I’ve just finished going over the creation and flood myths in Genesis 1–11 with my students. By my reckoning, this is about the twentieth time I’ve taken this journey. One comfort of walking a well-known trail is you know what to expect. The fact that always sticks in my mind is how good of a job the Creationists have done. In every setting where I have taught I have many students who unquestioningly accept that Genesis 1–11 was written as science by some kind of Mosaic mosaic of scientist, law-giver, and prophet, a regular Bronze Age Renaissance man. Since biblical scholars do not communicate well with the public (nor do they play nicely with each other), most students come into class wondering why the Creationist viewpoint is even under question.
I want to suggest something radical here: in our culture where science, technology, and finance are highly valued, we neglect to educate our kids in the basics of literary study. Schools push the technological envelope, and this is not a bad thing, but the kids come home and are shuffled off to church where the Bible is revered and a basic disconnect forms in their minds. A compartmentalized Bible, factually true, resides in one region of the cortex while in another scientific theory lurks. And when fact clashes with theory, fact always wins. They know they have to tell biology teachers that they understand evolution, they simply don’t believe it. They come to collegiate religion classes expecting Sunday School part 2.
Just this summer a grown man, Randall Price, director of Liberty Uni-, Univ-, University’s (sorry, I always choke on that one) Center for Judaic Studies once again made the weary trek to Mount Ararat to find Noah’s Ark. If he’d read Atrahasis or even Gilgamesh, he might have known he was looking in the wrong place. Nevertheless, he received coverage from a major news network (FOX, of course!), and those who never studied ancient mythology cheered him on. If we could teach children that the Bible is a literary document, teach them that it can be studied seriously, and that the Big Bang and “let there be light” are not the same thing, we might make some progress. Until then, we will have to contend with silly cartoons trumping hard-earned education.