After a quick trip to the mall to buy our kids such necessities as glow-in-the-dark socks and hip-hop competition-worthy kicks, we snuggled on the couches to watch THE BIBLE on our HDTV.
(Yeah, I am a typical American and sometimes very sickened by it, but that’s another post for another day.)
This much anticipated mini-series on the History Channel is currently being aired during the same month as Easter (coincidence? I think not).
It’s an epic movie depiction of the Word of God, that best-selling book of all time that continues to frustrate, intrigue, challenge, anger and guide millions of people all over the world.
The Bible is the source of the Judeo-Christian ethic that forced religious pilgrims into ships to cross the Atlantic in search of finding a corner of the world where they could worship God freely, sans persecution outside of the established and corrupted anglican tradition of the Church of England.
The Bible is the only document that provides a detailed account of the ministry of Jesus Christ, the person that somehow is both man and God eternal: it introduces Jesus to the worth as the only way to right relationship with the single, most powerful God and Creator of the Universe.
The Bible spans thousands of years and consists of 66 books written by 40 authors. Half of the Christian’s Bible is shared by the Hebrew people and they are at the center of most of the stories and accounts contained in it’s pages.
The Bible, and it’s main character, Jesus the promised Messiah, is the reason anyone celebrates Easter, and despite the fact that we’ve painted Easter in a palette of pastels and eggs and candy and a freaky (I’m sorry, but the Easter Bunny is as terrifying to me as clowns, but I can talk to a therapist about that, I suppose), furry jelly-bean laying rabbit, it’s central character, Jesus, and the unthinkable miracle of his resurrection still intrigues and invites and inspires wonder.
The Bible is all that and so much more.
Who got the job to write the screenplay for that?
(The above question is rhetorical, of course. If we wanted to know that, all we need to do is Google it.)
The film begins in the tumult and torrent of the the flood where Noah is simultaneously recounting the creation story to a young girl and plugging random holes in the walls of the ark. Water is everywhere and the storm is fierce.
The acting is decent, the cinematography sweeping, the drama, intense.
In fact, somewhere after the fire and brimstone from heaven destroys Sodom and Gomorrah and before we encounter a clean-cut, Egyptianized young Moses, my eight-year-old son says, “Wow, the Bible is more stressful than I realized.”
Yeah, it is. Especially in the action-packed screen version we’re watching this month.
In fact there was enough violence and bloodied-corpse close-ups to merit at least a PG-13 rating. (Not a good thing for those who present God/Jesus as a pacifist and inclusive deity that embodies tolerance for all creeds, races and sexes, etcetera.) Should your children be exposed to such violence in the Bible? Heck yeah, I say. But you can take that up with me personally. If they have to learn about beheading and incest, I’d like it to be in the framework of the Bible story, but that’s just me.
I expect this mini-series to get a lot of hype, criticism and kudos. And that’s just in our house! Throughout the Christian and secular arena, this mini-series will flash on the scene and all sorts of tweets and comment streams will debate its merits and flaws and relevance to us, here today. You know, those of us who buy glow-in-the-dark socks.
It’ll be discussed in annoying tones on this guy’s show:
Throughout the first installment of this mini-series, my husband and I (much to the annoyance of our daughter, studying college poly-sci in the other room) continually inserted editorial comments, additional facts and characters that the film was leaving out. And of course, when Abraham had a moment in the tent with the servant, Hagar, that later produced a son, Ishmael, who later was sent into the wilderness…well, we had to explain a few things to the kiddos.
We noticed a fair amount of battle scenes that are definitely extra-biblical. Moses sword-fighting in the palace with the future Pharaoh, for one.
The most creative license was taken with the angelic investigation of Sodom. The Lord and Abraham looked down over the city in the valley near the green pastureland that Lot and his wife and family chose for themselves.
The Lord told Abraham that the city was corrupt beyond saving. Abraham interceded for the city, mostly we believe, for Lot’s sake. In this scene, if we listen to the dialog between the Lord and Abraham, we can hear the offer of grace: for ten righteous men, the Lord would spare the entire city. Here was a society marked by violence and out-of-control sexual appetite and God offered to spare the whole for the sake of a handful of righteous. Of course, there was only one, Lot, who passed the test of the angels and was spared.
Then, in true Hollywood form, the angels, disguised as a mysterious dark-skinned man and a chinese-japanese-kick-butt-martial arts Asian dude, fling off their cloaks and open a can of you know what on the sex and violence craved citizenry of the city.
Badass angels wearing something that looked like the skirt Brad Pitt wore in Troy. Holy heavenly wrath!
So, yes, there is some creative license being taken here and there, and some huge omissions, such as the entire story of Isaac’s son’s Jacob and Essau. But my husband said it well:
Think of it as a conversation starter.
I hope that all of Christendom thinks about this mini-series as a conversation starter. Because people will ask questions about the Bible and the God whose name it repeats over and again and about the men and women who “Trust in God” (this phrase is repeated numerous times by the lead characters, just so we don’t miss the theme of the Old Testament. But hooray, I say.)
They might ask questions like my children did:
Did people really come out of the ground? (that was a little Dawn of the Living Dead-ish)
That forbidden fruit looks like a plum, was it?
Why did God ask Abraham to kill and burn his own son? Did God really want him to do that?
Why didn’t the slaves have the plagues like the Egyptians?
It the angel of death real?
They may ask:
How can you believe in the Creation myth when science is proving the theory of evolution?
How can you believe in a God of violence?
What does this ancient history of a monotheistic, fanatical messed up people have to do with me, my mortgage, my marriage or my cancer diagnosis?
Ah, the beauty of conversation. Not debate, conversation.
I’m learning the beauty of this idea with my new Muslim friend, Sultan.
He is studying here at a local college through an exchange program that encourages home-stays for the purpose of helping the students learn English in the context of real conversation and culture.
Sultan is my new friend. He is muslim. He makes sweet, sweet tea in tiny cups and we talk about God and the Koran and Jesus. He has been raised since birth in his beliefs as much as I’ve been raised since birth as a Christian. We will not convert one another. We don’t even want to.
I know that’s not my job.
My job is to have the conversation, and with gentleness and respect make the source of my hope known to anyone who asks. (1Peter 3:15)
It’s the same job I have with anyone–my kids, my friends, anyone who asks.
But can they watch this hope in glorious high definition like they can watch biblical drama play out on a screen?
Oh, I want them to.
But I may not present the whole bible in authoritative, contextually correct completion just as this miniseries may not be complete and perfect in its presentation of scripture. That’s okay.
If my life displays hope in this: That I believe in Jesus, the Christ, the son of God, who came as a man, lived, died, was buried and raised on the third day, resurrected from the dead who now and forevermore reigns in the now as he did in the past and will in the future. That I believe in the Trinity of God, three persons revealed, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who as a unified deity created all and will redeem and restore according to his perfect nature all of his creation, then I don’t have to know all the details of the Bible.
Because they have made films and documentaries on the Bible before and they will again, but it’s our lives that are being watched every day by the world, our words and actions that are being witnessed.
Are they seeing epic hope? Are they witnessing joy and triumph even in suffering?
Are we, like Abraham, living out in dramatic, cinematic faith the three words: Trust in God?
I am counting the gifts of grace this week and linking up with Ann:
the turning of the calendar and the chirping of birds – spring
modern medicine: I was so, so sick this week and needed powerful medication to help me heal.
supportive husband: oh, what a gift he is.
my kids who cared: my youngest said, mom, I’m going to pray for you before I play my video game.
a home and bed and books to read and pillows to cradle me.
glow-in-the-dark-socks and a preteen to wear them.