Big budget movies with biblical themes are the hot thing in Hollywood right now. From the recent Son of God to this week's Noah to this fall's "Exodus," movies are becoming the go-to medium for telling the stories that are foundational to our faith. While these studio films don't promise to be biblically accurate (and often include disclaimers that say exactly that), they are still telling the stories.
If the public response from last year's The Bible miniseries gives us any indication, we can hope that these new movies will lead people to read their Bibles. And that's a good thing. Right? A blockbuster movie with an A-list cast and amazing special-effects may not focus on the foundational truths that God is trying to tell us, but people will get the message when they read the whole story in the Scripture.
But what if our kids watch the movie (and are emotionally moved) but never pick up the Bible to see God's heart and intention in the original story? What if they come to see the ark narrative as a story that is more about creation care than about the judgement and provision of God?
How an old Switchfoot song got me thinking about Noah.
Jenifer and I went to a Switchfoot concert a few weeks ago. Before the show, I pulled up some of my favorite songs by them on YouTube, including one of their early hits, Chem 6A. In the song, Jon Foreman sings a classic line that captures our kids' generation all too accurately...
"Nothing but a chemical in my head
It's nothing but laziness
Cause I don't wanna read the book
I'll watch the movie."
That final line (that the Switchfoot song comes back to over and over again) is what makes me nervous about Noah and all the other "biblical" movies that Hollywood is producing these days. For many of our kids and their peers, movies are entertainment while reading is a chore. Why waste time reading a book when there's a perfectly good movie to tell the story? Why read the story of Jericho in the Bible when Veggie Tales has made a hilarious version involving French peas and grape slushies? (There were slushies in the Bible, weren't there?)
Parents must tell the stories of God.
Psalm 78 is a wonderful passage of Scripture that challenges us to pass down our faith to the generations that follow us. Because most of God's people at that time had no access to the written Word (or the local multiplex cinema), they relied on the verbal telling of stories. That included stories of God's activity in the biblical narrative as well as personal stories of God's faithfulness.
Verses 5-7 put it like this...
"For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments."
I'm going to see the Noah movie. My kids probably will see it, too. But if I don't use it as a springboard to a meaningful conversation about what is right and wrong about director Darren Aronofsky's message, I have dropped the ball.
I have tried to teach my kids discernment. I want them to be able to analyze the messages they get from media to know what is true and know what is a distortion of the truth. With movies becoming such a powerful force in our culture, I cannot assume that they will rightly divide what they see. Therefore, some good discussion questions from their parents are probably in order.
I haven't seen the Noah movie yet, so I admit that I am speculating about it's content based upon early buzz. However, you can bet that I will be asking them a few questions.
Here are a few questions you can ask your kids to consider...
*How was God portrayed in the movie?
*What was the key message that the filmmakers were trying to communicate?
*How does the movie compare with what the Bible says (and does not say)?
*What will be the cultural impact of this movie on people who do not know what you know about God and His plan for our lives?
*How can we use this movie to have meaningful discussions with others about our faith?
Finally, one thing you can suggest is that your kids study the biblical account of anything they might see in a movie. Help them to learn what is (and is not) in the story. Guide them to see what God is showing us. Lead them to carefully consider what God was doing in and through His people. They might discover that Noah was certainly heroic, yet flawed in many ways. Our Father used him anyway.
The Word will always lead us to see the glory and faithfulness of a mighty God. Hollywood is more likely to make us say "wow" at a good story, a powerful character, or some well-done visual effects. If a movie manages to do both, then it is a pleasant surprise. In the case of Noah, I'm not holding my breath.
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