Intelligent Discussion of Exodus: Gods and Kings – Godawa on Dead Reckoning TV

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If you remember, Mattson’s blog posts and my blog posts on Noah were the viral “go to” posts for deconstructing the Noah movie for its hideous gnostic earth worship and other subversive atheist storytelling elements.

Now, we discuss the latest monstrosity of atheist movie subversions of Biblical stories, Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Check it out here on YouTube.

Exodus: Gods & Kings: Thank God it Ain’t Noah. But Please DO NOT do King David.

The story of Moses retold through the eyes of secular humanists, atheists and agnostics. Okay, in some ways it wasn’t as explicitly subversive as Noah, and I liked it somewhat, but it wasn’t a great movie, it was only a good movie. Is it offensive to the Biblical worldview? Yes, though I suspect some Christians will enjoy this movie, even with its failings, than they did the horribly-done and anti-Biblical Noah movie.

But in other ways, it is more explicitly subversive of God and the Bible than Noah.

For those familiar with the Biblical story, there are some moving moments of emotion such as every scene with Ben Kingsley as Nun, a patriarch of Israel. But also Moses’ final acceptance of his people. And of course, the plagues are quite spectacular.

The story opens with Moses as an adult and a general in the Egyptian army. The Bible doesn’t say what Moses was in the service of Egypt, so this is a logical choice for an action movie, and it will come into play later as a powerful display of man’s failure to achieve through his strength what only God himself can achieve in the Exodus.

We see Moses as beloved of the Emperor over his true son Commodus — Er, wait, was this Gladiator? Oh no, I mean Moses was beloved of the Pharoah over his true son Ramses. When Moses discovers who he is, and then Ramses discovers who he is, Moses is exiled.

Oh, all the details are trivial, let’s get to the plagues!

The point is, the story is about the rivalry between two men brought up almost as brothers and how their religious identities tear them apart. Pretty cool idea, but it didn’t engage me. I didn’t believe it. Joel Edgerton is much more believable than the terribly weak cuts they used of him in the trailer. But Christian Bale seems distant, even in his romance with his wife Zipporah. He is a great actor for cold, alienating or removed characters (like American Psycho) but Moses is a man of passionate extremes. This makes it hard to care much for the human drama of the story, especially his unromantic romance with Zipporah.

Could this be because Bale was trying to play his Moses as a “schizophrenic barbarian”? The Moses in this movie does struggle with faith in God, which is Biblically fair, and he becomes more ragged and crazy looking over time, but he never crosses that border into madness that is so typical of secular interpretations of prophets. So maybe that was just Bale’s own madness in his pursuit of some kind of method acting technique. A caveat here is that it’s a great technique to make a prophet appear to be mad to the populace, when he is actually right. That kind of irony is standard storytelling technique. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Scott actually does consider Moses a crazy leader, considering his portrayal of God as well.

The problem is that Bale’s Moses never really emotionally connects with anyone, not even God. But then, God isn’t very engaging either. And maybe this is where it starts to feel off. There is a lot of intimate and engaging relationship between Moses and Yahweh in the Bible, but in this story, Moses doesn’t talk much to God and he never seems to know if he is in fact talking to God, since he alone can see him.

And God appears as a temperamental ten year old child.

A word to all you Hollywood kiss-ass Christians who want to be accepted by the “cool” secular community: It is not merely “Fundamentalist Phariseeism” to critique the God of the movie. (One could even say defending Hollywood without discernment would be like Sadducees. Pharisees aren’t too fair, you see, but Sadducees are quite sad, you see). After all is said and done, God is everything. So, yes, we care how our God is portrayed.

Now we all know that you can’t put everything in the Bible in the movie and you have to make some changes for the sake of the movie story. But the problem with this god is not merely that it does not follow the relationship as depicted in the Bible, but for mere storytelling as well, it is an alienating unfulfilling relationship. Yes, Moses had his times of arguing with Yahweh in the Scriptures, but he also communed with him. In this movie, he does not. Even apart from the Biblical text, this simply isn’t a fulfilling relationship. It is cold and distant. But then again, I would expect that atheists, agnostics and secular humanist storytellers do not understand how to portray such communing relationship because they have no experience to go by. After all, they don’t even believe it exists.

