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The ‘Son of God’ Movie: Reflections on Christian Division — Post by Michael J., Mary C., and Victoria Findley

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We may get negative comments on this post, because there are many movies about the Bible and biblical themes that we have not seen, and that’s what we’re going to talk about. But we’re not really going to talk about the movies themselves. We’re going to talk about reactions to them.

Periodically people make movies that have something to do with the Bible. The most recent one is Called Son of God. Here are some of the reviews from people who have seen it.

The following links to a fairly long and detailed review, but it is definitely worth reading.

http://blogs.christianpost.com/abandoned-to-christ/movie-review-son-of-god-is-most-certainly-not-the-son-of-god-20297/

Someone on fb posted this link, and almost immediately got a response that the reviewer must have come looking to find fault with the movie. Michael responded with a quote from the reviewer: (emphasis added) “Prior to entering the theater today, I went in with an open-Bible-mind and open-Spirit-heart. I hoped that this movie was better than the miniseries, but alas, it was not.” Michael also said, “I have not seen the movie, but I do pray that this is an honest statement.”

Kenneth R. Morefield of Christianity Today said, “Watching Son of God was not a dreadful experience, but it wasn’t a particularly inspirational or entertaining one, either.”

Dove Awards said, “This is a movie with a message. It will take you on a powerful, compelling and, in the end, spiritual journey.”

Martin Tsai of the Los Angeles Times said the movie “has the feel of a ‘midseason clip show’. If ‘The Bible (the History Channel series from which this film was made) was CliffsNotes for the Scriptures, Son of God is the cheat sheet. The two-hour film condenses about four hours of what already was hasty television, and it all winds up a little dramatically static.”

The New York Times’ Nicolas Rapold said, “Son of God runs through the scriptural greatest hits of the Passion with the reliability of a Sunday reader … undermining the mysteries of Jesus with the blandness of the filmmaking. … ‘Son of God’ may have hit the mark if part of the goal was to create a portrait flat enough to allow audience members to project their own feelings onto the screen.”

Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle said, “the film does thoroughly succeed in one important regard: offering a coherent, viewer-friendly account of the life of Jesus Christ. The movie flies by despite its 138-minute running time, a holy CliffsNotes that packs in all the greatest hits. Never again will a Sunday school student get lower than a C-minus on this material.”

Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post “’Son of God’ is nothing if not sincere, its earnest retelling of Jesus’s life story resembling a gentle, pop-up book version of the New Testament, its text reenacted for maximum reassurance and intellectual ease. Don’t expect to see a great film, or even a very good one. Whether you discover a meaningful channel with which to continue your walk with the film’s protagonist, however, is strictly between you and your god.”

Christian Blogger Mike Blackaby said, “It’s just good to have a well-made Christian film out there that gets people excited and interested in Jesus. Here is my bias rearing its ugly head. You’re never going to make a movie about Jesus that pleases everyone, and I’m so tired of the Christians who slam any Christian movie that does not line up with their ‘infallible’ interpretation of how these events went down. So what that Jesus here is kind of portrayed as a surfer-dude hippie, sticking it to the Roman Empire and the Jewish Pharisees? There is going to be artistic interpretation in every work of art, and the producers of this film are not creating a tract, trying to replace Scripture, or writing a theology text book. They are making a movie with the hopes of renewing an interest in Jesus for an American culture that could really use that right now. To that, I say, ‘props to them’. If you’re putting your hope in this movie to fulfill the Great Commission, then you’re misguided.”

These reviews come from believers and unbelievers. We could share many more, and point out that both sides seemed to find technical problems in the presentation and other weaknesses that make the movie flawed at best.

The thing that really stood out about comments from believers, however, was the split opinions. Some thought it was wonderful and saw no fault. Some admitted some imperfections but believed it could be used for God’s glory. Some saw too many flaws, including Scriptural inaccuracies, and recommended avoiding the film.

Our daughter Victoria, who has not seen it but was responding to some who made the charge that it was ‘just a movie’ or that those who pointed out problems were prejudiced, said, “Film producer Mark Burnett says his soon-to-be released movie Son of God will have a wide impact for Christian evangelism as modern technology brings the film about the life of Jesus to remote areas of the world.

“‘We believe in the decades to come, people in remote places will find Jesus through watching this movie on their iPhones,’ Burnett told Newsmax in an exclusive interview.

