Noah. Or, why I really don’t enjoy ‘Christian’ movies.

WHY I’M RECOMMENDING CHRISTIANS SEE THE MOVIE “NOAH” – Phil Cooke

I haven’t seen this film yet, and I don’t know if I will (I doubt I’ll see it in cinemas). However, I more or less agree with Cooke. I’d far prefer to watch this (or Inglorious Basterds, for that matter) than watch Fireproof or Left Behind again. “Christian” movies, to my taste, tend to have horrible dialogue, subpar acting, and stories, or ways of telling stories, that simply don’t entertain me. Which for me is the purpose of a movie.

Speaking as someone who writes and who studied and loves theatre and film – I’d be embarrassed to be a part of a lot of the films produced by the Christian community, if I can term it thus. They’re simply not up to the professional production standard, in writing, directing, photography, acting, lighting, that I desire when I see a movie. And they manage this despite larger budgets than quite a few more amateur films I’ve enjoyed. I think that’s because they want to be polished and ‘Hollywood’ without the necessary budget, but that’s another story.

I don’t want to knock the people who make these films – believe me, you’re a needed voice. I just can’t help but not be entertained by your films, as a rule. And if I don’t enjoy them, someone with no affection for Jesus in the first place probably isn’t going to enjoy them. Fireproof had a great message. Agreed, hands down. I’m glad I watched it with my wife, as painful as the dialogue was to endure. But as a sermon or documentary/devotional/informational film, it could have been better tailored to those ends. The earlier Veggitales episodes (I haven’t seen the later ones, but I understand they’re less on-point) did a great job of this.

I think this is part of the issue – we want films to be sermons, to spread the news about Jesus, or Bible stories with complete accuracy to both the Biblical text, and at least conform to a middle of the road theology (I say that because some group or other is always going to take exception to something theologically speaking). And that’s a great desire, but, speaking as someone who loves film and theatre, and has had some schooling in that arena…it’s going to be very, very hard, very hard, to produce something that conforms to those expectations, and is also entertaining and engaging as entertainment to people who believe already, who tend to be more charitable and have lower expectations, nevermind the secular community.

If I can draw a line between film and music, ‘Christian’ ‘praise and worship’ music, at that – there is a lot of criticism of certain artists, both who produce music with Christian or religious themes, and those who produce ‘praise and worship’ music, of being unBiblical or theologically erroneous. I used to think somewhat along those lines, and occasionally do – there are some lyrics that I simply don’t want to sing, and can’t sing to God, if I can put it that way. However, there are others that aren’t exactly theologically precise, that I love to sing. A song they sung in my church on Sunday reminded me of this – it was From the Inside Out (and I had to look up the title, I call it “Everlasting”). Like the Psalms, they’re expressions in song, not a theological treatise like the book of Romans. I’m not saying the Psalms aren’t theologically perfect – they are inspired scripture, after all. But, like I would argue that the Biblical David and Noah weren’t always people to emulate (I’m not about to drink myself into a stupor, wander about naked and murder to steal another man’s wife), neither are the Psalms or some of the songs we sing to be necessarily literally adopted as concrete theology (the wicked clearly get the raw end of it in the end, even if they appear to prosper in this life).

Yet these Old Testament people are mentioned in the Hebrews “heroes of faith” – their faith we should reproduce, mayhaps not all of their deeds. I think it’s the same with Psalms, and film – why analyse it as if it’s a systematic thology? Yes some critical things really do have to be right – Jesus should be divine and die and rise again literally, but what if he had a drink at Cana? Lots of people were clearly drunk there, for Him to have had a tipple isn’t crazy, or sinful.

So, for From the Inside Out, I don’t know if I can justify the lines “My purpose remains/The art of losing myself/In bringing you praise” literally in theological terms. There’s definitely an argument there, although the song’s wording isn’t precise, the spirit in which it is sung, I can’t argue against.

The same goes with film, to my mind. So Noah isn’t going to be exactly accurate to the Biblical account. Okay? If it’s an entertaining move, and that’s it’s purpose, then I think that’s great. If it’s meant to be a sermon, well, that’s not really what I go to the movies for. So why would a secular public and a secular studio aiming to make money, make it?

According to Cooke, the church has been asking Hollywood to make Biblical films for a long time, and he’s right – and we now complain when they do it? Makes so much sense, ok, well, not really.

The thing is, poetry, film, narrative, history texts etc, all have conventions, intentions and purposes. Reading Genesis like it’s a modern historical account defies it’s context and purpose, and the way in which people in the ANE would have written history, if it were written as history. Likewise it’s hardly a scientific paper on the beginning of the universe. I’ve never seen breasts that look like two gazelles as in Song of Songs/Song of Solomon, and please let me know if you find some. Interpreting every text 100% literally doesn’t make sense for all texts. But we expect the Bible and any movies related to it to be so?

Mmmmm, no.

Not that that can’t be amusing. Concretising metaphors and literalising otherwise figurative language is one of the hallmarks of Pratchett’s humour. On another note (you knew I’d work this in) my copy of Raising Steam shipped today, hooray!

I’m sure I’ll see The Passion of the Christ at some point, but I haven’t got around to it. To be honest, I’ve got a feeling that the movie doesn’t have the special effects to match what I already understand about the horrors of crucifixion, which from what I hear is the main reason for seeing it?

Edit: Maybe it’s out of a certain guilt for enjoying secular movies (or some of the less uplifting elements of them) that ‘Christian’ movies are desired and consumed, to balance that guilt.

Edit: Maybe we desire ‘Christian’ films to be accurate and precisely articulate theology precisely because we are poorly acquainted with or unable to articulate said theology ourselves? If we were able, as Cooke mentioned, to use Noah as a discussion point to be able to present Biblical truth ourselves, we might be less bothered about its accuracy. Instead, studies show that Christians overall aren’t very familiar with the Bible itself and matters of theology/doctrine, compared to the past and compared to familiarity with pop culture and ‘Christian pop culture.’
But then, if we could share the gospel and disciple others ourselves, what would happen to the celebripreachers, writers and TV personalities? Hmm.

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