Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1Peter 3:15).
Has Hollywood got religion?
Or are the spate of biblically-themed 2014 movie releases an indication of something else?
First up: The Son of God with a release date of February 28th. Like last year’s surprisingly successful TV mini-series The Bible, this movie is produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. (Burnett is best known for producing the seminal reality-TV hit Survivor.)
Here’s what’s to follow:
- next month, Noah, an adaptation of the Genesis flood narrative starring Russell Crowe.
- Christian Bale, best known for his portrayal of Batman, will shed cape and tights for very different garb as he depicts Moses in Exodus under the direction of Ridley Scott (a December release). It is being reported that Scott – an avowed agnostic – promises an unconventional interpretation of the God of Israel (should we be surprised?).
- others in this genre are rumoured to follow: Mary Mother of Christ (starring Ben Kingsley), and movies about biblical characters – both beloved and loathed – Pontius Pilate (starring Brad Pitt), Cain and Abel (with Will Smith), and Moses (under the working title, Gods and Kings).
What are we to think? How is this relevant to a 21st century Christ-follower?
On the one hand, today’s entertainment business is sometimes accused of hostility to a Christian worldview and maybe should be viewed with restrained cynicism.
Consider: last month, quadriplegic author/ speaker/ singer Joni Eareckson Tada’s rendition of the theme song for the faith-based movie Alone Yet Not Alone received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. But, in an unusual reversal after intense criticism within the film and pop music industries, the nomination was subsequently withdrawn. Then the discussion really heated up, giving the relatively obscure movie better exposure than could have ever been paid for. “I don’t think we should be surprised that Hollywood is shunning Christ,” Joni was quoted as concluding.
But others are more optimistic, seeing the current movement as a warming trend towards all things Christian.
So, a prudent observer might ask: why the sudden interest for movies based on biblical events, themes and characters?
Some credit this development to the impact of the aforementioned series The Bible, which became the #1 new cable offering in 2013 in the U.S. and held significant viewership in Canada and other countries. Maybe movie producers have realized that evangelicals will pay for scriptural content. Or, maybe they simply recognize that a good story is a good story.
Whatever the impetus, let’s be vigilant in surveying the cultural trend. Opportunities for discussion about the gospel are sure to result.
Takeaway: in the early church, the message of the cross spread one conversation at a time. Am I equipped to respond to the depictions of Christianity in pop culture, seizing the opportunity to share my faith in Christ?