harmony and reconciliation are the waters the good ship humankind is destined to chart. So let’s steer the ship that direction, together.
The author of Genesis prophetically appropriated the rainbow as a symbol of safety and peace. “Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember” (Genesis, ch. 9, NIV). Even while the stormy drama of queer politics plays out in real time, there is serenity for me amidst the tumult. As they do in many a situation, the words of Julian of Norwich (blessed be the mystic) speak to me with knowing confidence: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”