The other day 20th Century Fox released the first trailer for Ridley Scott’s rendition of Moses, Exodus: Gods and Kings. Already it seems people everywhere are bracing themselves for a flaming hailstorm of controversy. But based on what we learned from the controversial tidal wave that was NOAH (released earlier this year), I’ve got some thoughts about how leaders in the Christian community should respond. First, the trailer:
Hollywood thrives on controversy. And nothing pumps the blood of Hollywood success like a controversy of biblical proportions. And nothing makes a controversy of biblical proportions like a Hollywood movie based on a biblical character. First NOAH, now EXODUS, next: DAVID.
I followed the Christian community’s reaction to NOAH closely and paid attention to what we did right and what we did wrong. As we prepare for Exodus: Gods and Kings (coming in December), I want to take what I learned from the NOAH controversy and apply it here for you (preëmptively of course).
1. Go watch it
As a leader in the Christian community it is incumbent on you to take a few hours and watch this movie when it comes out. When NOAH came out I read a number of articles by Christians that went something like this:
“The NOAH movie has rock monsters. That’s all I need to know about it to know not to see it. It’s from the devil!”
Your people and your community will go to watch this movie. So you should want to be able to give a more nuanced discussion than that. This is all the more important if you have a platform or plan to preach about it. You’ll lose your influence and credibility among your more thoughtful audience if you make quick judgments and shallow assessments. Paul says in Colossians 4:6:
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
“Seasoned with salt.” To do that you need to see the movie before (or “so that”) you can form opinions about it and try to give answers.
2. Remember it’s Hollywood
For some crazy reason I thought NOAH was going to be biblical in the strict sense of getting all the details right. And it seems I wasn’t the only one. The outcry from the Christian community about how “unbiblical” NOAH was testifies to that.
But when I remembered that NOAH was a Hollywood based movie I was able to readjust my expectations. As soon as I did that I saw some amazing things about the movie that would have completely escaped me. If I continued to make a big deal about how many wives Noah’s sons had going into the Ark, I would have missed some of the bigger parts of the narrative that NOAH got right. Here was my review.
3. Give it the benefit of the doubt
Many people I spoke to about NOAH refused to give the writers, produces or directors any benefit of the doubt. Many accused them of intentionally maligning the biblical story while others saw the whole enterprise as an assault on the Christian community by the devil himself. And this, in spite of the fact that the writers said that they tried with diligence to get the big points of the story right.
Give the writers the benefit of the doubt. Imagine them not just wanting to make a buck or tell a good story, but also wanting to tell the right story the right way. Expect embellishments and inaccuracies of course. But also expect an honest attempt to get the spirit of the Exodus narrative right.
4. Consider its potential benefits
One of the surprising consequences of the NOAH movie is that it drove people back to the biblical text. Bible Gateway reports on its blog:
Christian critics have given Noah mixed reviews, but one thing Darren Aronofsky’s epic did accomplish was to get people reading the original story of Noah in the Bible. Over the weekend, visits to the Noah story in Genesis 6-9 at Bible Gateway saw a 223% increase over the previous weekend!
That is amazing. When people tell me that Hollywood’s NOAH movie was the work of the devil I tell them the devil must be off his game, because the movie drove people to the biblical text. And I don’t think the devil wants people reading the Bible.
5. See it as an opportunity
When the NOAH film came out some people capitalized on it by producing study guides on the biblical account, or taking time to preach through it and write about it. Whenever a biblical story is told in popular culture we should see it as an opportunity to talk about it. In fact, for you and me it’s free branding! Hollywood is paying thousands and thousands of dollars to put the Exodus story in front of hundreds of thousands of people. We’d be crazy not to capitalize in their branding efforts. Let’s take the opportunity to teach people what the Exodus story is all about. Jesus!
Question: How did you handle the NOAH controversy? Would you treat this EXODUS movie different? How? You can leave a comment by clicking here.