Movie Spotlight: Noah

I enjoyed.

No, that is not a typo; I, a Christian and pastor actually enjoyed Darren Aronofsky’s movie Noah. Yes, there are aspects of the film that I did not appreciate or enjoy but overall, I liked the movie. Before you pick up your stones or prepare to burn me at the stake (aka unfollow me from Twitter and Instagram and unlike me on Facebook), check out these ten reasons why I enjoyed Noah:

  1. It’s portrayal of God’s justice and human nature. The film illustrated the total depravity of man in a manner that justified God’s plan to wipe out humanity through a world-wide flood and start afresh with Noah and his family.
  2. Much of the film is visually stunning. In particular, there is one scene near the middle of the movie where Noah begins to tell the history of creation up until that point in history to his family. The handful of minutes that followed blew my mind. As I turned to my wife to whisper, “This is awesome!” she beat me to the punch, whispering, “I know you love this!” 
  3. It’s portrayal of Noah. VBS and felt boards got it wrong; the Noah story is not this happy ponies-and-dandeliones bible story. It actually is the closest God’s people will get to seeing the wrath of the Father poured out on humanity. If I were Noah and had witnessed such a terrible slaughter, I would be a wreck. Even more so, I would wonder why God chose to spare me and my family rather than literally anyone else on the planet. The film’s portrayal of how dark Noah could be at times I think more accurately portrays the emotions that Noah was wrestling with than our typical sunday school story.
  4. Noah coverThe Name of God. As I walked into the theater opening weekend with a group of 75 of our youth, their families and friends, I tweeted and posted on Facebook how excited I was to finally view the film. Of course, many people who hadn’t seen the film tweeted and commented back to my excitement with only legalistic criticism and outrage. One of the major responses was that “God is not mentioned in the movie at all!” This couldn’t be the furthest from the truth. On the contrary, I think the film’s choice of referring to God as “The Creator” is more accurate to the people in the story. During that time, not many people had spoken to God nor knew His Name; this title more appropriately represents the name of God that Noah and His family would’ve known Him as.
  5. God’s care for all of His creation. Yes, I do think that the movie went too far in some regards, somewhat placing a greater value on animals rather than humans. However, I do think the movie addresses a weakness in the church that is especially prevalent in the United States. Adam was entrusted to steward and care for all of God’s creation. Instead, humanity selfishly uses creation not only for needs but also for desires. Much of the church in the West is no different. This movie added an element and point of emphasis that if a non-Christian were to have directed this film, I believe that they would have unfortunately negated this emphasis and calling for God’s people.
  6. It challenged my thinking. Our thinking constantly needs to be challenged and reevaluated. Is that not what Jesus did in His preaching as recorded throughout the gospels? Countless instances in the movie struck my thinking chords (God’s Name, how Noah felt and what Noah thought, God’s care for all of creation, etc).
  7. It sparked conversations with my wife. The instances mentioned above among others led to much discussion between my wife and I about the movie, Genesis, what’s really in scripture and what we’ve added, and about God, Himself.
  8. It sparked conversations with nonbelievers. My wife and I have already had multiple conversations with multiple non-believers about the Noah movie. So far, the conversations have not been pushy or felt too “religious” but honest and interesting. Even more so, the conversations have not ended at the Noah story but have led to discussing how the story of Noah was a shadow of the greater redemption that God would bring about through Jesus.
  9. It sparked bible reading. According to a report by the YouVersion bible app, people opening the Noah story in Genesis sparked by 300% in the U. S. alone.
  10. It led me to worship God for His amazing, unconditional grace and mercy. Overall, the portrayal of evil along with God’s justice in punishing sin fueled my gratitude and joy in God for the grace and mercy that He has extended to us through Jesus.

Jesus at the Movies

What if Jesus went to the movies? Would He be an extra butter type of guy? Skittles or Starburst? Reese’s Pieces or Peanut M&M’s? Coke or an Icee?

More importantly, how would He view movies? 

