Perhaps you have seen something in the news about the Noah’s Arc park, located in Kentucky, a handful of miles south of Cincinnati. At 510 feet long and 85 feet wide, it is a big boat, but of course, barring a flood of biblical proportion, it is never going to float.
The arc has been a source of some controversy. The state of Kentucky offered an $18 million tax break and the small town where it is located approved a $65 million bond issue which raised separation of church and state issues. Its not something I particularly want to see, I like the boats that actually sail, but I don’t think I feel like shouting at someone for wanting to see it.
Unlike Ken Ham, who started the whole project, however, I do not think it will be “one of the greatest Christian outreaches of this era of history.” The arc in Kentucky is called a replica, and indeed it is proportioned roughly the same as the measurements in the book of Genesis, but given that no original exists how could it be a replica? As a naval architecture novice, I am not sure it is sea-worthy and I wonder how it could contain 2 of each of the 8.7 billion known species of the world (emphasis on the word “known,” more are being discovered). That’s a lot of critters.
And that brings me to the question: why? What you focus on determines what you miss. By building a big boat, the flood story (which by the way has variants in multiple ancient cultures) ceases to be a poetic metaphor for the relationship of creator and creature and the interdependency of it all and becomes a “proof,” or a replica if you will of something that likely never existed beyond the imagination.
And that brings me to why St. Paul was so focused on the cross. In his time and place, the cross was a symbol of Roman torture technology and imperial domination theology. It was Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome in lumber that stood as a warning to anyone foolish enough to challenge the total control of the empire. It was like a billboard on the road into every major city that read, “Fear This.”
What Paul and the early Christian movement did was turn the cross on its head. The peace of Christ comes on that very same cross, and boldly declares that even death, let alone the empire, does not get the final word. The kingdom of God is not about domination, intimidation and scapegoating, it is about vulnerability, forgiveness and acceptance. What you focus on determines what you miss. Do you focus on the cross as an instrument of death or a liberation to more abundant life?
Here is a quote from 20th century theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life Together:
“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.”