The Depiction of God’s Presence

Okay, everyone knows how difficult it is to depict God’s presence in a film, and Ridley Scott has my sympathies. We all acknowledge that the Old Hollywood way of having a disembodied voice is visually less engaging. God did appear as the “Angel of Yahweh” in many instances in the Bible, so showing him as a human figure is Biblical and works (The name of the character in the credits is “Malak” which is the Hebrew word for Angel. The Angel of Yahweh in the Bible is “Malak Yahweh” in Hebrew). Scott has said he liked the idea of a child being innocent and pure. But in contrast, the child in his movie is quite precocious and temperamental, so I think he is not being entirely forthright with us. I think he is trying to sell us.

Ad300x250-ScreenwrtgChristiansAgain, the Bible definitely shows God getting angry, so I wouldn’t complain about that. And a child is certainly a creative choice that defies expectations, which is not inherently bad either. But watching this, you can’t help but see this impetuous child as being the incarnation of what secular humanists, agnostics and atheists like Scott and the others who wrote the movie think about the Biblical God: A tantrum throwing childish deity. This is even what many village atheists have accused the Biblical God of being in an attempt to ridicule or mock him. So I think Hollywood suck-up Christians who try to accept this incarnation as “thought-provoking,” “unique,” “conversation-starting” are just fooling themselves. The atheist and agnostic secular filmmakers are deconstructing the God of the Bible.

The Naturalism of the Story

Scott has indicated he doesn’t believe in the miracles of the Bible and wanted to depict them with some naturalistic explanations. Well, I’m going to surprise you here, but I am not entirely against depicting miracles in a way that they can be disbelieved. After all, this is exactly what happened. The Israelites would see such things and then slip right back into worshipping Ba’al or Asherah. The Egyptians and Pharaoh did not repent. The Jewish leaders concocted a theory that the disciples stole the body of the resurrected Jesus. I like the idea of showing miracles in a way that unbelievers can justify their foolishness. To be fair to Scott, during the plagues, he shows the “scientists” of Pharaoh’s court giving their pompous natural explanations for what was happening. And they clearly looked foolish, so that supported the miraculous nature of the plagues.

But here is where the story becomes confusing. Scott withdraws God so much from the story that he never communicates anything to us. The plagues just occur, one after the other without any introduction or explanation from God or Moses to anyone. To be quite frank, I would think that unless you are familiar with the story, you wouldn’t really know what was going on. And nowadays I do not think it is correct to assume that everyone knows the story. In the Bible of course, Yahweh announces through Moses each step what he is doing and why. He makes it clear. Okay, some artistic ambiguity is fine, but one can clearly see Scott’s intent is to strip God out of the picture as much as he can get away with. To make the story as human as possible. Remember, Scott does not believe Yahweh is real anyway, so he is just a metaphor for some other interpretation of human need. The more human, the less God, the better.

As a side note, the ultimate love in this story is the love that ends the picture and is a repetitive series of sayings between Moses and his wife Zipporah. “Who makes you happy? (you do). What is the most important thing in your life? (you are). When will I leave you? (never).” On a human level, these are understandable expressions of love between husband and wife. But it points out the idolatry of all humanistic stories like this. In all secular stories, the ultimate love relationship that gives meaning to life is NOT a love relationship with God, but with another human being. Again, this is understandable coming from a humanistic storyteller, that human love would become a God replacement because after all, that is the highest kind of love that they know. What secularists do not understand is that all those sayings above are what believers say of God. God is our joy, God is the most important thing in our life, and God will never leave us or forsake us. Just a little deconstruction of atheist, agnostic and secular idolatry for you.

Back to the miracles. Here is where I may surprise you. I actually liked the parting of the Red Sea as a tsunami (and the crocodile attacks turning the river to blood). It doesn’t make it less of a miracle. Kinda coincidental timing, don’t ya think? And so what if it gives unbelievers a chance to reject it. They wouldn’t believe if someone returned from the dead anyway. Now, I am not a theologian, but the term used for “dividing” the Sea in Hebrew means “to cleave, break open or break through,” (BDB lexicon), all of which can be literary or poetic expressions of what happened with that tsunami. The way the Sea was parted in the classic The Ten Commandments was just as much an interpretation and no more Biblical.

