Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy: “We support biblical families.”

Today’s Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day: The sons of Noah (Genesis 9:20-25).

Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backwards and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.”

  • Wednesday

    But James Dobson of Focus on the Family says that it’s _necessary_ for sons to see their fathers naked, so they don’t grow up to be gay! Men are supposed to take their sons into a shower and show them that daddy has a big penis, so that the little boys don’t grow up thinking that their fathers are penis-free or small-penis’d, a misunderstanding that is apparently the leading cause of gayness in modern America.

    But now the Bible makes it clear that it’s wrong for sons to look at their naked fathers. Man, I’m so confused.

  • vsm

    Russell Crowe is so going to nail this scene.

  • AnonaMiss

    The sarcasm is not lost on me, but did Dobson actually say something it’s based on?

  • Jurgan

    Are… are you serious?

  • Jurgan

    I usually enjoy apologetics and trying to make sense of Biblical stories, but for this one I just throw up my hands and say “I give up.”  I get the idea of showing why Canaan is racially inferior, unpleasant though that is (and unfortunate that it led to the whole “Mark of Ham” bullshit that justified colonialism).  I guess the culture really frowned on nudity?  Is that really a justification for an eternal, or at least life-long, curse? I mean, there are other oft-confused stories that have sensible explanations, like Onan not really being about masturbation, but this one just baffles me.

  • Fusina

    I’ve heard it explained that Ham probably came out of the tent and was trying to get his brothers to join in the “Ha-ha, Dad’s dead drunk and showing off his junk” laugh at good ole dad.

    I have no idea what “lesson” this story is trying to convey. But then, quite a lot of the OT is that way for me. 

  • D9000

    Whatever lesson it is, it can’t be ‘don’t get so drunk that you go on a toot and end up nekkid’, since Noah gets off scot free.

  • Wednesday

     @ AnonaMiss,

    I haven’t seen any rational given for why fathers need to show their little boys that they have bigger penises, but I’m guessing it’s something Freudian. Not because of the phallus obsession, but because the “pray away the gay” movement tends to embrace quasi-Freudian reasons for why gayness exists — mostly to do with relationships with parents.

    @ Jurgan,

    The bit about “not knowing their fathers have penises” was a joke, but yes, Dobson promotes the showering-and-junk-comparing thing as a method to prevent gayness.

  • Carstonio

    Reading this as a teenager, I had wondered how Noah was supposed to be worthy of surviving the Flood if he was getting plastered. Even if Noah’s god didn’t regard drinking to intoxication as a moral failing, the god might have been justly concerned about the Ark’s captain neglecting his responsibilities to the passengers.

    The morality of the story doesn’t make sense if we assume that Ham seeing his naked father was simply an accident. Sounds like Noah was simply being vindictive, needlessly taking out his embarrassment and shame on his son.

    Is this the passage that was often interpreted as justifying slavery of African-Americans? I had the impression that some pseudo-literalists imagine Noah’s sons to look like Brad Pitt, Chris Rock and Jet Li.

  • Fusina

    “Is this the passage that was often interpreted as justifying slavery of
    African-Americans? I had the impression that some pseudo-literalists
    imagine Noah’s sons to look like Brad Pitt, Chris Rock and Jet Li.”

    Yes it is, and yes they do. I was raised in such a family. For all I know they still believe this. I do know that they currently think Glenn Beck is a great thinker and that the mainstream media conspired to get him booted off Fox…

  • SisterCoyote

     You’re joking, right? This is hyperbolic sarcasm? Please?

  • banancat

    I think it’s a mistake to try to find a moral or lesson in this story. The Bible has many different books with many different purposes and it’s a relatively modern strategy to try to interpret everything as a rulebook. I think this story was intended just to be a history and not really an Aesop.

  • Ursula L

    Reading this as a teenager, I had wondered how Noah was supposed to be worthy of surviving the Flood if he was getting plastered. Even if Noah’s god didn’t regard drinking to intoxication as a moral failing, the god might have been justly concerned about the Ark’s captain neglecting his responsibilities to the passengers.

