NBC's 'Noah's Ark' distorts God & Noah, ‘driven by violence,’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Some may say it's just a movie, just entertainment. For Daniel Block, professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., it's a twisting of the biblical account of Noah and a "shameless perversion" of the character of God. Block also was disturbed by the graphic violence in the film, especially in light of the school shooting in Littleton, Colo.

Block and some of his students previewed the upcoming NBC miniseries "Noah's Ark" in his Louisville home on April 27. The movie is produced by Hallmark Entertainment, a subsidiary of Hallmark cards.

Throughout the film God is "presented alternately as confused, indecisive, foolish and weak," Block wrote in a critique after viewing the movie.

Block's entire critique can be found on the Southern Seminary Internet site, www.sbts.edu. Hallmark Entertainment was contacted for reaction but no response was received by Baptist Press at deadline April 29.

Block, in his critique, said he found the closing lines a disturbing example of an irreverent distortion of God's character. In a conversation between God and Noah, the Hallmark production depicts God as admitting that he can be wrong and that he needs man as much as man needs him.

The film closes with a "divine declaration ringing in the ears of the viewer: Mankind needs no help from God. God is reduced to an equal with man," Block said. "This is a shameless perversion of the truth as it is presented in Scripture: It is not God that needs us, but that we need him, desperately. Apart from the saving grace of God, our fate is the same as that of Noah's contemporaries and that of Sodom," he said.

The Hallmark production, which airs May 2-3 on NBC, also is "a graphic illustration of a postmodern hermeneutic at its worst," Block noted. Such a view of the Bible, he said, "insists that the meaning of the biblical text resides in the reader, rather than on authorial intent. Accordingly, any reader is invited to find whatever meaning he/she wants in the text."

Viewers will "learn nothing truthful about the Bible from this movie. ... This film confirms a non-Christian's sense of freedom to think about God however he or she wants," said Block, who worries that viewers may deem such “freedom” as acceptable.

Those who know the Bible might be able to pass off the NBC/Hallmark production as simple entertainment, he said. "Unfortunately, the television screen provides the only 'Bible' many people ever 'read.' For those for whom this is the case, this film has as little correspondence to biblical truth as candy and chocolates have to nutrition and dental hygiene."

"This film makes God totally irrelevant, " said Scott Davis, a master of divinity student from Hollywood, Fla.

Several of the students who viewed the movie saw it as a jab at the authenticity of the Scriptures. Others indicated that sin and repentance were made to “look silly."

Other students said that about the "only thing they got right” was the general shape of the ark.

Most student comments were reflected in these two: "I wanted to quit watching after 15 minutes," and "There is nothing redemptive about this film."

Noah is drunk in several scenes and most often talks to God after he has been drinking. "I didn't realize drinking could help your relationship with God so much," Davis quipped.

Block said NBC/Hallmark's interpretation of Genesis depicts Noah as a mixture of biblical characters, including Abraham when he intercedes on behalf of Sodom and Moses when he is called to meet with God on a mountaintop.

"Even then the film's portrait of Noah is ambivalent. On the one hand, he is admired for the manner in which he is able to relate to God, but on the other, he is a buffoon, a drunk and a madman," Block said. One observer said the film reduced Noah to the "Homer Simpson of the ark."

Other areas that Block points out as exploitations of the biblical text include:

-- Sodom's destruction occurs before the flood as an "object lesson for the rest of the world", while in the Bible, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah appears ten chapters after Noah and his family emerge from the ark.

-- Lot is portrayed as Noah's dearest friend while in the Bible the two are separated by at least ten generations and probably more than 1,000 years.

-- The movie devotes several scenes to the attempted sacrifice of Ruth to Molech while the Bible's first mention of Molech does not occur until 500 years after Lot.

-- The depiction of a mutiny by Noah's family on the ark and the family experiences dementia.

-- The movie portrays several conversations concerning the prevention of sexual liaisons on the ark which seems unnecessary because the biblical text presents the women as the wives of Noah's sons.

"The opening disclaimer, 'For dramatic effect we have taken poetic license with some of the events of the mighty epic of Noah and the flood,' creates the impression that the producers have only rarely or occasionally colored over the lines and gone beyond the natural reading of the text. But this tends to be the rule rather than the exception," Block said.

Putting aside the biblical inaccuracies, Block still sees few redeeming qualities in the movie. "To a large extent, the dialogue of the film consists of one-liners more at home in a stand-up comedy hour than in a movie supposedly based on Scripture and dealing with human sin so intense that it called for the virtual wiping out of the race."

Block also criticized the sexual innuendo throughout the Hallmark production, particularly a discussion about Ruth's virginity and the sons' overtures to potential lovers, but he does point out that there were no explicit sexual scenes.

Violence pervades the Hallmark movie, Block said, reflected in not only the destruction and battle scenes, but in the dominant images of knives and swords. There is an instrument of violence used to solve every problem, he said.

In one scene, Noah's son knocks Ruth out with a punch and carries her to the ark because she did not want to board the ark. This "is unconscionable given the current epidemic of male abuse of women," Block said. "Equally offensive is the calloused image of Lot, who witnesses his wife turn into a pillar of salt and then casually breaks off a finger.

"Hollywood capitalizes on the power of visual images and the sound of violence to grip the witness," Block said, noting a contrast to the Bible which never exploits violence for "the sake of sheer entertainment."

"The effect of this kind of pollution of the mind is to desensitize the viewer to the fundamental dignity of every human being by virtue of his/her creation as an image of God,” Block said. “The events in Littleton, Colo., this past week provide gruesome illustration of the horrific consequences on the American soul of this incessant glorification of violence by the media."

Fritsch is a newswriter at Southern Seminary.

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