The problem with it is the same problem throughout the story. In the Bible God announces what he is going to do and challenges Moses to step out in faith and do things like pronounce the Nile will turn to blood, or in this case, hold out his staff and the waters would part. In the movie, Moses throws his sword into the water in anger that God has left them to die. Then he wakes up to see the sword sticking in the mud with the waters pulled back. So, every step is surprising to Moses. Sure, God surprises us, but I can see how Scott and his agnostic, atheist and secular storytellers want God to be unclear so that it all comes down to interpretation. In a way, it seems like making this movie for them is like the unbeliever explaining away all the miracles just like the Egyptian “scientists.”

Update: Interestingly, the most important miracle of all is the Ten Commandments written by the very “finger of God.” In the film, Moses is the one carving the tablets, not God, thus again, reducing the very foundation of morality to man’s creation, not God’s. This is far more important than you may know. What atheists, agnostics and other seculars and humanists do not realize is that without God as the foundation of morality, there is no authority above man’s arbitrary will to power. The one with the most power determines right and wrong. Period. Blather all you want about your subjective feelings, social contracts or even natural selection of morals, at the end of it all, there is no objectively real right and wrong, there is only personal feelings in conflict — the will to power.

But I deconstruct again.

The Politics of the Movie

All period pieces are stories of the past retold in light of our present situation. We tend to see through our eyes, but also seek to make lessons for the present out of the past. And movies do not exist in a vacuum. They often reflect the zeitgeist of an era. Thus the Noah movie becomes an environmentalist parable.

Ad300x250-IncarnSubverSo, Exodus is infected by modern Hollywood leftist anti-Israel politics. In the Bible, Moses never uses force or violence against the Egyptians. The point is to show that Yahweh is the one who delivers, not horses and chariots or man’s strength. The movie makes a similar point, but through a different path. When the movie Moses thinks he is to deliver his people, since that annoyingly precocious and distant God doesn’t explain himself, Moses concludes that he can do the only thing you can do when you are an oppressed minority: terrorist guerilla tactics of hit and run “bombings.” And God is portrayed as accepting it, and only deciding to take over with his plagues when he concludes it will take too long for terrorist tactics to work (“Maybe a generation”). So God is a revolutionary Marxist here. Or at least an Alinskyite. Oppressed workers of the World, unite and rise up! (The conquest of Canaan is a different story with a very different justification that doesn’t apply to this story).

Do you see where this is leading? Ah yes, the Jews, were terrorists themselves. The connection to today is obvious. The dominant media and most of Hollywood are Israel haters who claim Israel is the oppressor today, when they are the ones who are being attacked. Some even claim Israel is doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to them (As some professors at Oxford have claimed in a recent debate with Dennis Prager). This of course is a monstrous lie. The Palestinians, who are actually Nazi-like in their ideology (dedicated to genocide) have been able to spin the liberal media and entertainment so that the Nazis are accusing their victims of being Nazis. Reprehensible. Insane. Evil. But fashionable in Hollywood. And truly postmodern. What next, accuse the Jews of being genocidal as Islamic regimes like Iran engage in genocide against them?

This is why I cannot help but have a little bit of schadenfreude when I see Scott having to squirm against the accusations of racism because his casting was white for all the leads. It’s nice to see that leftist political correctness come back on liberals. Liberals must eventually become victims of their own oppressive politics. Sweet. I would think this would show Scott that maybe he should not be part of that liberal insanity. Of course, Scott is actually in the right, on this one. It is the world market (and the money is based on the world) that wants those white people as leads. The world that is full of all kinds of non-white people will not pay for movies unless they have those evil white crackers in the lead. So, really, by liberal standards, if you are against casting Exodus to please a world of multicolored people, then YOU are the racist.

