Monday, 4 March 2013

Thoughts while watching "The Bible"

So, I watched the Bible last night 
   (actually, this morning – thank you PVR). 
As I watched, I had thoughts: some deep, some not so deep.  I kept calling Ms. Downey, "Roma Downey Jr.", then I would picture her as Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes and chuckle to myself....  (told you, some thoughts not so deep)
Two hours of TV (less with PVR and fast forward)
I was hoping to like it.  I’m a minister… kinda partial to the material.  I also love Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and now, Vikings.  The promise was that this show would be like that, only based on the Bible.  History Chanel, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey promised a powerful, visually engaging story to our home screens, which is great because most people have lost the over-arching narrative of the Bible.  Where we once knew the story as an epic tale; movie or miniseries, we now know the Bible as a series of FaceBook posts: Short, often out of order, and kinda manipulative.  (Wow! Look at that Jesus hates fig trees!  If you agree, share…)
So, I’m up for a narrative.
And I got one
    … except that a lot of it was missing.
God’s need to cleanse the world was all about humans making bad choices?  What about the giant babies that humans were producing after being raped by angels?  (Genesis 6) I thought that was one of reasons we needed a new start…?
Where was the image of Noah lying drunk on the ground after the Ark settled on dry land… naked and open to the ridicule of his sons?
Where was Abraham’s depression – the deep terrifying darkness that fell over him?
What was with the Ninja angel and the swords?
How come Lot didn’t offer the crowd his young un-wed daughters when they came knocking for the angel strangers?   Was Lot’s wife really so bad that she had to be turned to salt just for looking back at the city that she had called home?  And shouldn’t the daughters have been just a little older…. As much as the narrator said that Lot and his daughter disappeared into the mountains, never to be seen again, we Bible nerds know that the sisters got Dad drunk, and had sex with him in an effort to repopulate the world they assumed destroyed.   I get why we didn’t need to see that, but at least make the girls a little older.
And Moses… don’t get me started.  And keep me away from how “fair” the colour of our heroes and how wonderfully right they always were in the face of the foolish who would block the way, slow progress, or disbelieve God.   My Bible is full of “heroes” making mistakes, misunderstanding and screwing up!  I always loved Madeliene L’Engle’s assertion that the Bible is a collection of stories of people singularly un-qualified for the tasks assigned.  (or something like… pretty sure it was Madeliene… maybe Marty Ingels?)
But… I did actually like the crazy ninja angel.  And the Ark… that was cool (although I would have done more to control the giraffes – one of those  big tippy creatures falls over, the partner is going to pretty sad watching everybody else making out while he/she waits for extinction.)
And I know that you can’t fit it all in… not in 10 hours.
Maybe not it 100 hours.
The big problem is not what’s left out or kept it… For me,  the problem is that any kind of movie is going to be “literal”.  By virtue of the medium, we are stuck with a single layered event:  This happened and it caused that to happen; and then another thing happened and here we are.  That’s a movie.  Meant to be believed; followed to its conclusion.
It works great for Game of Thrones.  It looks like it’s going to work for Vikings… but the actual Bible is meant to be read with many layers.  As much as there is a grand narrative, it is also an ever-changing; always evolving metaphor and collections of metaphors.  We can argue about whether the metaphor is the creation of a human author or a divine creator.. but in the end, we not meant to read the Bible as an historical narrative.    The historical accuracy of Lot and his family  is not nearly as valuable to me as the inspiration to wonder what happens when we look back and not forward; not nearly as instructive to me as the consequences for women when men make decisions; the price we pay for hospitality; the foolishness of believing that you or your family are the only ones in the world…  so much to be taken from such a tawdry little tale.  Last night’s TV gave me none of that, instead it gave me a ninja angel and a moment of relief when Lot’s whiney wife finally got what was coming to her.   Good TV? Maybe… but not the Good Book.
I will keep watching.  I will likely go to see the Noah and Moses movies slated for release in the next year or so, but I suspect that I will enjoy them all a little bit more, if I lower my expectations and just let it be a media event instead of a motivating truth. 

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