Mother of 4: NBC’s ‘Noah’s Ark’ is inaccurate & exc
LAKELAND, Fla. (BP)--The NBC television network calls its upcoming "Noah's Ark" a lavish retelling of the biblical epic. But a Florida homemaker warns that it contains biblical inaccuracies, graphic violence and sexual overtones.
Lisse McBride said the “bizarre” four-hour movie shouldn't be labeled family entertainment. She has been distributing flyers to friends and church members, advising them to avoid the May 2-3 miniseries produced by Hallmark Entertainment.
"They twisted everything around," said McBride, who recently viewed a video copy. "It's made out to be partly historical and partly biblical. I'm very disappointed with people distorting God's Word. And in the movie, [when they’re] saying, 'God said,' I know he didn't say that."
Hallmark Entertainment, a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, it is the world's largest producer of TV movies and miniseries, according to Liz Sheppard, senior vice president of marketing.
One of McBride's complaints centers on the movie’s opening, in which the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are in the midst of battle and God warns Noah to take his family and leave.
In reality, the two biblical accounts are separated by at least 1,000 years, according to a Bible scholar contacted by Baptist Press.
The opening scene of NBC/Hallmark’s “Noah’s Ark” is brutal, McBride recounted, with people engaging in "war games" that include depiction of a decapitation.
Violence is part of many other scenes, McBride said. One of Noah's sons slugs his girlfriend to get her onto the ark, which the Florida mother of four called abusive. Later, Noah's wife threatens her family members with a weapon.
In another distortion of Scripture, the miniseries tells of Lot -- depicted in the opening as Noah’s best friend -- turning against Noah and leading a band of pirates in attempting to seize control of the ark. The attack fails when God sends a whirlwind that sucks them under the sea, McBride said.
A former Southern Baptist who attends a Nazarene church, McBride said she hopes to alert church members to the film's content, which she said will offend Christians and Jews alike.
Hallmark’s Sheppard, however, said, "I'm not a biblical scholar but I feel the message the movie leaves you with is there is a rebirth and a new beginning. And, that the evil that existed at the beginning of the story does not exist at the end of the story.”
Sheppard, responding to reports of inaccuracies in the production, said, "We did take a little bit of creative license but our intent is never to upset any particular group."
Of the violent scenes, Sheppard said, "Everyone has a right to their own interpretation. Some people would feel more strongly than others. I think that's normal with any production."
Other inaccuracies or problems McBride cited:
-- Noah's three sons take girlfriends on the ship. That conflicts with Genesis 6:18, with God telling Noah, "But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark; you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you" (NKJV). In the miniseries, Noah waits until after the flood to perform their marriages, McBride said.
-- Sexually oriented discussions between the sons and their girlfriends. Some of it stems from another biblical distortion, with NBC/Hallmark depicting God as telling Noah there is not to be any procreation on the ark and that he removed mating urges from the animals. Scenes following show flirting and hints of sexual liaisons, McBride said.
-- In one post-flood segment, God tells Noah he is considering wiping out the inhabitants of the ark and will leave them alone while he ponders their fate.
Not only does this portray the Lord as cruel and uncaring, McBride said, but the movie depicts the family as consequently beginning to crack up mentally, leading to the scene where Noah's wife picks up a weapon.
A seminary professor in Louisville, Ky., asked to comment on reports of the movie's biblical background, said, "It looks like they've gotten the most exciting stories of Genesis and Exodus, put them together and called them the story of Noah."
Daniel Block, professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Noah and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example, are two events, separated by 10 chapters in Genesis and at least 1,000 years of time.
Block said there is also serious problem in another inaccuracy McBride cited, when the NBC/Hallmark production has God telling Noah that he's sorry he ever made mankind and is going to destroy those on the ark. She said Noah does a dance which pleases God and convinces him to let them live.
The production doesn't square with Genesis 7:1, Block said, in which the Lord tells Noah and his household to come into the ark "because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation." Nor does it line up with the Lord's post-flood direction to take his family and all the animals from the ark so they may be "fruitful and multiply on the earth" (Genesis 8:17).
Block also said there is no hint in the biblical text of an altercation within the ark.
"I look at the ark as an incubator in which God is preparing Noah to function as a brand-new Adam when they come out," the professor said. "That's why he repeats the blessing he had given to Adam in Genesis 1. There is nothing but positive affirmation to Noah and his family."
A Southern Baptist official, Bill Merrell, vice president for convention relations with the Executive Committee, stated April 23, “The producers would have done themselves and the viewing public a great service by hiring a script consultant who took the Bible seriously.”
Merrell noted, “Good artistic portrayal requires that sources be treated with integrity, particularly when the source accounts are from the Bible. When you read this story line, it’s easy to conclude that there was no care taken to ‘get it right.’ It isn't being augmented, it’s being convoluted. … If the subject matter weren’t so important, the muddle in the story line and plot elements would almost be laughable. Of course, it isn't amusing when the Holy Scriptures are handled with so little respect.”
Merrell also stated, “The inaccuracies embedded in the plot could be predicted to make discerning viewers approach the project with deep suspicion. If they can’t get the facts straight, how can you trust the treatment of the great concepts, the organizing ideas? Will it be a hodgepodge of contradictory notions? Probably.
“The sadness is that the rich drama of the biblical account is so powerful that it makes the confused and confusing changes both unnecessary and unhelpful. The great themes seen in Noah’s life could certainly have provided the basis for an appealing, entertaining, and thought-provoking video presentation,” Merrell said.
In a press release distributed by NBC, the network said the movie is not blasphemous or disrespectful. Quoting director John Irvin, it cited humor as the prominent element of screenwriter (and co-director) Peter Barnes' script.
"I think what Peter found in the story and provided to us filmmakers was a story that's joyous and funny," Irvin said. "And yes, irreverent to a point."
Actress Mary Steenbergen said working on the film sent virtually all of the cast back to their Bibles for further study. Steenbergen, who plays Noah's wife, said tremendous research and care went into the writing.
"Is it 100 percent exactly the way everybody's going to expect it to be?" she asked. "No, it isn't. But I think our task is to make something that inspires people, that makes people think, that makes [them] go back and examine the story themselves, to search for the meaning."
Actor Jon Voigt, who portrays Noah, said the movie can be approached for its entertainment value, since it is "stunningly visual."
But the film invites the audience to reflect on where humans as a species have been and where we are going, he said.
"And here we are, just a few months away from a new millennium," Voigt said. "This may just be the right picture in the right country at the right time."
While McBride doesn't agree it is the right picture, she said there may be a silver lining to the situation. After relaying her concerns to the Christian operator of an Internet site, he responded that he would let people know. However, the man said, he expects the movie to stir up considerable interest in Noah and his home page about the ark.
Hallmark’s own description of the production’s plot line, highlighting Noah’s alleged life in Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot as “his best friend” at the time and Lot’s later “pirate ship” attack against Noah’s ark, can be viewed at the company’s Internet website, www.hallmark.com.
Art Toalston contributed to this article.