“Noah” is Darren Aronofsky’s Midrash

Darren Aronofsky has made an eminently biblical film.

That is, if you see the Bible as a living, complex text full of conflict and theological questions.

If you see the Bible as a wooden history book, you’ll probably dislike Noah. Or at least you’ll be confused.

We pick up the story 10 generations after Adam and Eve. Noah is a boy, descended from the line of Seth. Of his tribe, we only meet his family — if there are others from the line of Seth, they are not allied with Noah.

The rest of the populace comes from Cain, the original murderer. And, although Cain’s vegetable sacrifice was rejected by God, his people are now ravenous meat eaters  — almost zombie-like in their quest for blood. Sethites are the vegetarians, and this is only the first of many comments that the movie makes on our present situation.

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This Is an Important Moment for Progressive Christians

In the struggle for who gets to define the gospel in 21st century America — which I happen to think is a good struggle to have — this weekend looks to be important. As happens every year as Easter approached, mainstream media is tuning in to religion in general, and Christianity in particular. And some cultural items have come to the front of the American consciousness.

I won’t call this a “battle,” because it’s not that. It’s a conversation, taking place in the public square, about what kind of vision we have for the gospel. And, believe it or not, it involves more than just gay marriage.

1) Who Will Sponsor World Vision Children?

Tweets today are reporting that World Vision has lost 2,000 sponsors of children since announcing on Monday that they would no longer discriminate against married gay persons in their U.S. hiring policies. Progressive voices like Kristen Howerton are campaigning for others to fill the gap and pick up those children. Having been to Sri Lanka on a WV trip, I can attend to their great work. I sponsor Afra, and I encourage you to sponsor a child:

 

2) Who Will See Noah?

This morning, I’m going to a press screening of Darren Aronofsky’s movie, Noah. Conservatives have already turned on this movie — some, like Rick Warren, tweeting that he wouldn’t see the movie (then deleting that tweet) — and a wholesale ban on the movie in the Muslim Middle East for breaking the Koranic prohibition on depicting a prophet.

The major objections among conservative evangelicals seem to be that Noah adds to the biblical account (um, just like every biblical epic movie ever), and that Noah uses a biblical story to make commentary on contemporary issues like the environment, climate change, and overpopulation (um, just like every sermon ever).

Book publishers have long wondered if there is a strong enough market among progressive Christians to sell books at the numbers that conservative authors sell. This weekend, movie studio executives are going to be asking the very same question.

3) How Much Freedom Do Women Have Over Their Bodies?

That’s one way to frame the question of whether the federal government can force Hobby Lobby and other corporations to pay for their employees’ access to all forms of contraception. The other way to ask it is, Can corporations have religious freedom?

How a corporation can claim personhood and the rights ensured thereto is still an open question in our society, and one that confounds many of us. “Corporations are people, my friend.” This may seem a distant concern to religious folks, until a corporation says it has religious beliefs.

 

Surely more issues will bubble up in coming days. To whom the New York Times and your local newspapers turn for quotes and analysis will be interesting. Pay attention to that. And also, let your voice be heard on these issues — in a letter to the editor, on your blog, on Facebook and Twitter, and on the sideline of your kids’ soccer game.

Evangelicals and their (Bad) Movies

Russell Crowe as Noah.

I had thought we were past this. Honestly. Movies that are blatantly written and produced for evangelical audiences suck. Think Left Behind or Fireproof or The Christmas Candle.

Mainstream movies that are successfully marketed to evangelicals also tend to suck. Think Evan Almighty. The Passion of the Christ is an obvious exception, and it unfortunately convinced Hollywood marketers that evangelicals can make a movie a blockbuster. But, in general, evangelicals cannot make a movie a hit.

Now it’s happening again.

On the one hand, we’ve got Son of God, a new movie from Mark Burnet and Roma Downey. I’m guessing it’s going to suck. Nevertheless, pastors like Rick Warren are doing what they can to ensure its success:
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Fiction, Film, and Christian Spirituality

That’s the topic of our gathering next month, when I meet with nine of my favorite people in the world — the students in my D.Min. cohort at Fuller Theological Seminary. I’m co-teaching with my seminary classmate and long-time friend, Craig Detweiler, and thanks to him, we’re meeting on the stunningly beautiful campus of Pepperdine University.

We’ve got 10 topics, and each topic includes a novel (with one exception) and a film. Novels and films were nominated by the students, then Craig and I made the final list. Each student is presenting a paper on one topic, and a response to a classmate on another topic. Plus, we’ve got guest speakers, field trips, and more lined up.

Here’s the list: [Read more...]


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