Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oh, Noah

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Hollywood has an endless fascination with the Bible – almost from the beginning of the industry Sacred Scripture has been used as a source material for films … and the trend continues with Hollywood's take on our Old Testament reading this morning, Noah and the Flood, due out later this month. As it hasn't been released yet, all I have to go on really is the trailer, but it looks like it is going to be entertaining … as long as it is isn't the case, as it so often is, that all the best bits are in the trailer!

Now the trailer is only around two minutes long and the film itself over two hours, so it seems obvious that they will have had to take some liberties with their source material if the movie is going to be a financial success … actors like Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Anthony Hopkins don't come cheap and somehow I don't think a film that is mostly about how to build a large boat in the ancient world and then sit in it while it rains is going to sell enough tickets in cinemas around the world to cover the cost of their fees. So I'm not surprised to see in the trailer that they have roped in Ray Winstone to play a sort of warlord character who is leading an army of local nasties in Noah's neighbourhood before the flood … and who leads the charge to take over the ark for himself once the flood arrives. Even from the trailer, it seems apparent that there will be other changes or additions to the Biblical narrative … yet even from the trailer it seems clear that the main themes of the story will be adhered to: humanity has become brutish and violent; as a result the earth has become a horrible place; God resolves to destroy the world; but this is not to be an end, but a new beginning; so he warns Noah that a flood is coming; and he builds an ark as a refuge for the few righteous people, and for the animals of the world to join him two by two.

Now it has been reported that some Christian groups in the US have been shown previews of the movie and that they aren't too happy with the treatment that the story has been given. As I've only seen the trailer and they have seen the entire film I can't say whether they are being overly sensitive or not … but I do think that, presuming that the film-makers haven't gone way off track with what they've done, there are some positives to be taken from the fact that this film has been made. The first is that it demonstrates that the biblical stories still exert a powerful draw in our society – when I last looked, the trailer had received nearly seven millions hits on Youtube and that's not the only place that it is available. Part of the reason for this might be the star power of Russell Crowe; but it doesn't seem unreasonable to believe that a large part is also down to the genuine excitement people feel about seeing this particular story hit the big screen. It is a story familiar to most people from their childhoods, no matter how little interest they have in religion; it is a story that they know deep in their bones.

And, irrespective of whether the movie succeeds or fails at the box office, the excitement in advance of its release is telling … it is after all, a story about people being justly punished by God for their wrong-doings, a story in which only the righteous survive … with the righteous being defined as those who are obedient to God's will … and are obedient according to God's judgement as to what constitutes obedience, not their own. Decadent as our society often seems, it appears that this theme of of just judgement for evil actions is one that still resonates.

It might be too much to hope that the film will induce those who do not already read the Bible to delve into it for themselves … but it might serve to remind them of something that they probably already know in their hearts … there is such a thing as right and wrong in the world … and there are consequences for the choices we make, if not in this life, then the next. And perhaps those who have led lives that consists of one bad choice after another will have their consciences pricked by the film … and if they do, perhaps they will remember something else from the Bible … that there is salvation for those who turn from their evil ways and throw themselves upon Christ's mercy. I pray that they will … even as I pray that all here have not only done so long ago, but continue to do so daily. Amen

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