Mary, Mother of Christ…
It has been almost six decades since The Ten Commandments arrived in theaters. Today, the film is considered to be one of Hollywood’s last great biblical epics. In the history of Hollywood, The Passion of the Christ is exactly canon by most insiders’ standards.
Now, seemingly out of the blue, Hollywood is taking a page Passion’s script, and we are experiencing a rash…er…renaissance of biblical movies. Son of God provides the theater counterpart to The Bible. And along with the aforementioned films, there are others. Will Smith is rumored to be making a movie based on the story of Cain and Abel. Brad Pitt is said to be playing Pontius Pilate in another film.
All of these films promise that we will “believe,” that these will build our faith, et cetera, et cetera. And you know that plenty of these films will have lots of support from the most influential pastors.
But I’m just going to say this. I’m not judging anyone who wants to see these movies. But I’m not going to see Son of God, Noah or any of the rest of these. And I’m not holding my breath for a true Hollywood biblical renaissance.
A Miraculous Divide of Opinion
On one side of the coin, or ticket as it were, you have films like Son of God.
Son of God has a lot going for it. It’s the same actor playing Jesus as in The Bible miniseries. In fact, some of the same people are behind the film. This is a film that I do believe is created with sincerity and belief in Jesus. And it’s had a lot of support from pastors.
The film has a 23% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics hate it.
But it has a 79% user rating. Audiences love it. But that amounts to a rather miraculous fifty-six percent difference of opinion.
Now, let’s say that a lot of those critics were just struck blind by their hostility towards all things Christian. Let’s say that half those reviews were unnecessarily harsh. And let’s say half the users were unrealistically glowing because they were just enamored with handsome Jesus. If the two numbers meet in the middle, you still end up with a 51% “rotten” rating. By no means a scientific method. But we know that Christians are notorious for giving crappy Christian movies a free pass because they are “one of us.”
Doing this does nothing to advance Christian artistry and influence in culture. Churches buying out theaters to watch movies and people giving movies a 79% rating that don’t deserve it does not spread the gospel. It’s preaching to the choir, and preaching a lousy sermon at that.
And are the critics really that prejudiced against movies about the Bible? The Ten Commandments currently is rated 91% (higher than the 86% user average) and most reviews come from the mid to late 2000s. So maybe, just maybe the critics actually know a good movie when they see it.
Please Take My Money and Pander To Me!
On the other side, you have movies like Noah. They’ve had to truck in pastors to act as consultants, focus group the film to see how Christians will react.
Because it doesn’t seem that anyone on the set actually believes the story they are telling.
I don’t know the hearts of the men and women in Hollywood. But I know that as they sell us movies with taglines like, “You Will Believe,” there is one overriding force that drives the entire movie industry…
Hollywood is not making Biblical movies in order to build your faith (I don’t know what kind of faith you have if you walk out of a movie feeling more faithful anyway.) Hollywood is selling movies in order to make money. After six decades of ignoring the Christian community, they suddenly realize that we are an easily duped, gullible cash cow with a very short memory.
Yes, I may, may see one or more of these films because I am always willing to be proven wrong. But right now, I just don’t feel like seeing how a bunch of people, much less non-believers treat my Lord for profit. I don’t feel like waving my fistful of dollars and saying, “Take my money! I have low standards, especially when it comes to how my God is depicted in major motion pictures!” I would rather see well-made, truly emotional movies like Her that actually get to the core of human brokenness.
The Acting Role of a Lifetime
Christians, we have a long way to go to be a relevant cultural influence again. This spate of biblical movies is not our Promised Land. I am not holding my breath for a true renaissance of biblical epics.
Besides, most of these movies will be seen by us, not the people who are still outside our circles. And the truest, most powerful depiction of Christ that will build someone’s faith still doesn’t happen on the big screen. It happens when you and I show the love of Jesus to people.
But we have to be convincing. It can’t be canned. It can’t be phony or stilted. You and I have to become Christ for people.
Don’t leave it to a paid actor to portray your Lord for you. You have the role of a lifetime waiting for you.
What do you think? Have you been looking forward to these movies, or are you going to avoid them like a plague?