Victoria continued, “He wanted this to be a message, a doctrinal one that people might watch or see that they would not otherwise pay attention to. But because they do not know the truth or have rejected the truth presented in a different form, I just think that it is very important that the movie present God in the way God wanted Himself to presented, not in a way that is open to the viewers’ interpretation. God does give 4 different presentations of Jesus, through the gospels. I think we just need to be careful of praising those who present Christ, His message, and the Bible in a different light than God intended. (Rev 22:19)”

There was that curious reaction hinted at above, though. One believer would state what he saw as flaws, and another would either say, ‘It’s just a movie, lighten up,’ or leap to the defense of the movie, saying it was a great film and would be greatly used. Along with that opinion would very often come a ‘shame on you’ to those who dared to critique what they saw as the film’s shortcomings. The reviewer would be accused of coming in with an agenda or being prejudiced to dislike it before hand. In some cases, other reviewers called anyone who didn’t love the film idiots.

Many reviewers, believers and unbelievers, admitted that they thought that the film would do very little to convince unbelievers, though the makers clearly stated that they intended it to convince the unsaved in remote places. Believers are flocking to it, even reserving whole theaters to ensure it is the only thing playing there. It is doing well commercially. But who is it reaching? It seems like mostly Christians are seeing it. If the unconverted are watching it, they are not, for the most part, ‘going public’ about being persuaded.

If films like this do not persuade unbelievers, what is their purpose? Christians clamor for clean, family-friendly films, and especially love the idea of those based on the Scriptures. Hollywood rarely listens, churning out films that are often the antithesis of what Christians want to see. They promote the occult, explicit sex, lurid violence, and in one recent Oscar-nominated case, drop the f-bomb over 500 times. But, now and then, it seems Hollywood may be listening when a film like Son of God comes out.

The problem with such films is that they produce division in the body of Christ. Some will say we’ve got that backwards – that certain Christians become divisive when every one of “us” ought to praise and encourage the moviemakers for trying. Christians ought to unite in supporting the attempts to make family-friendly and biblically-inspired films, even if they are not perfect. Those who can’t do that are insulted, attacked, and marginalized.

This sounds disturbingly familiar. It is what liberals and atheists do when they want to dismiss criticisms of Secular Humanist teachings. Richard Dawkins has an Anglican minister friend whom he chastises when the sermons references Adam and Eve as if they are real people. This minister already accepts evolution, but that isn’t enough for Dawkins. The man must not teach any of the Bible as if it is true. Dawkins happily insults and attacks anyone foolish enough to accept that ridiculous book, the Bible.

Now we have two camps of Christians. One stands for the Word of God and says Hollywood must not present a watered-down, incomplete, or downright inaccurate version of the historical events in the Scriptures. But these brothers and sisters in Christ are insulted, called names, and marginalized, by who? By other believers. That second camp will praise and promote anything that has any crumbs of biblical content. It’s true that God can use His Word, even if the vessel of its presentation is flawed. But why attack those who want to purify that vessel? That’s being divisive – to say those Christians should shut their mouths and not criticize.

Is it possible that the world puts out these films to be provocative, as well as to make a buck off the faithful who will flock to see the smallest bit of Bible on the screen? Do they do it to force wedges between the brethren? Do they goad those who must speak out against corruption, and likewise prompt other believers to be ‘more accepting, more loving’, when what they are really doing is rejecting their own fellow believers in favor of that which is not truth?

‘Divide and conquer’ is a very old maxim. And the divide widens with every new ‘biblical’ film that comes out. Christians should be one in the Spirit, but also one in the Truth. Please, consider carefully. Who is really being divisive?

Image from moviepilot.com

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Review of the Movie Frozen : A Biblical Definition of Love — Post by Michael J. Findley

