We live in a story based world. One of the main mediums of story today tends to be the TV and Film industry. In America, TV shows only last if at least 5 million people watch them… regularly. People like stories. Stories make money. But above all, stories are entertaining. One thing that has become clear more recently is that the world is at least somewhat curious in the biblical story and its themes.
I love movies. I always have. When I was growing up, I remember particularly liking the school holidays, as our family would head down to the local video store, find the children's section and find some movies we hadn't seen yet. We saw a lot! From this grew a love for movies. Movies that I could talk about with friends and family, especially when you find movies with interesting themes that could be talked about for ages.
This then led to chances to work in DVD stores and home entertainment retail for nearly 10 years. I loved talking about movies… and when people paid me to do it, it was an easy and great match.
Right now the movie I have in mind is Noah. Firstly, this is not a review of the film. There are plenty of those around, and if you want to find out what reviewers, both Christian and not Christian think of the film, there are probably now hundreds of blogs and reviews out there.
This is a letter of thanks. 'What?' I hear you say. Yes….a letter of thank you. Thank you for bringing such a story into the main stream. The same thing happened with 'The Bible', and its joined film 'Son Of God'.
There are many reviews out there written the Christian perspective. They are easy to find. Many rip the film up for not remaining close to the story of the bible, changing the character and his motivations. Yet then if you look at www.MetaCritic.com and www.rottentomatoes.com, both list it favourably with a MC score of 67%, and RT at 76%.
This suggests that both audiences and critics are enjoying these films. So what are we to think about this? Clearly audiences are going to films like Noah, and enjoying them? So why am I thanking the movie and television industry for making these films? Because they are giving us an opportunity to talk about the story we know and love. I want to suggest that we need to change our view on these movies.
We need to see them as an opportunity to share, rather than a time to cut down. But first, I think before we see films such as these we need to do a bit of homework first.
We live in a multifaceted world where seemingly unlike Paul's teachings 'everything is both permissible and beneficial for me'. The movie industry is primarily a money making machine first, and an entertainment medium for audiences second. Hollywood has been riding the wave of Christian and biblically inspired stories for some time. Though when we go to see these films, I think it would be wise to first take Paul's words to the Colossian church to heart. In Colossians 4 Paul writes:
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prisonâ€" 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4 verses 2–6)
While Paul was in prison, he wanted people to know not only why he was in prison, but also opportunities to share. Verse 5 and 6 I think are of key interest to us. 'Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of time' and Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
If people are watching these movies, they are doing some of the hard work for us. They are already invested in the story, so much so they have paid to see it. Not only is this a step towards reading the bible, but they have actually said that it is a thing of value. Now that value may be purely entertainment, but still it is an opportunity for us to share our story. When people watch these films, they give us a chance to give an answer for what we believe. For movies such as these I think about Paul's words to the Philippian church
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (Philippians 1 verses 15–18 ESV)
Now obviously, Darren Aronofsky, the director of Noah, was not on about preaching Christ. It was never on his agenda. When we go see these films, it would be wise to do some homework first.
First, it isn't hard to find out who the producer of the film is. Find out where the money has come from and who is backing the film. Websites such as www.imdb.com are an easy reference for this.
Second, find out who the director is, and what previous work they have done. You could also look into their story even just on Wikipedia.
Most the time they are not going to be faithful to the bible, simply because that is not their concern. This is my minor issue then, when Christian reviewers say 'they didn't keep to the story, they have changed it'. Of course they changed it, the people who made it weren't Christians, so they did not see the importance of keeping the story faithful to the bible.
So if the importance of the story isn't going to come from the people who make the film, where is it going to come from? This is where we step in
We can share the story. We can be part of the conversation. We can share the hope of Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. We need to be part of the conversation, but in gracious ways, seasoned with salt.
So jumping up and down about how the movie wasn't to our taste, probably isn't going to influence people well. They will simply think we only watch Christian movies, reading Christian books in our little Christian world. This is not the case. We have a life changing word for a lost world.
The interest is there. People are watching these films and enjoying them. So when talking about these movies, instead of saying 'yeah but it wasn't the bible', why not ask 'what did you like about it', 'how was it interesting', 'have you read the bible before', 'What do you know about Jesus'.
Hollywood and the movie industry is doing us a favour. They have the money to make such movies. People are watching them. Be part of the conversation. Share the good news of Christ, the big picture of the bible, and how it all makes sense.
Share your own story, and how God has changed you. Share how Jesus has brought you from darkness into his glorious light….. Then thank God for using Hollywood for breaking the ice, and bringing about a chance for you to share the hope that you have.
Stephen Urmston is based in Melbourne and is completing a Masters of Divinity at Ridley Melbourne. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Music and has been involved in children's ministry since 1999. He adores music, puppets and movies, and regularly performs with his puppets in his own church and around Victoria.
Stephen Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/stephen-urmston.html