Last week, the Abilene Reporter News asked me and another area pastor (and one of my good friends) Cliff Stewart to review the movie Noah. But since I wrote this blog a few weeks ago, I’ve had quite a few conversations and several emails asking what I thought about it.
And since I’ve written publicly about why I think Christians should give the movie Noah a fair shake, I thought it would be appropriate to share just what I thought about it now that I’ve seen it. Here’s an expanded version of what I wrote for the ARN:
When they asked Cliff and I to tell us what we thought about the movie Noah we figured that meant we had better go see it first. I’m in the season of life with 3 young kids where the DVD release is when the movie comes out for my wife and me.
But we made a date. We saw the movie. We liked it.
So we’re no Siskel and Ebert, but here’s our best shot at telling what we liked about it and why…
It’s tough being a Bible character.
Sometimes I think we forget that. We romanticize people in the lion den’s or rainbow colored coats and lose the ability to hear the story the way it was first heard by the people who were originally telling it.
I’ll never forget watching Noah in this movie sit in the Ark hearing the people outside. When we read that story in a coffee shop during our quiet time, or in a sermon safely in some church building we forget just how disturbing some of the Bible stories really are.
Turns out the story of Noah is darker than most of us who grew up in religious settings remember. It’s a story of a God who takes evil very seriously. In a time when we replace words like “sin” with softer words like “mistakes” it’s important to remember that God thinks what we do in His good world has consequences.
I didn’t expect to like Noah as much as I did. I thought it was visually stunning and it did the one thing that I needed. It made the familiar story strange to me again. I’ve grown up hearing this story, I’ve read/preached/and heard this story a thousand times, and last night I felt like I was hearing it for the first time again.
I didn’t expect I would find the movie Noah as wonderful as I did.. I use that word intentionally. This movie was full of something that our world seems to be sorely lacking…Wonder. There were several scenes that were just breathtaking. Like the way Creation was pictured or how the animals seemed to be almost magically drawn to the Ark.
What I loved about this movie was that it portrayed the world as enchanted…and anything seemed possible.
It would be easy to argue about the interpretation that the director took, and I could find plenty to critique, but It’s an imaginative retelling of the story of Noah, sure a lot of it very imaginative, but the story of Noah is definitely in there.
The Failure of the Flood
But…God feels distant in Noah, He comes in dreams and not very often. It would be easy to walk out of this movie and complain that God doesn’t have a starring role, but that misses the point of the original story of Noah.
The point of the flood in Noah is that it doesn’t work. God purges the world of evil…only to find Noah a few days later drunk, naked and passed out. As if the ark washed up on the Jersey Shore.
The point of the Noah story in Genesis is that this kind of force doesn’t work. That’s why a few chapters later God calls Abraham, creates a people and tells them He wants them to be a blessing to the world.
That’s how God is going to deal with evil now.
If you’ve ever watched the news, and wondered where God is, why he doesn’t act. If you’ve ever wondered where God was in the Holocaust or when tragedies happen like the school stabbing last week, or the systemic poverty you see around you. Noah is a movie for you.
If you’ve ever wished we could just vote the right legislation in to force everyone to act right, if you’ve ever wished we could get rid of the bad people and purge the world of evil…Noah’s story is a story for you. Because ultimately God’s way of dealing with evil here doesn’t work.
Turns out evil is even in the people on the boat, and they bring it into the new world with them.
So God’s not going to flood the world again. But he’s still just as concerned about evil, and still wanting to do something about it. Turns out God is very present these days. He just might be wearing your shoes and trying to bless people through you.
I’m glad I went to see Noah, it reminded me of how seriously God takes His creation and just how God plans to deal with evil these days. Through His people.
Stained Glass Theaters
It’s important to remember that historically the Church around the world has embraced this kind of cultural translation. Stained Glass windows were the original movies, and throughout Christian history, Noah has always been a story that our artists have been drawn to. Whether it’s Noah being portrayed as a Cucumber in Veggietales, or Eugene Peterson translation of the story into the Message, when we translate a story into a different format there is something that happens. You don’t have to agree with it, but if you are a Christian I think you’d be well served to see the movie.
I think that the first people who heard this story would have had more questions than answers. I think this movie does that well. If you’d like to talk to someone drop by a church somewhere, or meet up with a friend, and start a conversation.
You may not think the movie was as Biblical as it should have been, or you may not even care, but we hope you appreciate that we, at least went to see it a Biblical way…two by two.
I just wish Brother Cliff wouldn’t have hogged all the popcorn.
*The section Failure of the Flood did not appear in the newspaper for brevity’s sake