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The Disney movie Frozen is a vast improvement on the Hans Christian Anderson Faerie Tale The Snow Queen. The animation is the best of Disney. Rushed and somewhat confusing in places, it is much better than The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, the Lion King, or Beauty and the Beast.
It is entirely 3D without the massive limitations of Toy Story or Cars. It is a story of people and the people move and act like people. The clothing looks and moves with enough realism that it does not distract from the story, which is the way it should be. For anyone who has ever been frustrated with 3D clothing in programs such as Poser, Elsa’s gown transformation is more than astounding.
The building of the Ice Palace is a must see. Period. We are in our 50s without grandchildren and you do not need children to enjoy the snow queen’s abilities.
It is a musical. The music is much better than what passes for music on Broadway these days. Sadly, it is not based on Classic Themes like Beauty and the Beast. I think it is still better than the music in the Little Mermaid.
The story is better than anything Hans Christian Anderson or the Brothers Grimm ever wrote. With better music this might have been the best animated movie Disney/Pixar ever made.
The key is that the animation contributes to the story. In most animated movies, there are a few things which cannot be done in real life, such as crossing the Red Sea in Dreamworks’ Prince of Egypt, but the goal is normally to tell the story without the animation being too distracting. The size of the empty rooms, the way the parents’ ship vanishes, the ships freezing in the harbor, the incoming snow storm — all of these and more contribute to the story.
The important part is the story, not the music, not the animation. There is just the right amount of humor. Olaf, the snowman the sisters made as children, is brought to life. Sven the Reindeer, Oaken the shopkeeper, and the many cute trolls keep us smiling and lighten up a rather grim story.
*Spoiler Alert*
If you truly understand the concepts of good and evil, Hans is one of more (most?) vile, evil villains in Disney’s collection of animated villains. Anna is simply naive and easily deceived She also loves with purity and sacrifices her life for her sister and her people.
Evil is portrayed as evil. Good is portrayed as good. The magical powers of Elsa, the Snow Queen, are consistently shown to be in need of control. When Elsa decides to be selfish and use powers for herself to build an Ice Palace, the results are disastrous for her entire kingdom. Enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season cause enormous misery for everyone, including Elsa, later on.
While there is romance, love is both stated and shown to be doing what is best for others. Greater love has no man than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friend.
The movie rating service, Rotten Tomatoes, gives Frozen an overall average of all reviewers professional and viewers, of 89%. It is very much a love/hate movie, with most people giving it a perfect or near perfect score. However, several people gave it nearly a zero score. These people noticed the same qualities I did. They simply hate what is good.

 

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Review of The Mummy Returns

Objectionable elements: 1. Veneration of false gods and magic spells related to the false religion. 2. Promotion of reincarnation as true. 3. Violence, including the mummy sucking the life out of people. 3. Cursing in English and probably in foreign languages. Scantily-clad women, including a lengthy “chick fight” in bikinis. 4. The “Medji,” Arabs fighting the evil mummy Imhotep and the Army of Anubis talk about destiny and being a “warrior for god.” 5. Visions and memories from past lives guide people. 6. Three people are resurrected from the dead simply by chanting a spell from a magic book.

So why watch it? It shows a married couple, adventurer Rick O’Connell and his Egyptologist wife Evelyn, very much IN love, not sniping at each other, not in any way dysfunctional, using playful persuasion on each other but never running each other down to others. In fact, everyone they encounter helps them because of their determination to do right without hesitation.

Alex, O’Connell, their eight year old son, acts like a “smart-aleck” on the surface, but he loves and respects his parents, responds to their teaching, and compliments them. Rick rescues him from the “Bracelet of Anubis Curse” by fighting off a horde of warriors and pygmies and running through the jungle to reach the pyramid by dawn. As they lie safe in the shadow of the pyramid at last, the exhausted Rick gasps, “It’s not easy being a dad.” Alex says, “Yeah, but you do it real good,” and falls into his arms. Alex knows how to bring his mother back because he paid attention and learned ancient Egyptian from her.

Ardeth Bey, the leader of the Medji, goes along with the O’Connells to find out where the battleground with the Army of Anubis will be. When his messenger falcon is shot down, he starts to leave to tell the Medji army where to come, but Rick stops him. “I need you to help me find my son.” Ardeth pauses. “First I will help you,” he agrees.

Rick and Ardeth Bey wade in to the Mummy’s pack of bad guys to rescue Alex. Evie and her brother Jonathan give them covering fire from a ridge. Evie says, “Jonathan, that’s my husband and my son down there. Make me proud.” Jonathan, normally a drunken, cheating thief, says, “Today’s that day, Evie.” For them, he does things that terrify him and does them well.

Rick says he only cares about his family. Even though he goes after Imhotep to avenge Evie’s murder, he knows he has to defeat both Imhotep and the Scorpion King to set things right, to “save the world.” When the time comes, he does not hesitate to give his all.

Near the end, both Rick and Imhotep are hanging off a chasm being “dragged alive into Hell.” Evie and Ank-sun-amun, Imhotep’s resurrected lover, anxiously watch as hands come up over the edge. Imhotep, right hand, left hand. Rick, right hand, left hand. Closeup on that left hand, and Rick’s wedding ring.

Evie stares into his eyes and he says, “No! Evie! Get out of here!” She runs in as the place is falling down on top of them and pulls him out. Imhotep calls out to his supposed eternal love to help him, and she says, “Nai!” (No, I presume) and runs away, only to be devoured by scarabs while Imhotep, tears in his eyes, lets go and willingly falls into the abyss.

Izzy, a grimy, disreputable dirigible pilot, rescues them as the pyramid and the whole oasis of Ahm Sher get sucked down into nothingness. Izzy has complained and questioned Rick through his whole time in the movie, but in the end he risks everything to save that family.

Image from: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/evelyn-carnahan/images/24120766/title/mummy-returns-screencap

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