In fact, 2014 has been called the "year of the Bible" in Hollywood. And get ready, because there are a lot more Bible-based, religious-based movies coming our way with big stars such as Russell Crowe as Noah, Christian Bale as Moses, Julia Ormond as Mary, and Brad Pitt as Pontius Pilate. Plus there is a movie with Greg Kinnear coming out soon on "Heaven is for Real" based on the book of the boy who came back from death and shared about heaven. Next year there will be a movie from Will Smith on Cain and Abel (for more on this Hollywood trend check out this article from The Daily Beast). And here are some of the big reasons for this new emphasis on religious movies:
- Looking back over 100 years of films, some of the biggest money makers have been the big Bible epics like "The 10 Commandments" and "Ben Hur."
- Free source material! Studios are running out of comic-book heroes, and besides, studios have to pay royalties
on those ideas... but not on Bible stories -- plenty of great action and adventure without licensing fees.
- And finally, many in our society are Biblically illiterate and so these are unfamiliar stories.
When I walked down that hall at North station and saw the ads, I immediately thought "This has got to be about Noah's Ark - water, ax for boat-building, must be...." But that is because my life has been steeped in scripture. I learned those stories from a very young age. But we do not live in a culture of Biblical literacy. For many, the name of "Noah" will not conjure up a story they
learned as a child and read later with more depth and understanding.
So consider this a new opportunity to share scripture! In your churches have youth groups or families go together to some of these films and then discuss them. Have groups compare the movie to the SOURCE MATERIAL and see how it stacks up! Create your own emails with questions and links to biblical passage - such as this link for the Noah story. And be warned --- this film will be VERY different from the Biblical story so help your churches be aware of that and encourage discussion.
Finally - encourage Biblical Literacy! Make sure that adults can feel comfortable asking questions and digging in to something that they think they should know better but maybe don't know where to start.
My favorite new resource for helping people dig into scripture is the "Exploring the Bible Series" from the Massachusetts Bible Society. (You don't need to live in MA -- it's available on Amazon!) There will eventually be four parts to this series, but for the moment you can get a leader guide and student guide for What is the Bible? and Introducing the Old Testament. (Introducing the New Testament will be out very soon!) This terrific series helps give people a wonderful introduction and footing to read scripture whether it's new to them or they have been reading the Bible their entire lives. I know of no other material that has worked well (from teens to octogenarians) with Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Baptists and Unitarians - and many more. The series sparks discussion and study and is accessible to everyone regardless of previous knowledge or theological understanding. And it is affordable and requires no trained leadership.
Give your church the gift of feeling comfortable and engaged with the Bible before they see the movie!