There’s a lot of controversy about the new movie Noah. I’ve posted several links of reviews on various Christian Facebook pages and the responses are quite interesting. People seem to be of two minds.
The other group retorts that we should be more open-minded, that Hollywood has finally shown Christians some consideration and we should not be so nit-picky they didn’t follow the Bible exactly.
The dispute seems to be over the definition of what makes a movie “Christian.”
I think this demonstrates a vital cultural issue and an important divide in our society. We don’t seem to share a common definition of what being a Christian means.
We’ve got all sorts of churches that claim to be Christian, many with mutually exclusive doctrines. According to polls most Americans consider themselves to be Christians (except atheists who are rather adamant they’re not.) But most Americans also think abortion should be legal and the Christian abortion rate is at least as high as the national average. I don’t think most people have any idea what “Christian” is supposed to mean.
If you ask militant atheists what a Christian is, their example is the repulsive Westboro Baptist Church, an organization despised by every other church. Secular Humanists believe we’re stupid, ignorant boobs who hate science.
But even “Christians” themselves can’t agree on what a Christian is. The Mormons say they’re Christians like everybody else even while their church doctrine says all the other churches are apostate. The Catholics deny Protestants are Christians and many Protestant sects believe the Pope is the Antichrist. The Baptists dismiss Pentecostal “holy rollers” and the Pentecostals say you can’t be saved unless you’re one of them. It all seems to be a case of “yeah, I’m a Christian, but you aren’t.” The definition seems to revolve around if you’re part of their group, and has little to do with what you or anybody else might actually believe. Otherwise why would “Christians” have the same rates of divorce and abortion as society in general?
“Christian” has ceased to be a philosophical position. It’s more like a club or party affiliation.
This has come about because people don’t know what’s important. They often don’t know what their church stands for, or what it really means to be a Christian other than “we all hang out together on Sunday morning.” Therefore, if you aren’t hanging out with them, you’re obviously not Christian.
I was once on the board of directors of a large Baptist church. One item we discussed was whether new members should sign a statement saying they agreed with the Statement of Faith (that little list of “I believes” every church has.) I thought it was a no-brainer. The Statement of Faith defines what the church stands for, its reason to exist. It’s what separates a church from the Elks club or the VFW. But the argument was that requiring something like that was “too exclusive,” that most people didn’t understand the doctrine anyway and to force them to agree with it out of ignorance was unfair and would drive membership away. (And we’d lose our market share to some more accommodating church.)
Apparently as long as we say we’re Christian, that’s sufficient. Worrying over details just interferes with fellowship. And since most churches today don’t really study the Bible or discuss doctrine, those details don’t really matter anyway.
This explains why people make the argument that a movie like Noah that begins with the statement “In the beginning there was…nothing” is Christian simply because it references the Bible. That the movie turns the meaning of the misquoted passage on its head seems to make no difference. All that matters is the movie references the Bible and has characters named after those in the Bible who build a big boat to survive an apocalyptic flood.
Yet God is never mentioned in that movie, only a generic “creator.” Noah gets the idea to build the ark, not from a revelation from God but though a drug-induced vision. The “sins” mankind must pay for with their death isn’t rebellion against God but polluting the Earth. The Nephlim who in the original text were the leaders of that rebellion, in the movie are the ones who actually build Noah’s ark. In the Bible Noah was a prophet carrying out God’s will. In the movie he’s a homicidal maniac who attacks his own family to finish the job the flood started. The movie is an almost perfectly inverted presentation of the events, almost as if it were specifically designed to deny the Biblical account.
Throw a few Bible names around and it’s “Christian” even if the storyline directly contradicts scripture. We seem to have degenerated into believing that the Bible is like tortillas and beans. Any dish containing them is “Mexican” food. But if that were true, Taco Bell would be a Mexican restaurant. And people who know what Mexican food really is know that’s not true.
But that’s the problem. People who don’t know good Mexican food think Taco Bell is Mexican food. But if you live in Arizona (like I do) and eat in restaurants run by real Mexicans, you know the difference. The problem is, society no longer knows what real Christianity is.
Jesus warned us:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:15-23)
When a self-declared atheist whose most famous project was a lesbian horror flick that Hollywood nominated for five academy awards makes a “Bible” movie we should not have to see the final project to know it’s not going to be Christian.
But do we really understand the difference between “good” fruit and bad? What does it means for something to be authentically “Christian?” (That will be the subject of my next blog post)
If you found this post interesting you might also like some of my books:
Revolutionary Discipleship What does Jesus expect from his followers? How did he train his disciples?
Has Christianity lost its cultural relevance? Has the Church’s misguided efforts to market itself to non-Christians doomed it to irrelevance? Is it time for a new Reformation? Spiritual Embezzlement Made Easy
Of Myth and Magic A comparison of religion, philosophy and magick throughout history. Are all religions basically the same? Is there a way to Truth and contentment?
Who really were the Nephilim? Alien Hybrids in Ancient Times
Does the secret to the origin of Mankind lie within the Great Pyramid of Mars? The Queen's Martian Rifles - A romantic steampunk adventure story that reinterprets the events of Noah’s flood without altering the meaning.
And if you didn’t like this post…well, there’s always something on TV.