In the South, religion is everywhere you look. For some reason we southerners just love having churches everywhere, opening businesses that proudly display the Ten Commandments and watching religious movies.
From the original “The Ten Commandments” to the typical, low-budget, Jesus-cast-as-a-really-white-guy movie about the life of Christ, it seems religion — particularly Christianity, of course — has always found its way onto our TV screens.
But now we’re seeing a rise in religious entertainment. Mel Gibson brought us “The Passion of the Christ” in 2004, grossing a ridiculous $370.8 million. About 10 years later, we now have History Channel’s 2014, 10-hour docudrama “The Bible,” its NBC follow-up “A.D.: The Bible Continues,” CNN’s latest series “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery” and much more.
The producers of these films are raking in huge amounts of money. According to USA Today, 20th Century Fox’s film “Son of God” brought in over $56 million in 2014. And even those films that had a lot of so-called creative liberty, like “Noah” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” continue to draw in large audiences.
It looks like Hollywood has finally realized the potential of catering to entertainment-starved Christians who don’t want to see movies about violence, sex or the demonic and Satan-worshipping world of Harry Potter.
But I have to wonder if I’m the only person who has a problem with all of this, especially if I’m the only Christian who has a problem with this.
For those of you Christians out there who enjoy shows like “The Bible,” did you enjoy historical inaccuracies or creative liberty? Did you think it was nice of the History Channel to do a show like this?
It’s not necessarily bad to enjoy these shows and movies, but come on, the History Channel didn’t launch “The Bible” because they wanted Christians to have a good, biblical source of entertainment. They, like every other company that has produced something like “The Bible” are treating Jesus Christ as nothing more than a cash cow.
As if Jesus didn’t already suffer enough on the cross, now Hollywood is bludgeoning him like he’s a piñata in the hopes that more dollars will fall out. And to me, that’s sickening.
“Hollywood has the same corporate and relativist values it has had for many years,” said Jeffrey McCall, professor of media studies at DePauw University, according to USA Today. “The producers have, however, identified a market that is underserved and won’t come to the movie theater to watch crazy violence and sex-drenched plots.”
I don’t mean to pick on just one show, but let’s go back to “The Bible.” The mini-series’ married producers, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, unveiled the new spin-off show “A.D.: The Bible Continues” this Easter Sunday. In a January USA Today article by Roberto Bianco, Downey and Burnett discuss the Easter premiere.
“It’s the perfect launch day, isn’t it?” Downey said. “We are people of deep faith,” Burnett said. “And we know God’s hands were all over it. It belonged on Easter Sunday.”
But then Burnett said something that troubles me. Bianco wrote, “But don’t think that means the miniseries is all sweetness and light. Burnett thinks of (the show) as ‘House of Cards’ in the 1st Century — a story with action, adventure and political oppression.”
Seriously? I don’t want anyone to produce a show about the early church that is comparable to a show like “House of Cards.” What, will the apostle Paul team up with Mary Magdalene to take Peter’s role as leader of the church in Judea?
And what’s worse than Hollywood manipulating the Bible is the fact that people just keep on coughing up the dough. As soon as someone produces a Christian movie or show, it’s almost as if Fry from “Futurama” is holding out a fistful of dollars, shouting, “Shut up and take my money.”
The Bible and the story of Jesus Christ are more than just a constant source of income for Hollywood. Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for everyone, and that sacrifice deserves more dignity and respect than more and more films. And the only way we’re ever going to show said dignity and respect is to start taking that sacrifice more seriously and to avoid these visual renditions of biblical tales.