“Noah” & the beautiful complexity of Biblical humanity

Note: Originally, the shortest title I got for this was the too-long “Noah: And how the movie lends to understanding of the complexity of the Bible’s actual human characters.” But long titles look terrible with my current blog template, and I’m not quite ridiculous enough to wait to post till I redesign.

I have a lot of thoughts about Noah. (Well, I did when I wrote most of what’s below. Less now, when I’m actually getting around to posting it.) But up until the need  to respond to someone on the internet boiled over last week, I hadn’t quite articulated anything that felt original. At all.

But, as it will, someone on Facebook finally pushes you over the edge, and words happen. A lot of them. (To be exact, 499, on a poor friend’s status. I was lucky that she didn’t mind at all!)

So, hopefully the origins explain why this goes in the potentially odd order — because I don’t want to waste what’s already written, and I’m at the end of caring about this entire topic (and caring would be required to write very many new ones. Yes, that’s laziness. Go away. …Wait. Don’t go away!

I shouldn’t post the comment I responded to, so I won’t. But that means you’re just going to have to use some thinking (sorry) to imagine what it looked like. So here goes. I’m sharing a Facebook rant with you. Appreciate me.

Or scroll to the bolded word “Final” to miss the more reactive bits. As you wish.

“1. (Let’s start with some caps. I apologize for this decision.) WHY IS BEING PRO-TAKING CARE OF THE EARTH A BAD THING? I admittedly rarely recycle, but I truly don’t get the weird Christian anti-environmentalist thing. Like, let’s go be mad at people who want to take care of God’s creation! Cool.”

Ok, fine. I may have done a little straw-manning on the kid with this one, but I promise — the complaint AS GIVEN was as simplistic as the way I addressed it. Environmentalist agenda! Oh noes!

“2. The director’s alleged intent does not need to make or break my experience or interpretation of the film. ALSO, here’s another alleged quote that actually paints the director very different: ‘The film completely accepts the text, the four chapters in Genesis, as truth – just like if I was to adapt any book, I’d try to be as truthful to the original material as possible. It’s just that there’s only four chapters, and we had to turn it into a two-hour long narrative film.’ So. To repeat, ‘The film completely accepts the text … as truth.’ This is good. Let it be good.”

If he was going to believe everything the internet was telling him, so was I. I got this quote from Buzzfeed. I didn’t really check it. But it looked pretty legitimate, so… you know. It must be.

“3. That leads me to the part where I question all the complaints about inaccurate details. because he’s exactly right. It’s four chapters. You COULDN’T make this movie without making speculations on the story that was going on between the lines. This drastically affects my final thought on the movie, below.”

Hey look, see that? There’s going to be final thoughts soon. And really, I probably should have just fleshed those out for a full post — because they’re probably the only semi-original thought in here.

“4. But before that, your statement: “The whole story of Noah in Scripture is about God destroying the earth because of sin and preserving one family in covenant with himself and from that family repopulating the earth. Anything that doesn’t tell that story is misstating God’s word.” I don’t get it. That’s EXACTLY the story I watched this weekend. So if that’s what makes it a misstatement, then, well, I don’t get you here.”

Oops. I did quote him once.

Ok. The rest is also more or less what I wrote at the time, but like I said: This is the part I really care about and probably should have limited this post to. *shrug*

Final: This movie was never about portraying the exact reality of how Noah’s story played out. You can’t; the Bible doesn’t tell us enough. If you expect exactness, and no literary license, or even no careful speculation, you will never get Biblical stories on screen.

So if that movie was never about that, why do I value what I saw? Because stories like these, both in movie and literary form, humanize the people of the Bible.

Biblical stories are often sparse. We don’t always get progression, and motivation. Couple that with how much of our collective evangelical childhood was spent seeing Bible characters as really simple cartoonish characters, with little to no complexity, and the result is a difficulty in seeing the Biblical characters AS complex people.

And that’s not a good thing. Forgetting that these were real, complex people, with complex motivations, that a righteous man might also have been prone to anger or cruelty (erm, hello, David?) and we lose how beautiful the stories are.

A movie like this takes the simple cartoon aspect out of the story for me and lets me read Scripture, NOT assuming Aronofsky’s rendition was accurate, but actually understanding how much amazing complexity would have lain between the lines of the text.

And that’s worth the $6 matinee ticket.

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