Bottom Line: Gimme Some Truth

One cannot help but compare it to the classic The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston. Yes, that movie didn’t follow the Bible perfectly. Yes, it has flaws of its own, and this is a different new and modern take with a different audience with different needs and desires. But if you can just put aside all the modernist prejudice against the old classic, if you can hold off the elitist snobbery accusations of corniness, if you can suspend your modern intolerance of lesser acting and production quality of older movies, you can see something that made that old movie the massive beloved classic it is. And that something is what seems to lack in this slick special effects, cold, distant and modern version of Moses: heart and soul.

I have read liberal scholarship on King David. I know the fashionable subversion of writers like Halpern who seek to deconstruct David as a serial killer terrorist who did the opposite of everything the Bible says he did. For God’s sake, Liberal Hollywood, please DO NOT make a King David movie. Instead, I dare you to make a movie about the Islamic god, Allah, like you do about the Biblical God Yahweh. Oh no, wait, you won’t DO THAT, because THAT would get you murdered. Yahweh, Christians and Jews are safer targets for bigotry and hate speech.

One of the powerful moments of truth came from Pharaoh’s words, “Men who crave power are best fit to acquire it, and least fit to exercise it.” Maybe that’s true of Bible movies as well.

If you want an engaging and entertaining sequel to Exodus: Gods and Kings, then buy the novels, Joshua Valiant and Caleb Vigilant from the series Chronicles of the Nephilim. They will give you back that heart and soul with a love for the Biblical God so often vacant from Hollywood Biblical movies.

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New Exodus Movie: Moses as Schizophrenic and Barbaric? Uh oh, not again, please?

Look at that crazy schizophrenic barbarian!

Okay, so I’m thinking, Steve Zaillian writing and Ridley Scott directing the new movie Exodus: Gods and Kings means that, though they are both agnostics or atheists, they are at least great storytellers who make movies that people actually see. You know, as in good stories. Maybe, just maybe, they won’t screw it up like Aronofsky did with Noah. The trailer already looks very cool showing some of the Ten Plagues.

But then again there was that “trick the Christians” Noah trailer…

Look, I’m not talking about ridiculous fundamentalist demands to reproduce the story as the Gospel according to the Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston. That movie had tons of flaws to it and departed from the Bible at key points, yet religious movie watchers still loved it because it didn’t depart from the Biblical themes.

I am talking about the subversion of Judeo-Christian heroes and their stories with a secular agenda. I hope it’s not happening again.

Here is the Christian Bale quote about Moses from Christianity Today online:

“I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life,” the forty-year-old star said. “He’s a very troubled and tumultuous man who fought greatly against God, against his calling.”

Look, Bible heroes are NOT perfect sinless creatures. Only Jesus fits that bill. Yes, Moses murdered a man, and he had a character arc that went from being adopted and raised as a pagan Egyptian to a conversion to his troubled and tumultuous faith. He had difficulty trusting Yahweh. He didn’t want to be God’s spokesman because he stuttered. And he even had arguments with God.

But Schizophrenic? Barbaric? Really?

I don't know. Look at him. Do you think he might also have Sociopathic and Christophobic tendencies? Or maybe self-loathing Anti-Semitism?

I don’t know. Look at him. Do you think he might also have sociopathic or pathological tendencies? A Moses with self-loathing Anti-Semitism?

First a Noah who is an environmentalist whacko vegan animal rights madman with delusions.

Now, a Moses who is a schizophrenic barbarian?

What next? A  Jesus with Christophobia and bipolar delusions, who hates God, and wants to sin?

Oh wait, Scorsese already did that in the 80s and it flopped big time too. Whew.

I only hope that the comment is more a reflection of the actor’s own ignorant bigotry than of the actual movie.

But I’ll tell you on release week.

I pray it isn’t happening all over again.

UPDATE: Darrick reminded me: Then again, Ridley Scott did give us Jesus as an alien.
Not a good track record, there, either, brilliant studio execs.

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Now, there’s a guy with multiple personality disorder. Remember that barbaric reaction on set?

