Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The original disaster story

A few weeks ago my wife & I went to see Darren Aronofsky's rendition of Noah, which has generated a lot of money and talk at the same time. Apparently 2014 is Hollywood's year to mine the Bible for big screen entertainment, with big name actors taking on roles of biblical proportion. Russell Crowe is back on top of his game after staring in duds like Robin Hood and The Man with the Iron Fists. Brad Pitt is purportedly set to star as Pontius Pilate in an as yet to begin film, and Christian Bale will appear as Moses in Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings in December. Other films are in the works or have already been released that feature Bible characters like Mary (the mother of Jesus), Cain & Abel and, of course, the Son of God Himself. It was thought that Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ, which hit theatres 10 years ago, forever killed off the Bible-genre movie. But apparently Hollywood has discovered, after mining comic books to death, that there are stories to be found and money to be made in the good book. And since apocalyptic tales are so popular on TV and theatre these days, the deluge is the arguably the original disaster story.

Noah wasn't the first Bible movie to come out this year but it's the one that has caused the most reaction; it's mainly come from the audience that Bible movies are targeting, and it's been less than positive. Muslim nations have banned Noah because Islam forbids the depiction of any prophet. And many Christians haven't embraced it as it was seen as being untrue to the original narrative (or too true, as some have oddly objected to Noah shown drunk and naked, which is a part of the biblical account). Now Christians can be a particular fussy lot when it comes to movies that deal with their beloved scriptures. But who can blame them? After all we are dealing with how the heroes of our faith are portrayed. So when a self described atheist directs a film that portrays Noah as an environmentalist rather than a righteous man of God, I'd say at least a few believers were upset. I noticed a couple walked out of the theatre we were at, and I know of a few others who hated the film and also walked out on it too. To say that the director coloured outside the lines of the film would be an understatement. You have Lord of the Rings like rock giants (fallen angels called "The Guardians" who are mentioned in the Apocryphal book of Enoch) that help build and defend the ark, and the glowing magical skin of the serpent that tempted Adam & Eve passed down through the generations. Plus you have quirky cinematic stuff like ancient welder's masks worn by the blacksmiths. I can go on with other thoughts that puzzled me, but that would miss the point I want to make.

Personally I think that any movie that is based on the Bible, loosely or not, is a good thing. If the Bible gets any exposure and generates discussion then at least people's perspectives are broadened. Even Richard Dawkins is appalled at Bible illiteracy in secular culture. And I also think that in spite of the grand artistic license exercised I felt that the movie portrayed the heart of the Noaic flood account, that it is a story of judgement, mercy and new beginnings. The film portrayed the biblical foundation for the flood account; that God created man in His image, humanity shunned God and became evil, and God had to stem the rising flood of corruption with a flood of His own. It's a hard story to accept, regardless of whether it's a myth, legend, parable or historical account. The idea of a God (or "Creator" as the almighty is exclusively referred to as in Aronofsky's film) who creates and then destroys is, in many people's minds, a portrait of a fickle deity with anger issues. God is viewed, in the words of atheist Richard Dawkins, as the most vindictive character in all of fiction. And I'd be remiss to admit that out of all the Bible stories I've read, the flood is the one I have the most difficulty accepting at face value. And yet cultures on every continent have a flood myth, and many are strikingly similar to the biblical narrative.

But there's more to this story than a guy, a boat and a pair of every animal on the planet who all ride out a big rainstorm. The big picture that the Bible paints is one of diagnosis and cure, problem and solution, what we deserve and what we are offered. The Old Testament tells us that humanity is broken, and what we have coming to us is punishment. But the New Testament tells us that instead of judgement we can receive mercy from God. Jesus taught that everything in the Old Testament spoke of Him; and if this is true then we can view Jesus as, to borrow a phrase from Timothy Keller, the true and better Noah. In Noah the human race got to start over again, and in Jesus humanity gets a fresh start with God. If the ark floated humanity's survivors to safety, the cross floats forgiveness on the sea of humanity's sin. But the cross is better than the ark, because there was only enough room for Noah's family. But in the cross there's room enough for everyone to find mercy, if we are honest with ourselves about our need for God.

And as for the movie itself, I'm going against the grain of evangelical Christendom and recommending that people go see the film. In spite of the broad artistic license and that it was directed by an atheist, who bragged that it was the least biblical movie made, I found the heart of its message quite biblical. And even if you don't care about that stuff, go see it anyway. It's a movie after all, and like I said before in an age of apocalyptic tales Noah is, hands down, the original disaster story.

And don't forget the butter with your popcorn. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

No, you can't date my daughter.

I have a daughter. Which is a blessing, but it's also a problem. This is because I have a beautiful daughter. And no, I'm not just saying that because I'm her Dad. I say that because people tell us that. Complete strangers will stop us when we're out in public and ask, "Is that your daughter? She's beautiful!" Yes, she is beautiful; too bad I didn't sire her though. Because she's adopted Jess has neither sets of genetic material from me or from Angel. Which is too bad, because I think we would have had good looking kids of our own, plus I can't take any credit for my daughter's own good looks.

It's not the nice adult strangers that I find a problem when it comes to my drop-dead-looks girl (although it's certain that there are those kind of adults that are that kind of problem), it's the teenage boys that I have to worry about. To make the old adage more family friendly, when you have a son you only have to worry about one boy in town, but when you have a daughter you have to worry about all the boys in town. Christian satirist Phil Callaway wrote about how his teenage daughter had Psalm 56:1 posted on her bedroom door, which says, "Be merciful to me God, for men hotly pursue me." This could easily apply to my daughter as well.

So, being the loving, caring, protective Dad I am, I keep my little girl locked in her room when she's not being home schooled or attending church functions. I wish. It's not a bad wish, but it is just a wish. No, I have to be realistic and let her out into the world, but I take comfort in knowing that the GPS ankle bracelet is in the mail. In the meantime, you can't date my daughter. Yes, I'm talking to you - the pimply, squeaky-voiced teenage boy with the skateboard, droopy pants and the sideways ball cap that just might happen to be reading this. I've warned Jess about boys like you (and believe me, having once been your age, I know they're all just like you). I know that you know that my girl looks really good. But take it from me, with all those raging hormones surging through your veins, everything looks good. This includes sheep, llamas, goats, Justin Bieber and your neighbor's dog.

So, when the time comes when she is allowed to date (and no, I'm not telling you what year that will be), keep in mind these simple rules for when that day finally arrives:
Number 10 is my favorite.