Tag Archives: Genesis

Movie Review: 'Noah'

This past Monday, a couple of friends and I had the privilege of seeing the esteemed and much and anticipated ‘NOAH’!

Honestly, I was not quite sure what to think of this film going in. In the evangelical community it seems as though the three big films to look for at the moment are Noah, Son of God, and God’s Not Dead. Son Of God seems to simply be yet another dry rendition of what ought to be called “the lie and times of white Jesus”; God’s Not Dead (as evident in the gag-worthy trailer) simply affirms the mistaken narrative of the innocent young, white, ,cheery-eyed Christian pitted against the angry, atheist  professor. So, striking these two off of my list, the only one I was even remotely interested in seeing was Noah.

With any movie even loosely based on the bible, there is going to be some degree of artistic liberty taken. One of the biggest places this is evident(almost distractingly so) is in the ‘nephilim’ passages:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

And what does this translate to:

That’s right, the image you see above is the movie’s depiction of the elusive ‘nephilim’ or, as they’re referred to in the film, the watchers. They’re essentially these rock golems who are described in the film as being angels who were sent from heaven to protect and guide humanity , but the watchers you see above are the result of those angels that have gotten too entangled with the things of the earth(sin) and quite literally the lava and solid portion of creation and so God encased their more beautiful former forms in rock as punishment. It’s an interesting concept and in the end I guess I appreciate the risk with such an artistic rendering, but it was also a bit distracting, especially if one didn’t have a passing familiarity with where the idea even came from..

The rest of my ideas about this film are essentially spot on with an article that fellow-blogger, blerd, and liberation theologian Rod had shared with me. It was an article from Greenleft Weekly, entitled  “Noah story not for conservatives“. In it, the author,Karl Hand, makes several great points that run perfectly in line with the vibes and ideas that I got from the film,

“Conservative scholars like to breeze over these unedifying details, and give a Disneyfied, PG version of Noah. But Aronofsky’s warts-and-all reading of Noah, with its “green agenda”, gets something of both the Noah myth, and the ancient Semitic mythical world-view, that the traditional, Christianized re-telling miss”

– This is a powerful, powerful statement that I agree with whole-heartedly. On the car-ride back with my friends, I remember turning to them and asking “It was subtle, but I got a bit of an ecological/environmental apocalyptic vibe from that film” and they nodded hesitantly ( so as to appease the resident rabid environmentalist- myself). Or WAS it so subtle? As Hand alludes to in his review of the film, ( and in the quote above) much of our own perceptions of ‘Noah’ has to do with the way American Christian culture has presented the story. The way it’s been presented , traditionally, was so as to emphasize and harmonize the strict , self-righteous moral code within the evangelical Church and , thereby externalize/dismiss any other part of the story that are “irrelevant” to reinforcing this moral code. This story is often taught in tandem with the Sodom of Gomorrah – need I say more?

“Creationist Ken Ham’s recent public debate with Bill Nye (“the science guy”) at the Creation Museum included a lengthy and totally perplexing section on the science of building arks, and the feasibility of one being built 4000 years ago by a 600-year-old man named Noah.

This debate fizzled about the time Nye asked Ham if there was a kangaroo on the ark, and why haven’t we found any remains of it on its journey to Australia.

As bad, if not worse, than Ham’s appalling science was his appalling anthropology and total insensitivity to the function of a good myth. Any attempt to take mythology as a record of literal events will result in this kind of absurdity.”

There was a scene in the film where Noah was reading the beginnings of Genesis to his family on the Ark as the torrential downpour had just began. As he was reading, there’s an incredible illustration of the world being formed from the beginning – however, the way it’s illustrated is awfully similar to the proto-planetary hypothesis in its display of the big bang and the formation of Earth from resultant rock bits and collisions from asteroids and the later appearance of the ocean and tectonic processes. This scene was so immensely potent because it essentially resolved (IMO) the idea that Genesis and the scientific account can coexist and achieve syncretism – but on a deeper level, for me at least, it revealed the divinity intrinsic in even the most exacting scientific account of the world’s formation. Scientific laws, theorems and properties often have very poetic rings to them – “Energy is neither created nor destroyed” , we call this science- but that’s ART!

“The power of mythology is its ability to describe the meaning of human life and resolve deep dialectical tensions (such as, in this case, the tensions between chaos and order, justice and kindness, ecological priorities and the value of human life).”

Excellent quote. I could not have said this better myself, honestly. The tension between chaos and order is certainly well-illustrated in this film and further fleshed out in cinematic finesse. I especially felt this film expertly illustrated the ecological priorities and the value of human life – the fact that the account of Noah’s story describes God as destroying a perverse humanity yet preserving the animals- the very foundations and cornerstones of our global ecology, is far more radical than most mainline evangelicals care to acknowledge. The Noah account displays the result of human wickedness- with the state our natural, physical planet being an indicator or reflection of our collective sin.