 

P.S. I wrote a novel, Joshua Valiant, that tells the story of the conquest of Canaan after the Red Sea event, and I have a very human, very flawed Moses and Joshua in a very brutal world — with plenty of Biblical sex and violence — and gritty real faith. Check it out here.

 

 

A Wrinkle in Time: Why Does Hollywood Keep Raping Christian Stories?

I guess A Wrinkle in Time can now officially be a part of the #MeToo movement of Hollywood victims.

And before you start “outraging” about the metaphor, I want to say that it actually fits perfectly. Rape is the forced penetration, and often insemination, of an unwilling person.

So too is the act of taking a Christian classic and deliberately eviscerating it of its meaning, and then inseminating it with the seed of a hostile alien worldview.

It’s an act of narrative violence.

But that’s how many secular and pagan storytellers roll. This has been a problem for a long time. In my book, Hollywood Worldviews, I list movies that were made through the years where the original stories were rooted in a Christian worldview (many of them, true stories), but were either completely secularized and shorn of their Christian elements or were so minimalized as to undermine the Christian meaning with a humanistic spin.

That’s called subversion. You retell your opponent’s story through your own view and thereby take control of the story. It’s one of those few things that postmodernism is correct about. If you control the narrative, you control the meaning.

Here are some movies through the years that subvert the Christian faith through suppression or elimination of it: The Pursuit of Happyness, Pocahontas, The New World, Hotel Rwanda, Becoming Jane, Anna and the King, Hard Ball, Walk the Line, Unbroken, The Vow, The Finest Hours, Hidden Figures.

And that’s not to mention movies, like Noah, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Last Days in the Desert, where atheists completely subvert Biblical stories and the Biblical God with an idol of nature or atheist demythologizing.

Most of these movies above are true stories, whose characters are driven by their faith to such an extent that the deletion or suppression of that motivation is a violation, not just of the story, but of the human being.

Now Madeleine L’Engle can join those ranks.

And if her estate was willing, well then, they are complicit in the crime. Continue reading

Blade Runner 2049: Boring Soulless Mediocre Atheist Christ Story

Decades after the original, a new blade runner is tasked to hunt down a replicant that was “miraculously” born. Such a birth would justify giving replicants “human dignity,” and thereby stop their slavery to humans.

The original cool movie concept of a hunter of A.I. robots becoming the hunted has turned into another sophomoric attempt to philosophize that bleeds contempt for the audience by delivering no real action and long boring 1980s camerawork that lasts a sleep-inducing 2 hours and 44 minutes.

I don’t even want to waste my time blogging on this, but if I do, then you don’t have to waste your time regretting watching it.

I had originally assumed Ridley Scott directed this, but he only exec produced it. So…

My God, when are these Hollywood “artistes” going to stop trying to subvert the Bible with atheist Christ stories and God hatred? I’m praying that Denis Villeneuve, the director, is doing this because he’s being bothered in his conscience as he faces his own mortality. But I fear a more cynical reality that he is just another filmmaker who thinks he’s being “deep” by adding religious themes he doesn’t even believe in to a story he’s trying to make profound.

What is the line between machine and humanity? Do our dreams constitute our reality?

It seems that this is the era where atheist propaganda movies have achieved the preachy mediocrity of Christian propaganda movies. Now, when they throw out “God’s Not Dead” and “Fireproof,” we can say, “Oh, yeah? What about Alien Covenant and Blade Runner 2049?” And Exodus: God’s and Kings? And Noah?

Give me the hearty paganism of Gladiator any day over this heartless soulless atheism. (It’s paganism is not ultimately satisfying either, but it connects more deeply with our universal hunger for transcendence in a way that BR 2048 cannot.)

Soullessness is Boring

First off, the very premise upon which the entire movie rests is the atheistic evolutionary fairy tale that “souls” or consciousness arises or grows out of material complexity. This is all the rage now in some brain science circles etc. They have no actual explanatory mechanism for this “miracle” of matter sprouting “soul,” they just believe it happens. It “self-organizes.” This is what’s called in science, “just so” stories, or “magical thinking.”

And they laugh at Christians?