Among Christians, the verdict varies extensively. To some, Jesus would have had a difficult time watching rated G movies because of the subliminal messages. To others, Jesus would watch anything that isn’t rated R unless it’s about Himself, of course. In other circles, we find Christians that are against an inch of skin being shown but still enjoy watching people get shot and blown up; I’ve never quite understood that crowd.

For the most part, the church seems to distance themselves from much of pop culture due to fear of “getting dirty” or being influenced by sin.

Imagine if Jesus would’ve walked into the 1st century speaking American English, wearing 501’s and a Ramones t-shirt, rocking Chuck Taylor’s and hipster glasses while listening  to Mumford and Sons on His white iPhone 5s through His earbuds; wouldn’t He be just a little out of place?

Jesus and Paul Engaged Culture

In the opening chapter of John’s gospel, we see that in order for Jesus to reach out to sinners, He became like them in both nature and appearance (John 1:14). We also see in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus was quite familiar with the culture of His day. He used the popular sayings [i. e. “you have heard it said”] and language as a means to evangelize (Matthew 5:21, 27, 38, 43). This is why when Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:14-18, He said that His people are in the world though not of it.

Similar to Jesus, Paul also was extremely familiar with the culture of His day and used it as a means to identify with the people. Luke describes for us in Acts 17:22-34 a time in which Paul addresses a group in Athens. In his message to the people, Paul 1) quotes the rockstar of their day, 2) shows how through idolizing this rockstar, they’re life is void and meaningless, and 3) how Jesus fills this very void. Just like Jesus, in order for Paul to reach the people, he became like the people.

So this begs the question: how would Jesus view and use the movies of our day to reach the people of our day?

Engaging Movies with Jesus

Paul encouraged the Christians in Collasae to do everything in their daily lives for God (Col 3:17). We, too, are to do as such; this includes watching movies. When seeking to watch a movie through the lens of Jesus, there are two questions to ask:

  1. How and where is Jesus in this?
  2. If He isn’t, how and where is Jesus missing?

By asking these two questions while watching a movie (or watching tv, listening to music, reading a book, etc), we are able to identify how the movie is either a portrait of a redemption with shadows of Jesus or a storyline void of any lasting joy, hope, and meaning. Here are two examples:

Harry Potter and Jesus

Though in the past, the book and film series has received much criticism from the church due to the story’s witchcraft and wizardry, J. K. Rowling’s series is  actually a shadow of God’s story of redemption. Harry is portrayed as a Christ-like archetype who takes on the Satan-like archetype Voldemort. In the end, Harry conquers his enemy (Voldemort) and his army of darkness by dying and resurrecting from the dead. Aside from these few key and striking similarities between Harry Potter and God’s story of redemption, there are many more throughout the series that identify the books and movies with the bible.

Regardless of the witchcraft and wizardry, we as Christians must not neglect to use one of the biggest and most famous book and movie series of all time for the sake of the gospel. There’s a reason why so many people hold these books and movies near and dear to their heart; the hero of the story is a shadow of Jesus, the maker and satisfier of their heart.

Gatsby Missing Jesus

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby, which was recently adapted as a film, is a key portrayal of life’s meaninglessness and hopelessness apart from true and lasting love. Gatsby is a man with a culturally-deemed picture-perfect lifestyle, owning anything and everything he wants and yet is still missing something (or someone). He seeks joy, companionship, comfort and love in the long, lost love of his life, Daisy. In the end, Gatsby never does find fulfillment through his relationship with Daisy and unfortunately loses her and his life to the cause.

Many people resonate with The Great Gatsby because, like Gatsby, their lives are left hopeless and void of meaning a part from true and lasting love. Similar to him, people seek fulfillment in things and people other than Jesus only to be left dry, empty, and depressed; Jesus is the only person that can truly satisfy one’s soul.

Concluding Thoughts

Don’t just watch movies; view them through the lens of Jesus, engaging both His heart and mind to connect with not only the people who made the films but also the people who find glimpses of joy and hope in watching them.