Sep. 18—Alongside my love for Henry Huggins and Ribsy, Tara and his adventures in Prydain, and courageous Karana on the island of the Blue Dolphins, one the most treasured of books growing up was an oversized tome containing the all-time favorite fables from the Bible, complete with luscious colored drawings.
I remember lying on my bedroom floor, chin cupped in hands, as I read and flipped through the pages, soaking in these time-honored stories. So here are my top five biblical stories, the ones that made the greatest impact on me and my imagination.
How many of these stories are your favorite?
—I love the story about David and Goliath; I truly adore it. Without a doubt it's my all-time favorite biblical story. and why not? Who doesn't love the underdog? and you don't get much more of an underdog status than this one, with the smaller, weaker David, a boy from Israel, squaring off against the bigger, stronger Goliath, a nearly 10-foot-tall giant from Philistine. I think of this as the ultimate "standing up to the bully" moment. and similar to the famed scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark," when Indy uses a pistol against a sword-wielding opponent, David uses the tiny sling and stone — a weakling's weapon — to bring down his armored opponent, with a crack shot to the noggin. Big win for us little guys.
—While the birth of Jesus is recreated within an elaborate Bethlehem village that I painstakingly set up each November in our living room — and obviously celebrated each and every Dec. 25 — it's the man's horrific death, the greatest story ever told, that has always stuck with me over the decades, long before I chose to watch (and only once) "The Passion of the Christ." Being stripped of clothing to bake in the sun, given vinegar to drink instead of water, and then the grotesque crucifixion and horrific human suffering before death took him, leading to his burial and resurrection to the heavens. Jesus died for our sins. None of us should ever forget that.
—The story of Noah and his wooden ark has always filled me with wonder — one of the few Bible stories that most people will recognize. I would often play this scene out when I took baths, stuffing a plastic boat with animal crackers — which, alas, would melt or get eaten. The story also scared the holy heck out of me. Why would God drown the world, killing millions of humans and untold millions of innocent animals, with a giant flood that would cover the Earth for nearly a year? Hey, I was a nervous little kid back then, who had suffered bad dreams and needed a light beside my bed most nights. At least the flooding took place 4,300 years ago, I reassured my young self — surely I'm safe here in my Southwest Missouri house, right? and I was, of course, because God promised not to ever do something like that again, and he's kept his word over the centuries, thank goodness. Still, the brutality of the act left me boggled as a child, though the part in me that loved animals could at least feel contented that some of the animals survived. (But what about all those dogs that didn't make it to the ark, scattered around the world?) Still, the words of Genesis 6:11-13 fill my mind today as I scan the various headlines — "the earth was filled with violence. and God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth." How could life 4,300 years ago be possibly as bad as life here in 2021? I guess I'll leave the scholars to figure that one out.
—I've spoken about Moses and the exodus before, previously mentioning the movie "The Ten Commandments" in a recent article here. I have to mention that movie again. Moses leading the Israelites, who had been enslaved by the Egyptians for 400-some years, to the Promised Land is still one of my favorite stories. Who can't help but love an action-packed story, with the good guys, facing likely death, fleeing an army of bad guys? As a child, time and time again I would act this biblical chase out with my Army men on my bedroom floor; I could almost smell their terror and taste the dust as they stayed just a single step ahead of their armed and armored pursuers. Reaching the Red Sea, God split the waters to allow safe passage across, and they did just that. Reaching the other side, God closed the waters and the Egyptian army, halfway across the parting of the sea, subsequently drowned. The parting of that sea in the Charlton Heston 1956 classic, to this day, holds up as being one of the most awe-inspiring moments ever placed on film.
—And speaking of animals ... I love and adore them. I think most of you know that by now. and that empathy began with a hard lesson and a swat to my butt from my father, when I was either 4 or 5 and was caught running around our front lawn, smashing honeybees on flowers with my shoe. I learned a valuable lesson that day, one that has stuck with me, has grown with me, ever since: Respect all of God's creatures, both large and small. That lesson was brought to life inside my mind when I read about Androcles, which isn't in the Bible but is a lesson the Catholic faith has long attributed to the life of St. Jerome, the Christian scholar, best known for translating the bulk of the Bible into Latin, and famed for his teachings concerning Christian moral life. In this story, found in "Attic Nights," Androcles is a runaway slave who shelters inside a den and comes face to face with a lion. The lion, he finds, is in great pain due to a thorn in his paw. Androcles risks life and limb by approaching and pulling the thorn from flesh. In doing so, man and beast become inseparable, with the lion later saving his life inside the Circus Maximus in Rome. Moral of the story? Be kind to animals, folks.
Kevin McClintock is features editor for The Joplin Globe.