On March 28th Darren Aronofsky’s Noah will hit the big screens. Here’s the trailer, if you haven’t seen it yet.
Big name director, big name stars, lots of CGI and Russel Crowe looking determined-against-all-odds. Good stuff. But the subject matter has a lot of people upset and debating whether or not this is a movie that Christians should support. The main arguments against it are the supposed inaccuracies in Aronofsky’s depiction of the biblical story. Having not seen the movie (yet? ever?) I don’t know precisely what these inaccuracies are, but knowing how books-made-into-movies end up I am sure that they are extensive. This is to be expected. What takes me off guard, however, is that Christians have such a problem with this when it comes to depictions of Noah and the Ark.
In contemporary Christian culture, there is probably no greater example of a misunderstood and misrepresented biblical narrative than the story of Noah.
Consider these gems:
I have always taken an interest in how this story is depicted in popular Christian materials, and it never ceases to amaze me that this story, of all stories, has become a classic staple for children’s ministry.
The story, in actual fact, is horrifying. God kills everybody on the earth, except one family. As soon as they get things back up and running Noah gets drunk, and, if “seeing nakedness” is taken in full force, is then raped by his son. The human race keeps on rolling. Sin keeps on rolling. And these seem to be part of the point of the story. God is terrible and terrifying when it comes to his treatment of evil. God wipes out nearly everyone, all except the most righteous family. Even so, sin continues to destroy everything it touches.
Noah’s Ark isn’t about a floating zoo, a glorified cruise ship, an excuse to paint cute animals and a rainbow with bright colors.
Illustrations of the Bible weren’t always so tame. Here are a few of Gustave Dore’s engravings for his illustrated Bible:
These are not easy to glance at. They are even worse when studied in detail. They capture the horror and gravity of the event in a ways that are, appropriately, beyond words. Imagine stepping out of the Ark after it was all over, into a waterlogged world of death and rot and decay.
I doubt very much that any of these illustrations will appear on a Sunday School coloring book, much less serve as a baby shower theme. And yet these are so much more accurate. I don’t really care too much whether Christians boycott the new Noah movie. It looks like it could be a great movie, but without a doubt it will change a lot from the original story. Duh. What I do care about is Christians doing so for deeply hypocritical reasons. Which is more important: the way this story will be seen on a big screen for a couple of months, or the way that generations of Christian kids have been introduced to the story?