Ironically, the movie still operates within a modernist paradigm of Greek dualism that argues that humans are “ghosts in machines.” The Gnostic version says it this way: “the body is a prisonhouse of the soul.” Be that as it may, it’s the same delusion of A.I. movies all over. There is some point at which machines and/or their programming become so complex that they sprout souls.

This is actually a reductionism that reduces spirit to properties of matter. They try to deny that and craft clever ways of “transcending” materiality, but they cannot do so. And we humans know this when we watch these stories. Which means that when such atheist premises are engaged in the course of “love stories” between robots and other such “dignifying” activities, the audience knows as they watch that it’s a contradiction. Even if they don’t know it intellectually, or they can’t put their finger on it, they can sense it as they watch. Robots and programs are not humans, and no amount of verisimilitude can change that. Verisimilitude is a means of deception. And I think the audience can sense that truth.

Now, here’s how the deception tries to mimic truth… Continue reading

Alien Covenant: Ridley Scott’s Christophobic Atheism

Alien: Covenant views like an atheist version of a bad Christian movie.

Look, I was a fan of the original Alien, as one of the best sci-fi horror films of all time. Although I can no longer watch it because it’s gimmick of slow build suspense doesn’t work any more. It’s no longer scary, it’s just boring. One dinner scene remains emblazoned on film history, I won’t deny that. But the film no longer stands up for me.

Not so with Aliens. Aliens is the only one that still works in the series. It is the classic that surpasses the original. But of course, it isn’t Ridley Scott, it’s James Cameron, a superior storyteller. But I digress.

The Devolution of Atheist Storytelling

It seems as Scott gets older, his hatred of God burns brighter. Which is not a wise thing, considering how close he is in age to his own demise. And the worse his films seem to get as well. It’s almost as if Scott’s filmmaking is an argument for the existence of God. The more you apply atheism to your storytelling, the more irrational and the less satisfying your storytelling is for the human spirit.

Gladiator (2000) was quite simply a masterpiece of filmmaking. But it was pagan. Okay, a pagan masterpiece. An inversion of the gladiator movies of the past from their Judeo-Christian context into a celebration of pagan “transcendence.” Not because Scott (or his atheist screenwriter, David Franzoni) believes in such silly things, of course, but simply as a mythical embrace of anything other than Christianity. All the persecution of Christians in that era was quite literally cut out of the story.

Hannibal (2001) was a mocking subversion of the Christ story that transformed the cannibalistic serial killer into a Christ figure and the “real villain” was a caricature of a fundamentalist Christian. Satan as hero, worthy of the Scorsese award for antichrist filmmaking. And just a stupid movie.

Kingdom of Heaven (2005), was a humanistic reduction of all religion as morally equivalent and reduced to conquest. Wait. No. Actually, it was the denigration of Christianity to Islam, since the Crusades were depicted without their context of defense against imperialist jihad, and since the Muslims were portrayed as being more noble in their culture than the Christians. The story is about a Christian knight after all, who loses his faith in the face of multicultural experience of the other. (once again, any enemy of Christianity seems to be this director’s friend, even if that enemy hates him and wants to enslave the world) The problem is that this movie is an epic that lacks transcendence, even the pagan transcendence of Gladiator, and therefore becomes uninspiring and forgettable.

Prometheus (2012) (another pagan myth) was the mind-numbingly boring attempt to make the ancient aliens theory look aesthetically acceptable. But it’s still just the ridiculous atheist fairy tale that the gods of religion come from aliens. And they laugh at Christians claiming we believe in ridiculous made-up myths! Oh, and don’t forget, in this one, Jesus Christ was an alien. Gotta love that shot of the artwork of an alien in a crucifixion pose. Just give us some aliens vs. humans, damn you!

The Counsellor (2013) an uninspiring piece of nihilistic trash. When you argue that there is no meaning or purpose in reality, is it any wonder, your stories become meaningless and without purpose?

The abominable Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) displayed Scott’s apex of vile anger and contempt for the God of the Bible by reducing him to a tamper tantrum-throwing child, a figment of delusion—more a projection of Scott’s hypocritical atheist moralizing (since atheism claims there are no moral absolutes) than a nuanced understanding of complex deity and ancient sacred storytelling. They say your view of God is often a reflection of how you see your father. Well, I can only hope Scott will one day see beyond his own self-righteous hatred of daddy to find the grace that would actually give his hopeless life and absurd universe some meaning and purpose.