Adam and Eve’s first child Cain kills his brother Abel in a fit of jealousy, and this seems to damage the cosmic order of things as the ground cries out to God for justice (4:10). Aronofsky represents this in Noah’s dreams. On two occasions, he steps onto the earth, looks at the sole of his shoe and sees in horror that it has blood on it, which is oozing from the ground.

This is a representation of how violence and injustice affects the cosmic order — the ground itself is bleeding. Violence is not a purely individual phenomenon, it is systemic, it makes the order of things sick.

In one of the most brilliant scenes in the movie, the silhouette of this first primeval murder by Cain morphs into killings and murders from all ages in human history. It features various military clothing styles from different eras and also period weaponry.”

This quote is essentially the main punch for me. This quote sums up why, though trippy at parts, I ended up enjoying the film and its message overall. The notion that our very planet bears witness to our wickedness is certainly an idea that Christians today must understand and is not hard to believe (i.e. to what extent is the  abrupt shifting of our climate, rapid deforestation, loss of biodiversity, etc. telling of our problematic relationship to one another as a collective humanity- whether it be greed, racism, xenophobia, etc.?) The most brilliant scene in this film, that actually enhanced my understanding of the passage, was , in fact, what Hard described, as “the silhouette of this first primeval murder by Cain morphs into killings and murders from all ages in human history. It features various military clothing styles from different eras and also period weaponry” – all this so as to say we as a humanity, like Cain, are quite guilty for killing our brothers and sisters.

 

All these great things having been said – I did NOT appreciate the pale British-accented casting; let us remember that people who were essentially desert nomads would not have looked nor talked as European as they were depicted- but of course this is of no surprise to anyone with even a passing familiarity with Hollywood’s race problem. And with a film geared towards white evangelicals (along with Son of God and God’s not Dead), it can really be of no surprise that this is was the result.

If I had to rate this film, anything, I’d give it  a 7/10 – it was a solid film and one I think anyone who even thinks they might enjoy, in fact, would. While this film was probably more for the Emma Watson fanboys if anyone (lolz) and often displayed trippy/distracting cinematography and character traits ( Methuselah is a stoner- for lack of better words) along with (chronic whitening of biblical characters, the ideas this film confronts its mostly evangelical audience with are sure to reinvigorate a conversation that must take place within the Church today regarding the connection between environmental, social, economic ( and ultimately, spiritual) problems.

P.S. By the way, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this film was so trippy – the director, Darren Aronofsky, also directed perhaps the most mind-numbing portryal of drug addicts in film history: Requiem for a Dream:

 

 

 

The Bible, Homosexuality, and Christianity: A Few Notes on Gender in the Scriptures

This is the seventh post in a series. I highly encourage that you read those previous posts before reading this one. The preface is here. The guidelines are here. A discussion of relevant Hebrew Bible texts is here. A study of Romans 1:26-27 is here. A Study of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 can be found here. A discussion about marriage in the Bible is here.

These are just a few thoughts that occurred to me in the midst of our discussion. None of this should be taken as “gospel,” – pun intended – but rather just my personal reflections on gender and the Bible.

In the current climate of discussion around homosexual practice, it has been argued that homosexuality may be wrong because it is an attack on traditional gender roles. Further, it is often said that these gender roles are rooted in scripture. Therefore, it is often argued that it is important that Christians should do everything in our power to oppose the confusion, disruption, and casting off of “traditional” gender roles that homosexuality represents. In this regard, I believe “they” are right. Homosexual people (as well as bisexual and transgender folks) do indeed seem to disrupt “traditional” gender roles. But, if Jesus taught us anything, it is that tradition that is not rooted in the scriptures AND love, may not be worth keeping. So what does the scripture say about gender roles?

Genesis 1:27 – “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

What this verse indicates is that God has created humans in God’s image, and that, somehow, males and females both embody the image of God. The way I read this, which may be controversial, is that without a woman AND a man, one cannot fully reflect the image of God. Women are just as important as men, and without one or the other, God’s image on Earth would be incomplete. Of course, Jesus takes this to a whole other level, and does include the whole image of God in himself, though he is a man. I wonder what that says for the women-specific parts of God’s image that are present in Jesus? It seems that Jesus may have had to break traditional gender roles in order to fully image God on Earth. Maybe.

Deborah – In the Book of Judges, we are told the story of Deborah, a prophetess and a judge of ancient Israel, led the nation and spoke the words of God to the people. While many in our current Christian culture would find this offensive, as they misuse the Bible, it appears God has no problem with women both in leadership or teaching about God.

Ruth – a foreigner among Israelite people. She seduced and aggressively pursued a relationship with a man who was her social superior. Not a very good “woman.” And yet, God approved, even in the midst of the scandal, and used Ruth to support the lineage both of King David AND Jesus.

