In the story, the cat shows up unexpectedly to torment a pair of human children who are home alone while their mother is away. The cat's mischief causes mayhem and consternation for the youngsters. Somehow, by the story's end, the cat manages to clean up the mess it has made and beat a hasty retreat just as the children's mother returns.
The story also features a talking goldfish.
I think that even at age five or six I would have laughed out loud at anyone who dared suggest that the events of this story had actually occurred. It is not that kind of book.
Another favorite book from my childhood tells the story of a man and a woman who live a harmonious life together in a beautiful garden. There they enjoy a close relationship to the God who created them. They are innocently, naively, naked.
One day, when God is away from the garden, a talking snake happens along. The snake's mischief causes mayhem and consternation for the couple. Did I mention that this snake apparently has legs? Unlike the Cat in the Hat, the snake doesn't clean up after itself, and by the time God gets back to the garden, everything has gone to hell.
This is, of course, the story of Adam and Eve from the book of Genesis. It, too, is a great story and highly entertaining. Beside this, it teaches some valuable life lessons. Perhaps most importantly, it describes the nature of our life in this beautiful, broken world.
Describes, not explains.
Some Christians insist that the story, because it is in the Bible, must be factual. This overlooks the fact that the Bible contains many different genres of literature, sometimes within the same book.
Last month, in this post at the Slacktivist blog, Fred Clark had a pointed reply to those who would read such a story literally:
Seriously, people, it’s a story. If you don’t know how to read stories, then you don’t know how to read.
If you don’t know how to read stories, then you become the literacy equivalent of that person who never lets you finish a joke because they’re always interrupting with irrelevant questions and thinking they’re particularly clever for pointing out that a bar stool probably couldn’t support the weight of a gorilla.
I sometimes encounter Christians who say that the story of Adam and Eve must be factual because, without a real Adam, there is no need for a Savior. This is wrongheaded thinking. For humankind to need a Savior, Adam does not need to have been real. Only sin needs to be real.
A talking snake with legs!