It Just Keeps Getting Worse

Now, Alien: Covenant carries on Scott’s legacy of Christophobic atheism. Continue reading

OSCAR WATCH – Silence: Scorsese’s Epic Apostasy

In the seventeenth century, two Jesuit priests face violent persecution to their faith as they track down their teacher and predecessor who is rumored to have apostatized.

I confess I have not read the book, so I do not know how faithful Scorsese is to Shusaku Endo’s original novel. But in movie adaptation, stories are shaped to the vision of the director, oftentimes subverting the original. So, despite some helpful appeals to the source material, a movie must nevertheless be understood in its own context and presentation apart from the book. And Scorsese seems to have made this story his own.

Christian Bashing is Nothing New

Silence is a timely and poignant, though at times overly long, exploration of the nature of faith in the face of persecution and suffering. For that reason, I applaud the discussion that Silence raises and the soul searching it inspires in the faithful.

Especially in this era of rising Christophobia and persecution of Christians by all forms of fascism worldwide. From the Muslim torturing and murdering of Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and other Islamic nations, to the growing tide of violence directed at believers in America, hatred is being increasingly focused on Christians, not for being hurtful in their actions, but simply for believing in God’s Word. And such spiritual devotion is considered a hate crime by many in our culture.

The ultimate end of demonizing Christian beliefs as “racist, bigoted, homophobic, sexist, Islamophobic” and other phobias, is the justification of violence against Christians, the elimination of Christian cultural artifacts and history, and the suppression of the Judeo-Christian faith.

That is why Silence is so poignant at this time. Remember my mantra, movies are not made in a cultural vacuum. They often reflect the zeitgeist of the era, the spirit of the age they are made within. And this era no longer believes in freedom of thought and speech and the free exchange of ideas. It now says to Christians, “Shut up. Your beliefs are bigotry, so you must renounce them and outwardly support the zeitgeist.”

We are not in a post-Christian culture, we are in an anti-Christian culture.

But the trials and tribulations experienced by the Roman priests in this story are rooted in a deeper struggle that all honest believers wrestle with: the silence of God in the face of suffering, spiritual doubts, and weakness of faith.

Christian Lives Matter

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Ben Hur: An Epic Movie of Christian Forgiveness in an Empire of Hate

Ben Hur

Adaptation of a famous fictional novel by Lew Wallace about a first century wealthy Jew, Judah Ben-Hur, and his pursuit of revenge against an adopted Roman brother who betrays his family.

Chances are, you have heard of the classic movie of Ben-Hur with Charlton Heston in the lead role. But if you’re young, you probably haven’t seen it. Look, for those of us who have seen the “original,” it’s pretty hard to live up to the grandness of it because Heston was so legendary. But the truth is, when I watched the old one again some years ago, the actual quality of filmmaking and acting, even the famous chariot race, was not as good as my memory of it. Modern filmmaking is simply more sophisticated on many levels.

Enter, the modern reboot

Judah and his family live in Jerusalem, but his adopted Roman brother, Masala, never feels welcome with his pagan ideas and desire to make his own name in life. So Masala goes to Rome and becomes a highly placed military leader, who ends up at Jerusalem aiding Pontius Pilate at the time of Christ.

Judah begins the story as a Jew who scorns the extremes of both the Zealots, who seek to rise up against Rome, and of the way of love that he sees a young carpenter preaching to his followers. Judah seeks to protect his family and stay out of trouble. Self-preservation. And isn’t that really the desire of most of us, if we are honest? (Zealots were kind of like ancient “Social Justice Warriors” or terrorists)

The problem is that the family gets falsely accused of a Zealot crime, and is punished accordingly. Rather than execute Judah, Rome prefers to enjoy him dying slowly by putting him as a slave on a Roman galley ship. I have to say, this part of the movie was the most excellent surprise of the experience. I remember that part of the Heston movie as being a bit boring: guys rowing in dirty sweaty grunge with the quartermaster pounding the drum and the slaves getting whipped and yelled at.

