Denying the Facts

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge - Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

Sara and Jack Gorman in a Time Magazine article note that “It’s easy to dismiss people who believe things that are factually incorrect – that vaccines cause autism, for example, or that climate change isn’t real. But if we really want to change how they think, we need to take an honest look at what’s driving those beliefs. Because it’s not ignorance, it’s psychology.” (Time Sept. 12, 2016) They write that “humans are distinctly uncomfortable with events or phenomena without clear causes, and when we don’t know something, we tend to fill in the gaps ourselves.” They are authors of the book “Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us.”

This is certainly the case when it comes to Bible stories. We’re uncomfortable not knowing the source of realities we experience, like the creation of the universe. This was especially difficult for people who lived in a non-scientific era. They lived in a world where they experienced

the earth, light and darkness, water, the sky, and dry land. The earth is filled with living creatures, trees and plants, and people, both male and female. How did that happen? Since scientific facts were not available they created stories about what they experienced. These stories were passed on in an oral tradition from generation to generation. The first story of creation in the book of Genesis, for example, was probably not written for posterity until the sixth century BCE at the time of the Babylonian captivity. The second story is an earlier account. The point of the stories was to give God credit for creation and to acknowledge that people stray from God’s will and that there is evil as well as good in our world. Neither creation story was meant to be taken literally.

In more recent centuries people were stunned to learn that our planet is round not flat. Common sense would tell us that if we were on the bottom side of a round earth we’d fall off. But photos taken in space reveal that the earth is indeed round. Meanwhile people had to solve their curiosity in non-scientific ways. With the stories of creation people satisfied their need for the phenomena they experienced by creating stories referred to now as myths. The stories satisfied their psychological need. The world considered to be flat satisfied

a psychological need, but was in fact a denial of facts not available to them.

People who love God and read their Bibles should not be horrified that there are at least 100 myths in the Bible that mix history with story telling to tell people’s experience with each other and God. We continue to create stories, and often for children to help the child experience in story form their own emotions that can nurture sensitivity and compassion. Love for a talking teddy bear or pet can teach one to love someone else. Just because the teddy bear or pet can’t really talk doesn’t mean that the story should not be told. The meaning of the story is more important than the facts. Fiction does the same thing by relaying true life experiences, but the facts are usually not literally true. So it is with many Bible stories. Enjoy!

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge

Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

comments powered by Disqus