So the story of Noah and the Flood doesn’t end with pairs of giraffes and zebras descending a wooden plank. It ends with Noah passed out drunk in a makeshift tent, exposing his nether-regions to passersby.
The first time alcohol appears in the Bible it’s with Noah, our post-Flood 400-year-old partier: “When he drank some… wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent” (Gen. 9:21). That’s Bible language for, “Noah drinks a Target wine cube, a forty of Pabst, and a Big Gulp of Jack and Coke and keels over nay-nay in his pop-up Coleman canopy.”
When I first read about the booze-filled adventures of our beloved Biblical protagonist, a man I thought was G-rated, I was surprised, but not as surprised as Noah’s sons probably were upon first seeing their father laying there. Poor kids. Naked or drunk parents are never fun—let alone naked AND drunk. Noah’s lucky he had nice boys to cover his privates with a blanket.
I hated most Sunday school activities as a child but did them because I had to or else. So when the Sunday school teacher told me to add more color to my post-Flood utopia coloring sheet, I added a sarcastic rainbow in the sky and darkened the carpets of green grass on the ground. I know now that was probably not a true-to-life depiction. When the flood water evaporated… or receded… or somehow got absorbed by the porous sins of humanity, more likely than not the ground was covered with detritus other than flowers and rainbows. There was probably a wasteland of corpses—human and animal—and one barely breathing Noah.
I’m reminded of a high school trip to Disneyland with the symphonic band. To get to the performance stage, we had to walk behind Main Street on a secret back road, an alley where garbage trucks drove back and forth. I saw Mickey and Goofy holding their costume heads in their arms. With their free hands, the actors tapped cigarettes in the air. I saw Pluto swinging his head by the ears as he flirted with Cinderella, who dabbed sweat away with fabric. I saw a coarse edge beneath the characters’ soft exteriors.
Some people say the dissolution of innocence is part of growing up and that, as an adult, I shouldn’t be shocked Noah got crunk in front of his kids and did a face-plant in a makeshift tent. He was hostage on a boat made of cypress wood and Fisher-Price plastic for five weeks with animals paired in surprise arranged marriages and lonely, singleton viruses looking for host bodies. What else is Noah going to do when the rocking stops? #sundayfunday
What gets me, I guess, is that my parents and Sunday school teachers never told me. The pastor at the church I attended as a child emphasized holistic readings. “The Bible is not a donut shop,” he would say. “It’s not a buffet. You don’t pick and choose.”
I emailed a friend about all of this, and she responded, “You don’t want to give the little tykes nightmares, but you also don’t want to perpetuate misinformation. At some point weren’t the Sunday school teachers, and then the youth pastors, and then the grown-up pastors, supposed to clue you in to the adult versions?”
Versions? There are other gritty and gratuitous anecdotes to add to my body of Biblical knowledge?
“That said,” my friend continued, “what about personal accountability? You could have read the Bible and acquired these censored bits of knowledge for yourself if you really wanted to.”
When Noah cracked the window of his boat to let loose the birds, or creaked open the front door for some fresh air as everyone found their legs and learned to stand again, he caught a whiff of the calamity that had been laid to rest outside the arc, and was probably haunted by it. He didn’t see Jesus Rays cutting through the clouds. He saw several grim realities we are all responsible for remembering.