But in this version, the experience of the sea battle by the oarsman from their perspective was a powerful action sequence. It captured the experience of what it might feel like to be there, helpless in those cramped quarters being bashed and battered around and sinking during a battle. And only being able to see what is going on through cracks and oar windows as they row. It reminded me of the D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan, how it made you feel like the first time you ever really got a true sense of real battle in a movie from the individual’s perspective.

More Bread and Circuses!…

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Variety’s Family & Faith Summit: Christians are Alive and Kind of Well in Hollywood

Variety's Purpose Summit

I went to the all-day family entertainment and faith-based summit called “Purpose,” put on by Variety. I saw panel discussions on Faith in Mainstream Entertainment, How to Win the Faith Audience, Representation of Religion in Entertainment and others. This was not a conference for wannabes or Christian subculture, these were successful writers, producers, and executives, key decision makers and content makers in Hollywood. The real thing, people working with studios and networks making and marketing content related to the family and faith audience, or as my colleague Matthew Faraci of Inspire calls it, The “values audience.” (It’s more than just faith, it’s about cherished values that go along with that faith).

I have been involved as an independent filmmaker in Hollywood for a long time and I have experienced my share of cynicism with a system and people who are late to the party of recognizing and respecting the interests of this huge demographic of faith and values audience. But I have also been frustrated with the “faith-based” genre for its cheesy sermonizing and lack of excellence in craft, which to my mind disrespects God by disrespecting creation and beauty. I’m a Christian, and I don’t believe the message of many Christian movies. (Is this the fault of Christians with low standards pouring money into crap or the fault of a media culture that fails to provide for their demographic needs, thus resulting in Christians supporting lesser quality because it’s the only thing that respects them?)

But there is hope growing in Hollyweird.

Studios and networks finally see that there is money to be made in respecting faith and values audiences. As Paradigm agent Michael Van Dyck pointed out, sadly, these gatekeepers still don’t quite understand the demographic beyond their own stereotypes, but they are getting better as they hire more individuals that do get it. Yes, you have the abysmal failures like Noah and Exodus, but then you have the screaming successes of Miracles from Heaven and When Calls the Heart.

Some of those successful storytellers of faith were Devon Franklin, producer of Miracles from Heaven, Patrick Aiello, producer of Risen, Matthew Malick, producer of Scorsese’s Silence, Rick Rekedal of Dreamworks Animation, Jonathan Merkh of publisher Simon and Shuster, Writers Cary Solomon of God’s Not Dead, Bryan Bird of When Calls the Heart and many others.

The key to a growing presence of Christians in Hollywood has been in this generation ceasing seeing Hollywood as Sodom and Gomorrah to flee from without, but rather seeing it as a mission field to go into and influence from within.

Takeaways

Several memes rose within the conference in most all the panels.

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The Young Messiah: Blu-Ray & DVD Delivers Extra Jesus

YoungmessiahBluRayThe Blu-Ray and DVD release of The Young Messiah is today and I want to encourage all those viewers who want more quality Christian movies or faith friendly or family friendly or values friendly movies to support this release.

That means “buy it.” You will be glad you did.

The Young Messiah is the story of Jesus as a seven-year old boy coming into the realization of his own identity as the Son of God. Yes, it’s speculative, we know so little about that period in his life. Yes, it is dangerous theological territory to deal with such weighty matters. But Cyrus Nowrasteh and his co-writer wife, Betsy Nowrasteh have done a worthy job of exploring it with faithful respect. And you know, it’s the dangerous risks that can provide the richest and most profound stories anyway.

For a full review/analysis of the movie read my post, The Young Messiah: Must See Bible Movie about Jesus.

Also, check out my interview with the director who found Jesus while making the movie, an interesting revelation of how a person’s worldview really does affect the meaning of the movie. They adapted the movie from Anne Rice’s novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, but purged the sectarian and questionable elements of the novel to make a more orthodox Christian story.

But that’s not all. There’s extra Jesus here… Continue reading