    I think there is supposed to be an element of surprise involved.  Noah is specified as being the first to plant a vineyard.  Suggesting that he had no experience with alcohol before.  

    And while one could gather wild grapes or other fruits to press juice to ferment for wine, genuinely wild strains of fruit (as opposed to domesticated varieties that “go wild” which is what a lot of our “wild” fruits tend to be) tend to have lower sugar and lower yields than what farmers select for.  

    So I imagine Noah, having spent years selecting grapes for sweetness and higher-yield plants, finally achieving a collection of grape vines worthy to be called a vineyard.  And he gets a large quantity of nice, sweet juice.  Which naturally ferments, with the extra sugar meaning more alcohol than previous batches from wild fruit.  

    For the first time, someone has access to lots of fairly strong wine, and gets drunk.  

    And we see alcohol turn Noah abusive, as he curses his grandchild because his son pointed out that he had a problem, and the other two sons work to enable and protect an alcoholic abuser.  

  • galactica_actual

    I kind of think this one is one part cautionary morality tale mixed with one part origin story. Sort of like a shiraz/cabernet sauvignon blend.On one hand, we have Noah who somehow discovers how to domesticate grapes, viticulture, fermentation, in order to conveniently illustrate the perils of drunkeness, and then we have the curse (which seems to be a hunogver “eff you” to Canaan from Grandpa Noah), which–in what I’m sure is a complete coincidence– provides a retroactive justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites by the Israelites.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    The story I have heard is that “saw the nakedness of” is a euphemism for sex (rape, of course, in this case).  This covers the “curse of Ham” justification for slavery with a nice helping of “gay is icky.”  When Ham talked to his brothers, he was, apparently trying to convince them to rape him, too.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise
  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

     Not a joke:

    http://triptronix.net/ishbadiddle/archives/2005/08/11/14.27.05/default.asp

    (Unfortunately, the link to the original pamphlet from Focus on the Family is broken)

  • Carstonio

    It didn’t occur to me to see Noah as abusive. My reading was that Ham was simply advising his brothers that he had accidentally seen their father in an embarrassing position, and his brothers were trying to protect him from further exposure.

  • Ursula L

    The abusiveness of the situation only occurred to me just now.  I’d always read it before, as you did, as Ham simply seeing the problem and mentioning it, and the other two trying to protect Noah.

    But cursing Ham’s child for Ham’s unintentional indiscretion is abusive.  Particularly in a culture where curses aren’t just words, but are seen as doing genuine harm.  

    And in abusive families, or the families of alcoholics, it is quite common for other family members to deny the problem, and try to hide it (as the other two brothers tried to hide Noah’s nakedness) and for family members who notice and mention the problem to be seen as being the problem.  And for that family member to be punished or marginalized for making the family “look bad” by drawing attention to the real problem.  The story seems to have, perhaps unintentionally, captured the dynamics of how families cope with addiction and abuse, in  the story of the first wine-maker.  

  • Carstonio

     No disagreement about the cursing being abusive, and excellent point about the described behavior being typical of such families. The caveat is that even though we have the original Hebrew, the original meanings of the words in that particular culture either aren’t available or aren’t general knowledge, at least outside the community of Judaic scholars. To follow on PepperjackCandy’s point, the original story could have been laced with euphemistic meanings that have since been lost.

  • Amaryllis

    The Chick-fil-A Poem of the Day:

     The Drunkenness of Noah, by Kathleen Graber

  • Anton_Mates

    That interpretation has certainly found defenders back to the first few centuries CE.  If “saw the nakedness of” is metaphorical, though, it makes the subsequent lines about Shem and Japheth a little weird; they seem to be dealing with the literal problem of avoiding a peek at their father.  But then, a lot of aspects of the story in its current form don’t make much sense.

    I can slightly sympathize with God wanting to murder everyone on earth, if Noah’s family were the most righteous folks he could find and they still made a habit of getting drunk and cursing/raping/castrating each other.  That’s a pretty big SimEarth fail right there.