In the coming weeks and months, there are 2 Bible-based stories hitting the big screen. One, Son of God, brought by the married duo, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, that brought The Bible miniseries to life. The other, Noah, a story from the Old Testament starring Russell Crowe. And let’s not forget the Hollywood remaking of Left Behind, though we’ll leave that alone. Since it is based on a fictional book series, it should remain in a separate category.
Let’s back up here for a second.
In the case of the miniseries, The Bible, many people in the church fell on different sides of the debate. Some were in favor of the message and backed it 100%. Others were in favor of the message, even if it meant not being biblically accurate. The thought from this camp was, some exposure was better than none — especially if said exposure starts the conversation with nonbelievers. Others, however, deemed it detrimental to the faith to support the flagrant discrepancies found within the episodes.
The irony is, Son of God, hasn’t seemed to create nearly the same level of negativity within the church. Everyone seems to be on board. Maybe I am just not looking hard enough — I had to search “Son of God movie controversy” as opposed to simply “Noah movie” to find anything — but even in that search, negative reports about Noah popped up. My sociological background caused me to wonder:
Why would the same people, who encouraged Twitter followers and friends alike to skip the miniseries, be so quiet on the movie?
On the flip side, I have seen emails and articles from conservative groups urging Christian consumers to vote with their dollars — by NOT supporting Noah. To tell Hollywood, “No thanks!” by not investing in their inaccurate portrayal of the story of Noah, as we know it. Even Variety ran a biased story that Christians weren’t in support of the movie, which was later revealed unfounded. But there are the minority of believers out there pushing that agenda — further damaging the relationship between Hollywood and the church — the same relationship that produced the likes of Ten Commandments and Passion of the Christ not that long ago, lest we forget.
That got me thinking:
Are these the same people who despised The Bible miniseries?
Is Son of God not being attacked because focus is on Noah?
…or is Son of God being unchallenged because it feels wrong, in our hearts, to debate the story of Jesus??
And the bigger question it left me with:
When Hollywood begs to tell the story of ANY part of our faith, why do we, now, so quickly run from it? Can we embrace it? Or should we continue to run from it?
We all know there is hardly ever 100% accuracy when turning a book into a movie. Lord of the Rings would probably be on film #23 if they attempted to tell each story, in its entirety, without missing a detail. The Help: some friends loved the book and hated the movie; others loved the movie but hated the book. Why? Because they weren’t the exact same story. The Vow [movie] was based so loosely on the book, you wouldn’t even recognize it being an adaptation if it was given a different title. About the ONLY fact that stayed constant was the lead female lost a few years of her memory, following a car accident. But even the severity of the accident was changed. Oddly enough, the book’s true account was much more graphic [read: dramatic]. Funny in that case, Hollywood softened the blow of the source of pain for the characters.
One thing that usually stays consistent: whichever one we were exposed to first, is usually the one we prefer. I loved the book Safe Haven so much, I refuse to watch the movie… because I know they changed big enough details it would ruin how I felt about the book.
Back to this relationship between Hollywood and the Bible. We, who have read the story from the book, are going to be prone to like the Word better. Regardless. However, the discrepancies give us a reason to announce our distaste. The inaccuracies build our soap box of disdain on which we stand. But just like Lord of the Rings, et al. had to pick the main points to narrate the story, shouldn’t we extend the same grace to these filmmakers? If Mandela had to edit and overlap some of the story, and characters, to share Nelson Mandela’s HIGHLIGHT REEL, should we expect different of movies telling the stories of Noah & Jesus? As long as they don’t blatantly disregard important characters or altar the story, right?
When we are true detectives, evaluating the stories for truth:
Should we reserve judgment?
Should we look at intention?
Should we give the benefit of the doubt?
Should we be excited, merely, for the conversations they can start?
Should we be grateful for any ounce of truth, no matter how small?
Where I struggle, in all honesty, is the omission of things that could be detrimental to someone’s understanding. Especially if the movie is the only version of the story they will hear. However, I have to trust God’s abilities are bigger than our understanding to make Himself known [Romans 1:20].
If Noah paints the anger of God, without the grace, that would be disappointing. If they left out the rainbow, would that also mean they left out God’s covenant? That wouldn’t feel right.
“If Aronofsky’s concept of Noah as a ‘dark, complicated character’ who suffers from ‘survivor’s guilt’ raised some pious eyebrows” — then maybe we need to evaluate, for ourselves, the truth of that. [http://www.ncregister.com/blog/steven-greydanus/chill-out-about-noah]
Is survivor’s guilt really that hard to believe? Does it change enough to make the story counterproductive? Does it change the truth of who God is? One thing is for certain: we cannot know anything realistically until we see it for ourselves.
However, the makers of Son of God have made known a very important part of the story they left out. They have proudly acknowledged that the devil was left on the cutting room floor [to avoid controversy over his supposed resemblance --- seriously, you can't make this stuff up!!]. Now, any good Bible-believing Christian knows the devil loses. He doesn’t win at the end. WE KNOW THAT. Someone who doesn’t know the story, however, doesn’t know that. To leave a villain out of any movie seems foreign to me. That’s like Screenwriting 101. But — to leave the ultimate VILLAIN out of our story, leaves me with more concern than what the Noah protestors have challenged.
“The devil is a lie” is reinforced when we leave him out of the story.
If the only Jesus people can reference, the only Bible-telling they’re exposed to is Son of God, and we leave the villain out, who do you think the villain becomes? You. Me. Grandma. Then, Satan wins.
When we don’t claim the scripture [the devil is a LIAR!!**] and instead claim anecdotes, like he is a lie, we poison our view of not just Satan, but ourselves. If he doesn’t exist, we become the villain of our story. And, Christian or not, we all subscribe to the basics of story telling: the hero beats the villain. If not Satan, Jesus beats us. If not the devil, Jesus conquers us.
The armor of God, as explained in Ephesians 6:10-18, mentions the belt of TRUTH. That’s why we need to be TRUTH detectives. We need to be careful about anything we open our spirits up to, even under the guise of “Christian entertainment.” We are not the villains. We are the heroine the hero comes to rescue. We are the heroine the hero sacrifices His body, His life for. When we tell the story — incorrectly, or incompletely – leaving out a crucial component — we are left like jerks, caught with our pants down. Why? Because when the belt of truth is not in place, we end up sounding like Rick Ross, singing, “The Devil is a Lie.”
Every love story hits a road bump; experiences conflict. That’s another part of Screenwriting 101. There has to be conflict before the resolution. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” I John 3:8b.
Don’t let the only story of Jesus’ love for you be told incompletely. Don’t neglect the hero’s purpose for coming because the villain was omitted from the story. Don’t ignore the conflict. Don’t let someone water down the depth of God’s love for you to make their movie politically correct. And don’t let anyone, including myself, be the extent of the truth seeking you do. Find it for yourself.
**Ephesians 6:11, I Peter 5:8, John 10:10, Matthew 13:19, John 8:44