I don’t usually blog about controversial topics, but I’ve seen so much about this and I have some thoughts, so I figured I would get them out. I think many (not all) of the issues some of my fellow Christians have about the new Noah film are much more telling about a problematic understanding of scripture within the modern day Church than about some evil, maniacal filmmaker twirling his mustache and trying to dismantle Christianity as we know it.
It’s not as if the book of Genesis is the sole intellectual property of Christians and it’s also not as if the movie (or any of the press surrounding it) ever states that it is intended to be an accurate representation of the biblical story. It’s exactly what it’s marketed as, a big budget action film loosely based on the story of Noah. I mean, would so many Christians freak out if it were named Gilgamesh? (see more: here)Look at any of the most popular action movies in the last year. What is one thing they have in common? They’re explosive, violent, and without your willing suspension of disbelief, are absolutely over-dramatized and ridiculous.
I see and have talked to Christians who have never taken an interest in anything remotely theological start to protest the flawed biblical epic in Aronofsky’s film. In fact, this story reads more like a midrash than a “based on a true story” blockbuster. A midrash is a method of interpreting biblical stories that fills in gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at. This has a rich history in Judaism, where rabbis would tell stories that were slightly different, stories that utilized the imagination rather than only what they had written down. Fact and fiction meeting to reveal truth about God. Obviously, I’m not Jewish so this method is foreign and strange to me and doesn’t quite resonate with me theologically. But the midrash taps from wells other than Christendom, something those up in arms about this tend to forget.
(UPDATE: To clarify, I’d like to say that I’m not calling the Noah movie a midrash by any stretch of the imagination, simply stating that there is this tradition in Judaism and in the world in general and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a take on this practice. The comparison has been made before and will be made again. The media culture is always about repackaging and retelling the same stories over and over. And Aronofsky had an agenda, for sure, but the concern shouldn’t be on what that was but how Christian people can use the film itself to start a conversation about the truth.)
And to see people who would otherwise not care about deep theology freaking out because they feel like their faith is being attacked…it’s just a lot more complicated than that.
Also, it seems like there is some surprise that the biblical story is portrayed as dark? It is dark. Very dark. And we can’t wrap it up in a nice little bow and make it pretty if we are ever to really understand the depth of our failure and sin in the face of a holy God. It’s easy to remember the murals in our church nursery and go back to Kindergarten Sunday School days and believe that Noah himself was perfect and without sin, but this simply doesn’t reflect.
I saw on one Facebook page someone complaining about the movie and a comment that read something like this. “What’s next? They’re going to make Noah a drunk?” and I desperately hoped they were being sarcastic. In fact, we have part of the biblical narrative that is rarely talked about (Genesis 9:20-25) in which Noah does get drunk after the flood, as well as lots of other awkward things that, for the sake of this blog post, I will leave a mystery.
But I think that Noah’s depravity post the flood is meant to teach us something. It’s to show us that even the best of us are not without sin. Even those of us who God uses to do a great work are desperately in need of something outside of ourselves to come in and save us from our wickedness and God’s wrath. And that is where the story of Noah becomes overwhelmingly and emotionally jarring for me, because it points to my own sinfulness and my own desperate need for a Savior.
Yes, I intend to see Noah when it comes to redbox. Yes, I go into it with no delusions. It will be flawed, it will not reflect my Christian faith. But I know the biblical story. Which means that when I talk to people who do not, and who may be “led astray” by the movie, I can speak to the true character of God. I can bring out how the story of Noah points to the justice and holiness of God and the overwhelming grace of God in sending his son Jesus to atone for my darkness and sin.
Christians are the only people in the world who are not without hope for the future. So share Jesus, not anger. Whenever you have something to complain about, think of ways to turn it around and use it for God’s glory. This world is too full of brokenness for us to waste time not living out the gospel in all we do.