When you live close to tinsel town, somehow you start paying more attention to movies. Believe me, it is inescapable. I often get notices at work of streets closing because of some filming event. I never watched (or really cared about) the Oscars yet watched the whole thing last Sunday (and actually enjoyed it a little). So, I was intrigued by a recent review of the upcoming movie Noah posted in Christianity Today. In it, Dr. Johnson outlines five negative features of the film. His review exposed more his own theological assumptions than the problems of the movie itself. Let me explain.
His first claim is that the movie’s portrayal of Noah, “does not ring true.” Dr. Johnson takes issue of when the movie shows a “darker” side of Noah who is struggling with the evil of humanity. In the theologian’s view, this does not sound like the Biblical Noah who is called “righteous” in the Bible. This then begs the question: Do righteous people never struggle with sin and or anger against evil? It sounds like the Noah does not fit the “Sunday school” picture of Noah as opposed the true biblical Noah. Now really, if the Bible is not shy in showing the sins of the righteous why are we so worried about portraying them as perfect? So, instead of asking whether the movie’s Noah rings true, I start wondering if Dr. Johnson’s Noah is true.
His second negative feature is that the “environmental agenda is overdone.” That is, the movie shows Noah more concerned with environmental degradation then moral sins (sex and violence). What I find profoundly ironic (and a little sad) was the theologian’s inability to connect violence and environmental abuse. To quote him: “The textual emphasis is on “violence.” Not a word about hunting or mining; knowing this, the environmental agenda feels phony.” Really? So violence against humans is a sin but against the environment is not? Could it be that the movie is shining a light on a blind spot of our Western colonial theology that believes that one should respect human life but has no concern for any other type of life? I found it intriguing how he could not connect hunting and mining with violence. Not to say that these are sinful practices yet their abuse certainly constitute a violence of the worst kind; one that has implications not only for the environment but for humans as well. Maybe God is also concerned about the environment.
I could go on, but in trying to keep these posts under 600 words, I’ll stop here. I guess, what I am realizing is that God can speak through unlikely sources. I am not a defender or even a fan of Hollywood. To me, it is an industry beset by the same problems as any other. Yet, I wonder if God could be using prophets within culture and the arts to speak to us about what we have neglected for so long. Could it be that our theology is too small to accommodate a serious critique of environmental degradation as a sinful practice? Are we too busy making Biblical characters look like safe image while at same time denying the reality that they (and we all) struggle with sin?
I have not watched the movie and may change my mind afterwards. I am sure, I’ll find things I don’t like in it. Yet, is that really the point? I would love for any cultural means of art and entertainment to spread Godly ideas and encourage virtue rather than destruction. Yet, does that mean they have to agree 100% with my own evangelical theology?