When The Prince of Egypt came out in 1998, I was excited to see it and a little nervous. I had heard that it was good and had some questionable additions to the story of the Exodus. When I did go and see it, I found it to be an engaging, well-told story, that was faithful to the story and, very importantly, has one of the best movie soundtracks ever.
But why had a heard all those negative things about the movie. it was a good movie and faithful to the story. Why take shots at it? It seemed that Christians were a nearly unpleasable group when their stories were told in movies. Then The Passion of the Christ came out and I saw a similar pattern. Many Christians were upset when our story is told, but not perfectly. I saw it again when The Nativity Story came out.
It seemed that no matter how much honest effort was made to be faithful to our stories and to make it a good film, we always found reasons to be outraged.
Fast forward to today, Darren Aronofsky chose to tell another one of our stories, the story of Noah. Christians, including myself, pulled out our prickles and prepared ourselves to be outraged. When we learned that Aronofsky was an atheist, we went ahead and panned the film without knowing anything about it. We were ready to be outraged and incensed by whatever popped up on the movie screen.
And outraged we were.
But yesterday, I imagined what it would be like to be Darren Aronofsky. He is trying to tell a story from our scriptures in the best way he knows how. He was able to get an enormous budget for the movie and many high quality actors and actresses. Additionally, he seems to have told a compelling story. If this were not our story that we are so prickly about, we probably would like the movie. It seems to me that it is not kind to the many people who worked hard to tell our story to prejudge it harshly.
This is not to say that loving the story of Noah is a problem. Certainly we should be vigilant in out churches and homes about keeping the story accurate. God was, in fact, punishing a desperately evil world for its sin. We should be very mindful of the fact that sin is that serious and that God is that powerful.
But I suspect much of our motivation for being angry at this movie is not a fierce love of the story of Noah, but out of a sense of being oppressed. We have this pervasive feeling that there is this evil liberal culture out there that is intentionally and harshly twisting our stories. We wince every time Christianity is discussed because we will be called intolerant and mocked. We feel our slipping cultural and political influence and it makes us afraid.
While I understand this feeling, it is silly. If we really serve the God of Noah who can cover the world in a flood and rescue a single family, I think he can handle a change in the religious demographics. We should not feel like an oppressed people who are being marginalized by our society. We are being embraced by a God who really loves us and is really in control. We should not be afraid, we should be free.
And what we should be free to do is love. We should love Darren Aronofsky and treat him like we would want to be treated. If I made a film about Mohammed, I would want the Muslim community to at least give the film a chance before condemning it.
Additionally, Darren Aronofsky has given us a wonderful gift. He is, in fact, telling our story. Sure he added some environmentalism and tossed out most of the idea of sin, but he still has a guy name Noah and a flood that wipes out almost all of humanity. He has presented our story to a huge audience. We should not condemn this, we should embrace it. Let’s let him tell our story and get it 80% right, and let’s take responsibility for teaching our world the missing 20%.
Thank you, Darren Aronofksy. We appreciate you bringing Noah and his family to the forefront and allowing us the opportunity to talk about something that is precious to us. I’m sorry for my fellow believers that have been unkind to you. We love you and appreciate the lovely piece of art you have made.