Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
‘So long, and thanks for all the fish’ is the message left by the dolphins when they departed Earth just before it was demolished for a hyperspace bypass. In ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, Douglas Adams flips assumptions about the hierarchy of species, but the re-teller of this story in Genesis has humanity firmly at the top.
So, in Noah’s flood, were the dolphins and fish unduly affected? We could travel down that rabbit-hole and ponder the effect of 40 days of rainwater on ocean and sea salinity, but it’s in the same category as why dinosaurs aren’t listed on the Ark manifest!
Taking this literally is ‘mostly harmless’ apart from when the rainbow covenant is rolled out as an excuse to not engage with the reality of Climate Change. Rising sea levels is an effect of Climate Change, and unfortunately that has given a section of humanity (who have reaped short-term benefits by causing long-term damage) a religious justification for denying or ignoring it.
Human hands wrote the words in the Bible and their worldviews would have affected how they interpreted divine inspiration. If you had complete certainty that humanity was the reason for ‘life, the universe and everything’ then the thought that the dolphins were right all along just wouldn’t occur to you. But Climate Change is also a matter of self-interest. The evolution of life on this planet shows us that life will continue. The question is whether human life will make it to ‘the restaurant at the end of the universe’? We are seeking to mitigate the effects of Climate Change to minimise the effect it has on humanity, and for that we all need to contribute to an Ark full of solutions and not just leave it to a few Noah’s. ‘And another thing…’
Living God, broaden our perceptions to our neighbour, peoples across the world, and all life that calls this planet home. In the beauty of a rainbow we see a spectrum as sunlight passes through raindrops, and we can feel the presence of you within it. Let that inspire us to play our part in minimising our impact on our planet home, our fellow creatures, and to truly act as stewards of Creation. Amen
The Rev’d David Coaker, serving Grays URC and a chaplain to the Moderators of General Assembly