Ever since Mel Gibson’s The Passion took in over $600 million at the box office, film companies have become aware that Christians buy movie tickets, and that their zeal for seeing their beliefs represented on the big screen will lead them to see a movie not once, not twice, but several times in a month. As I indicated in a recent post, the churchy film God’s Not Dead (which could easily be mistaken for a two-hour long infomercial for a Newsboys single) sold out four weekends in a row where I live. That’s brand loyalty for you, and movie producers are taking notice.
Incidentally, these faith-based movies aren’t achieving numbers as impressive as Gibson’s bloody cinematic adaptation of the torture and execution of Jesus; it’s more about getting bang for their buck. See, a film that caters to deeply held religious beliefs doesn’t need high production value in order to be worth making. On the contrary, it can be incredibly low-budget on the front end and yet still make millions in tickets, DVD sales, and related merchandise. So it’s really about return on investment. For a very small investment you can produce a movie that targets a niche audience and releases to select theaters in areas where the most zealous evangelical Christians live and it will make a killing. You can bank on it.
In that vein, I give you The Song, a new upcoming movie loosely based on the life of King Solomon:
In this movie, the dashing son of a legendary musician named David King becomes a runaway success by writing his own music and becoming a hit recording artist. Unfortunately, his popularity and financial success soon threaten his marriage because women begin to throw themselves at him even as he’s singing a love song he wrote for the woman he loves. That’s one woman, and one woman only. This of course is the biblical view of marriage according the same production company that brought you Fireproof, which brought in $33 million at the box office and could also be mistaken for a two-hour long infomercial for another hot item—simultaneously released in Christian bookstores nationwide—a book on marriage entitled The Love Dare (coincidentally written by the makers of the movie). The glaring problem with presenting Solomon as a lesson in monogamy is that monogamy didn’t officially become “the biblical model of marriage” until some time after the last pages of the Bible were written.*
If the Bible can be considered a reliable source of information (!), then neither David nor Solomon were big on being one-woman men. David had at least seven wives (counting Michal, who bore him no children), plus an unknown number of concubines, who bore him children as well. Solomon was a bit more aggressive, reportedly accumulating 700 wives and 300 concubines producing who knows how many children. Some will be quick to point out that the Bible speaks ill of the size of Solomon’s harem, but they fail to notice that the mere multiplicity of his wives is not what the Bible disparages. On the contrary, if the Bible has something negative to say about Solomon’s marital habits, it’s that 1) he overdid it, and 2) he married foreigners. Having “too many” is bad because a king can only be pulled so many directions before he becomes incapable of ruling a country well. Furthermore, marrying foreigners brought at least a couple of adverse consequences: It mixed the bloodlines, making it harder to maintain an ethnic identity; worst of all it brought in foreign gods, and Yahweh was nothing if not a jealous god. The Bible never condemns Solomon for his polygamy; it condemns him for marrying too many women from the wrong religions.
It never ceases to amaze me how people can peer into the Bible and see their own ideological world represented therein, no matter how discontinuous it is with what they know. People see what they want to see. It seems this movie will be a prime example of that very thing. I’m sure it will sell out in my town as well.
* Someone will almost certainly argue that while polygamy was cool in the Old Testament, the apostle Paul was against it. But there are three problems with this. First, those words were specific to church leadership duties for which it wouldn’t do to have too large of a family. Paul didn’t like church leaders being distracted by family, leading him in one place to argue that being single was better than being married. Second, the fact that a word about this had to be added for these leaders tells us polygamy was a common enough occurrence in the early Church (at least among the wealthy) that a note had to be added in the first place. If there had been a clear prohibition of polygamy, this word for bishops and deacons wouldn’t have been needed. And third, it’s highly doubtful that Paul even wrote the Pastoral Epistles from which these restrictions come. A solid majority of scholars believe that these were likely written by someone other than Paul long after he had died.