So, the highly anticipated, much derided Noah is playing in theaters now, and no, I’ve not seen it. I’m not avoiding it, per se. I’m just not a big fan of spending $30 for overpriced tickets and popcorn… unless it happens to be a new Star Trek, Star Wars, or Tolkien movie. Then I’m there front and center of that 3D IMAX theater with my big tub of $15 popcorn and soda. But I digress…
Beyond the mere movie, I’ve been entertaining myself with all the commentary, much of it negative, from fellow Christians. To be honest, I don’t know whether to sit back and laugh, throw up in disgust, or hide in embarrassment.
It’s like we have this HUGE, insurmountable hang-up with… of all things… movies. When a movie comes out that brushes even slightly against our faith, good or bad, we lose all composure and go berserk.
If it’s something like The Passion of the Christ or that new movie God’s Not Dead, we go gaga over it! We tell all our friends about it. We preach highly marketed sermon series about it. We buy out whole theaters to get as many of our heathen friends there as possible in order to convert them. I mean, it’s as if movie manna has descended from the heavens into the chaotic moral decadency of Hollywood, and we gobble it up for all it’s worth. Hallelujah! It’s about time we have some God-glorifying, holy movies to watch. Pass that $15 popcorn my way.
But… let’s say it’s a movie like The Da Vinci Code or the new Noah movie. Shrieks of terror and disgust… How dare those atheistic, money-grubbing Hollywood types make a mockery of our faith! Oh, no… Those poor, ignorant, unsuspecting, unbelieving masses will go and see this piece of heretical trash and become indoctrinated with un-Christian, unbiblical views. Lord have mercy! Bar the theater doors! Sound the alarm! And whatever you do, don’t go see that movie, or it will ruin your faith forever!!!
Could I interject a little bit of sanity here? I’ll begin with four words. Calm down. Stop whining.
Before you jump on a movie bandwagon, either for a wonderfully godly movie you love or a movie produced by minions of the Antichrist, let’s consider a few things and then re-examine our approach to movies.
Movies aren’t as culturally impactful as we think they are. In a world fully saturated with media, social networking, and instant communication, one 15-second video or a meme could impact the culture more than a multi-million dollar movie. Even then, our media saturated minds have in increasingly short memory span. That electrifyingly hot thing now will be forgotten within a few news cycles. Example: remember Gangnam Style? Seems like forever ago, doesn’t it? So, we need not fret or get too gleeful about the latest-greatest movie to hit the theaters. They will soon be relics of the past.
Information is everywhere. We need to stop fretting about the masses being misinformed by a movie. Most Christians think we’re still in the Modern world in which information is controlled and disseminated by a few institutional sources like school books, clergy, Walter Cronkite, and of course, Hollywood. It’s time we wake up to the reality of the 21st century information superhighway. People can get information about anything, anytime, anywhere. If I want to know the diet of a giant squid, the history of pre-Columbian South America, or the biblical story of Noah, I pick up my iPhone and find what I want in seconds. That reality still fascinates me. All that to say, people who really want to know the correct biblical stories or what orthodox Christian theology has to say can find it without a whole lot of effort. One short-lived movie is not going to leave the masses misinformed, unless they just don’t care. The later is most likely the case.
Even bad movies are great opportunities… if we stop having hissy fits. God has a way of redeeming even the worst things for life-giving good. So let me suggest a strategy for engaging movies that inaccurately portray Scripture and Christian theology: conversation. The world doesn’t want to be preached to about how bad its movies are, but people do enjoy an engaging conversation.
When The Da Vinci Code was released, the star of the film, Tom Hanks, purportedly had this to say to churches, “If they put up a sign saying: This Wednesday we’re discussing the gospel, 12 people show up. But if a sign says: This Wednesday we’re discussing The Da Vinci Code, 800 people show up.” And that’s precisely what many wise churches did. Instead of howling heresy at the movie’s treatment of Jesus, they took the opportunity to reach out and include people in a conversation about the film which included sharing accurate Christian history and biblical theology.
What if we took this same approach to Noah. Everyone knows the story, but most take for granted why the story was told and what it truly reveals about God, humanity, creation, and covenant. Imagine that…
Movies don’t change lives; relationships do. Movies, good ones or bad ones, don’t bring droves of people to the faith, and neither do they lead them away. Relationships make the difference, either in a positive, life-giving way, or a negative, life-diminishing way. I came to faith in Christ, not through a movie, a book, a religious tract, or a sermon. I came to faith through my positive interactions with Christians. And yes, great sermons, good books, including the Bible, and other Christian media helped. But when it came down to it, seeing and sampling Christ in other people is what led me to faith.
And this stands as a warning, too. When the world sees Christians having a cow over movies like Noah, well, you can imagine what they’re thinking. I mean, who wants to identify with a paranoid, reactionary, judgmental group of people? (Oh sure, let me sign up for that happy cruise.) But, open, engaging, humble, inviting, warm, peaceable, joy-filled, loving people… that’s hard to pass up.
It’s time for us Christians to take a breath and calm down about media. Media is definitely a huge part of our lives and does have a hand in shaping what we think, what we see, and what we value. So let’s take a cue from Jesus who told us to use the worlds’ means for good, and intentionally, humbly engage folks through the things they watch and observe. Movies like Noah, while biblically and theologically inaccurate, can be a gift if we know how to use that gift productively.