CAL THOMAS: Much ado about Noah

CAL THOMAS

CAL THOMAS

It wasn’t so long ago that conservative Christians believed Hollywood to be evil and some preachers instructed their congregations not to go to movies lest they be tempted beyond their ability to resist. Now Christians are debating film content. That’s progress of a sort.

The main complaint from critics of the film “Noah,” which opened last Friday with an impressive opening day take of an estimated $44 million in ticket sales, is that it doesn’t accurately reflect the rather slim biblical account in Genesis. Here’s some breaking news for the critics: Noah didn’t speak English, as Russell Crowe does in the film, so right there we have a departure from biblical accuracy. One should not turn to Hollywood for theological truth.

In his book “Hollywood vs. America,” critic Michael Medved refers to the film industry as “The Poison Factory,” not the “dream factory” it likes to call itself. There is plenty of evidence – and he includes it in his book – to support that conclusion, but there are also many independent films being made today that act as antidotes to that poison if people seek them out, buy tickets and spread the word.

“Heaven is for Real” is one such film. Based on the best-selling book by Todd Burpo, the movie was directed by Randall Wallace, an evangelical Christian who also directed “Secretariat” and wrote the screenplays for “Braveheart” and “Pearl Harbor.”

Back to Noah. I asked Michael Medved about the film. He emailed me that while he believes the film is “surpassingly strange … On balance,” he says, he’s “glad they made the film; unlike so much puerile pabulum from Hollyweird, this serious and seriously flawed offering gives thoughtful movie-goers plenty to talk about.” He might have added that controversy also sell tickets, sometimes more than newspaper ads and movie trailers.

As for the storyline (the real one), what we know from Genesis is that God considered Noah a “righteous man.” For that reason Noah and his family (and the animals) would be spared so they could repopulate the earth after the flood. God’s reason for wiping out what He had created was because “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). From there we get a weather report of rain for 40 days and 40 nights, the opening of the earth’s floodgates, a dove going out to see if the water had receded and God providing a rainbow as a sign of His promise never to flood the earth again. That’s it at warp speed.

While dramatic enough, there are not enough additional details to sustain a movie plot long enough for people to finish their overpriced candy bars, tubs of popcorn and supersized Cokes or justify the obscene ticket prices ($16.50 in NYC). Some critics claim there is a heavy environmental message in the film, which undercuts the power of the real story. Aren’t there subtle and not so subtle messages in most films?

After decades in which Hollywood mostly ignored or stereotyped faith, Christians should be happy they have gotten the film industry’s attention. Successful films like “The Passion of the Christ,” “The Bible” and “Son of God” prove that such stories “sell.”

Instead of nitpicking over “Noah,” the Christian community should not only be cheering, but buying tickets to encourage more such movies. Hollywood may not always get it right, but that’s not the point. They are getting something and that sure beats not getting anything, or getting it completely wrong as in Martin Scorsese’s blasphemous, “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

Besides, after some see “Noah,” they might want to visit the “original cast.” The next time a rainbow appears might be the right occasion to begin a discussion.

Cal Thomas’ latest book is “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America” is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.

  • Bruce Braden

    Cal Thomas, ends his April 4 column “Much Ado About Noah” suggesting that some might want to visit the “original cast” in Genesis. So, let’s explore that option. Some complained that the movie would not, or did not stick to the original. But, the original Genesis epic alters script also. Just note the following: Genesis 9:20 says, “Noah was the first tiller of the soil.” But, Genesis cites two earlier tillers (Adam and Cain). Gen. 2:15 says, “The Lord took the man (Adam) and put him in the garden of Eden to till and keep it.” Then, in Genesis 3:17, after the fruit is eaten, God curses the ground saying to Adam, “In toil shall you eat of it.” Guess Adam tilled with no pain up until this ruling. The second tiller is Cain in Gen. 4:2 which says, “Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.”

    If the biblical writers can make up script as they go, Hollywood has every right to tell the Noah story as they wish. Which animal count should they use in the movie? Should Noah follow the Genesis 6 script? If so, he’ll load “two of every sort (of every living thing of all flesh), they shall be male and female.” Or, should Noah follow the Genesis 7 script to load “seven pairs of all clean animals…and a pair of the animals that are not clean…and seven pairs of the birds of the air”?

    Should the movie have the scene where drunken Noah is found naked by his son, Ham? Then, show Ham, father of Canaan, and his people being cursed into slavery for nothing more than being the one to see Noah naked? That would be ironic the year after “Twelve Years a Slave” won an Oscar! How should Russell Crowe look as a 600 year old Noah at the time of the flood, then as he ages another 350 years after the flood? Somebody call Make-Up!

    • FrereJocques

      The Bible is full of such contradictions, and they’re not hard to find. This is why I don’t put much stock in the claim that it is God’s invariably accurate word. The way that the original texts were butchered and mis-used against gay people sealed my opinion that the Bible as written today is not God’s inerrant word, but rather man’s, and that organized religion is a sham. Going to church will not make you a saint any more than living in a garage will make you a sedan.

      • Bruce Braden

        Well said!