Esther – Esther was a Hebrew girl who was forced to parade around in some sort of Persian beauty pageant in order to be given the “prize” of becoming a bride to the current king. Esther happened to win, although her life was one of misery because there were powerful forces who wanted to kill her entire race of people. Unfortunately, Esther could not ask the king to help because he had issued an edict that his wives could not speak unless called for. Esther broke this rule, disobeyed her husband’s direct order, and was used by God to save her people. I guess God has less of a problem with women submitting to men than Paul did in some of his churches.

Isaiah 66:13 – “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

It seems as if God is adopting a traditionally female gender roll. Hmmmm.

Jesus – Jesus broke gender norms all of the time. For example, it was very taboo for a man to meet a women alone, let alone talk of marriage with her. That would have been fine for women, though. And yet Jesus does that very thing. Jesus lets women touch him and his feet, another gender norm broken. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, saying how he would have protected her like a hen (female) protects its babies. Jesus refuses to fight (a traditionally masculine trait), and cooks for his friends. He allows himself to lose an argument to a female, tells parables where God is represented by females, and indicates in Luke 11 that it is not by fitting in to traditional gender rolls that people please God, but by a person’s response in spirit and deed to God’s kingdom.

Of course, Galatians 3:28 puts a bit of an easy cap on all of this when Paul says that in Christ, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Turning not only gender, but societal roles upside down.

Now, lest people think that I am being biased, there are indeed many verses which tell women to do some variation of submit, obey, listen, and be silent, either in marriage or at church, or society at large. However, these were all written after Paul’s writing of Galatians. Given that Paul knew and commended female deacons (Phoebe), allowed women like Pricilla and Eunice to teach others about the faith, met in a house church led by the woman Lydia, never-mind belonging to a church which was started when Peter quoted Joel as saying that daughters would prophecy, and God’s spirit would fall on men and women. Acts also tells us that there was a man who had 4 daughters who all prophesied. Now, how do you square Paul’s teaching about women being silent with those facts? Fairly easy, as it turns out.

If Paul, having an encounter with the risen Lord, comes to the conclusion that in Christ, women and men are equal, and experiences this both by looking at Old Testament examples (as above), knowing the life and teaching of Jesus, and seeing this lived out by those women in the church around him, he of course would teach in his earliest letter (Galatians) and would likely preach in the earliest churches that he started, that women were equal in every way to men. However, what would those churches look like, if, once Paul left them to their own devices, they believed Paul? What if the women started teaching and doing traditionally “male” things without all of the benefit of learning that the males had? It would likely lead to poor teaching. Also, it would upset social norms and make Christians look like rabble rousers and turn people off to the faith. So Paul, being a pastor first (a tendency we seem to forget) would write back to those churches, telling them that “I (Paul, not God) do not permit a woman to teach, etc… Of course, this is all in the context of Christians “mutually submitting to one another,” which is also readily forgotten by many today.

All of this to say, that the traditional gender roles that we hold today are not biblical ones, at least not in the best sense of the word. Perhaps a better way to seek gender roles is to look at Jesus, who never treated anyone as a gender-ed person, but as an individual. Jesus himself, in being the complete image of God, bore in his body both the male-like AND female-like image of God. Also, Jesus embodied the wisdom of God (the female version of the LOGOS in Proverbs).

In many areas of our lives that we take for granted, traditional gender roles have been broken, to no great harm. This does not mean that men and women are the same and must conform to the standard of each other in some sort of forced equality. It does however mean that God is more than capable of bringing good into the world through many variations on gender themes, not being limited to one culture’s rules about who should be acting like what simply because they have this or that reproductive part.

Jump to part 8, A discussion about biblical interpretation, here.

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Sunday Funnies: Now You Can Play God, in a videogame!

A friend from church sent me the following YouTube video, pointing on this new video game and its problematic views about God.

Would you believe that there’s yet another videogame based off of VERY BAD BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION? And not only that, gamers get to get their game on as the Almighty YHWH. #FACEPALM!

I don’t know how old this interpretation is, the Tower of Babel as a curse just does not work in light of Pentecost, and reasonable exegesis. Well, get ready to “unleash your wrath and mortify these arrogant humans with your divine powers. Summon bolts of lightning, massive earthquakes, meteor showers or vengeful floods upon the Babylonians: The perfect apocalyptic arsenal”; obviously, cuz the story was just about the Babylonians, am I right? Am I right?

Actually no, the Babylonians did not establish their empire until centuries later. But hey, when you have a videogame where you can play the Lord of Hosts, why be bothered with little facts like that? Or the fact that  God acted to save humanity from human empire by blessing us with linguistic diversity, rather than throw thunderbolts like some pagan god, you know, Zeus.

Well, glad to see more and more folks profiteering on the idea of a violent, merciless tyrant. Have fun with that!

 

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