Monday, December 10, 2012
Ark or Arc?
It's the ship that has captivated the attention of people around the world.
No, not the Titanic. This time, we're talking about Noah's Ark. The world's first cruise liner, or cargo ship. Or lifeboat.
In Doredrecth, Netherlands, today, Dutch carpenter Johan Huibers officially opened for tours his hand-crafted version of the Biblical boat, a floating, life-sized, full-scale replica of what Noah originally built to save his family from God's wrath. The book of Genesis, in the Old Testament, contains a narrative of an epic flood sent by God to punish mankind for their abominable evil. A level of evil mankind had managed to foment against God in what was already a relatively short span of time; what has been chronicled in the Bible's first book, and in its early chapters, no less!
If God was so enraged by how His creation had turned against Him at that nascent stage in human history, what what His anger towards us be today?
You don't need to be a born-again evangelical Christian to have heard the story: God saved the patriarch Noah because his family was the only one, out of all the people that had populated the Earth since the beginning with Adam and Eve, that still worshiped God. God sent supernatural rains to flood His creation, and for 40 days and nights, it rained enough for water to completely cover our planet. There was so much water, it took 150 days for the water to recede.
Some people consider this Biblical account more of a religious allegory than a historical fact. Some believe it's a folk tale, since Christianity isn't the only religious tradition with such a story in it. For evangelical Christians, however, Noah's Ark really was built by a guy named Noah. The vessel really did serve as a sanctuary for representative samples of every living creature, and all life forms alive today can trace their roots back to those creatures - both human and otherwise - that exited that craft after the flood.
Dutchman Huibers is one of those believers. For the past 20 years, he's been laboring over his replica as a way of testifying about his faith. Back this past summer, Huibers officially completed its construction, and starting today, it's open for tours after receiving all of its necessary government certifications. Huibers even plans on taking his ark on tour, since its water-tight hull floats on water. However, it won't be making any trans-Atlantic crossings. Huibers' vessel may have been constructed according to the dimensions and requirements God gave Noah that are recorded in the Bible, but the patriarch didn't have modern shipbuilding codes by which he had to abide. No insurance company today would certify Huibers' replica as an ocean-going vessel.
With or without a cargo of lions, tigers, and bears!
Indeed, can you imagine how animal-rights groups would protest, even though all the animals roaming our planet today owe their existence to Noah's floating zoo? Perhaps out of deference to animal lovers, as well as to control cleanliness and odor factors, Huibers has populated his vessel with stuffed animals and household pets. And it's probably safe to assume he'll be spraying to prevent roaches, woodworm, and termites from taking up residence amongst all that wood.
Perhaps trying not to be outdone by Huibers' publicity, a small group of Pentecostals in the hills of western Maryland are also trying to remind the public that they've got their own ark project going on. Their ark, though, being constructed by pastor Richard Greene and the church he founded, God's Ark of Safety Church in Frostburg, is being made of steel and concrete bolted into the ground. Greene says God told him back in 1974 to build the ark, but apparently his faith didn't extend to water reaching that far west from Chesapeake Bay. Instead, a segment of the project has been erected alongside Interstate 68, with its towering steel framework testifying to... well, folly, mostly.
At least they're anchoring this ark to the ground as a testament to God's promise that He'd never again flood the Earth. Huibers' ark isn't designed as a "rescue" ship, either, although having it floating in water helps reduce the weirdness factor of which Greene's project helplessly reeks. But like anything else, "weirdness" is relative. Huibers' ark is available for weddings, parties, and corporate meetings, as well as tours. Greene wants his ark to be a miniature pentecostal city, with a sanctuary, private school, and medical clinic all tucked inside.
While maybe it's easy to deride these spectacles as tawdry distractions from the Gospel message implicit in Noah's very need for an ark to begin with, perhaps they can help remind us that God may be slow to anger, but that doesn't mean He doesn't get angry. Sin is abominable to Him, and while the highly-publicized sins of adultery and debauchery may be the targets of people like Huibers and Greene, the sin of self-aggrandizement might be haunting these arks in the Netherlands and western Maryland. It's a fine line between reminding folks of the sinful world in which we live and being all holier-than-thou.
Having said that, it still would probably be cool to visit Huibers' newly-completed ark to get an in-person sense of its dimensions and how Noah must have felt being the admiral of the only ship left on our planet.
Then again, I prefer reminding myself of God's power and grace by simply spraying my garden hose into the air on a sunny day, and letting rays of light create a sparkling rainbow in the mist, God's eternal sign of His promise never to flood the Earth again.
The rainbow, after all, is an "arc," too!