I have seen a lot of clamor on Facebook and Twitter and elsewhere from those who have seen the film, Noah and who are outraged that the film "isn't biblical," or that the Director is supposedly an atheist (I have no idea if he is or isn't, nor do I really care), or whether you like it or don't like depends on whether you are a liberal or conservative. Honestly, I don't know if I get the outrage, especially by those who are so angry that the film does not follow the biblical story of Noah close enough. What did folks expect?
So, let me out myself. I have seen the film and I liked it. And yes, I am a liberal, at least politically speaking. I thought it was well-made, and while there were some odd moments, I liked it specifically because I didn't need it to follow the biblical story to the letter. While I want to respect the disappointment from those who wanted more from the film, I must say that I don't go to movies to get Sunday School lessons or biblical exegesis. Hollywood will always disappoint us on that level. And they probably should.
Hollywood first and foremost wants to make money. However, I believe there are those who work in the film industry who want to tell good stories as well. The film, Noah, is a good story in many respects. Yes, I thought it was typically Hollywood to have the rock dudes help build the ark and then have an epic battle where Noah is saved at the last moment.
And I was disturbed by Noah's obsession with being the last human family on earth, but I liked being disturbed because being disturbed makes me think and reflect. It is always disturbing to see a commitment to ideology - even when we think that ideology comes straight from God - being regarded more importantly than people. I wish this lesson was more easily learned in all of the theological debates that are swarming the Church right now. Noah thankfully rediscovered the importance of human life at the last minute and nothing in this film better illustrates the love that Jesus lived and taught in the New Testament. In my mind, Noah carried a powerful gospel message.
While I don't go to the movies to always get a Bible lesson, I will admit this: I often hear from Jesus while I watch films (though not yet during a film featuring Kirk Cameron!). So, if we can accept the fact that Hollywood will never get exegete Scripture correctly, I still believe that we can experience Jesus at the movies.
Want to see sacrificial love? See Hotel Rwanda and watch the powerful story of Paul Rusesbagina who shelters Tutsis during the genocide, even though he himself is Hutu. At one point, while the Western missionaries are being loaded onto a bus, the military forces taking them to shelter rip the Rwandan children out of their arms and Rusesbagina takes in more vulnerable Rwandans to his already crowded hotel. Though the rest of the world has abandoned him and the Tutsi refugees staying at his hotel, Rusesbagina, facing almost certain death, takes in the children, shaming all those who left him and all of us who watched the film and remembered we did nothing to stop the genocide. This is one of the most convicting films I have ever seen.
Want to see incarnational relationships? See The Mission, which tells the story of 18th century Jesuit missionaries in the jungles of South America as European powers, Spain and Portugal, vie for colonial power and the Catholic Church seems more intent on securing its own institutional power than in supporting their missionaries or the indigenous people they served. Watching the final battle and the fall of the mission and the attempted annihilation of the Guarani, the missionaries stayed true to their unreserved love of the people they served. The timeless battle between the risk of mission and the security of institutional stasis is always before us as followers of Jesus, probably now more than ever. Every missionary should be required to watch this film. I will always be transformed and utterly challenged by this film.
Want to see hate transformed by love? Watch Philadelphia as Denzel Washington's character, Joe Miller, a homophobic lawyer in Philadelphia, whose hatred and fear of homosexuals is transformed by the courage of Andrew Beckett (played by Tom Hanks). Beckett sues his former law firm for discrimination and does so as he is dying of AIDS. One of the final scenes shows Miller compassionately placing an oxygen mask onto Beckett's face hours before he dies. Whereas Miller once previously considered touching Beckett to be dangerous, his friendship with Beckett grows to genuine love. This is a courageous, transforming film that helped to change so many attitudes including my own.
So many films carry so many powerful, biblical messages that can change us and make us holy. Noah is a tremendous story with many lessons that provide biblical lessons. Films are stories and some are good and some are bad. It's okay to not like Noah, but no film - not Noah, not The Ten Commandments, not The Last Temptation of Christ, and not even The Passion - is inerrantly biblical. Nor should they be. Let's allow Hollywood to make the movies and let's enjoy them and sometimes be transformed by them. But thinking Hollywood is going to teach us Sunday school lessons or appropriately exegete Scripture is always going to lead us to deep disappointment. In this case, the book is always better than the film.