I heard of an argument on Facebook the other day by a group of twenty somethings who were complaining about the "racism" of The Bible series, programs that I enjoyed immensely.
The complaint was that the actors were not Black, regardless what a "typical" Middle Eastern person "looks" like. Apparently all Middle Eastern people are supposed to be dark, swarthy and look, um, not White in any manner.
At least that's what the people on the thread said.
Later when it was pointed out that several of the characters such as Samson and Simon of Cyrene were Black, the argument quickly shifted to a different problem. Did you know the word Caucasian is offensive because "White people stole it"?
Oddly the thread came to an abrupt halt when one poster asked if anyone had actually seen the shows. Now that's deductive reasoning. Switch arguments when you lose and then shut up when you realize you look like a fool because you don't know what you're talking about.
These angry, offended, chronically aggrieved people took their cue from biblical scholars like Peter Enns, whose posts over at patheos indicate that he is "rethinking biblical christianity." Oh, well, neither biblical or Christianity merits a capital letter, but Enns is deep in thought, which we are supposed to note by his many snarky wisdoms about the rest of us bumpkins who still believe in God.
Anyway Enns focused on The Bible series, magnanimously explaining that it wasn't as big a "train wreck" as he thought it'd be because everyone knows that anything Christian is hokey and not worth watching, a fact that is often but not this time true.
Enns had several issues with the series, his primary one of which is this:
But it was clear, he notes, that series creators Mark Burnett and Roma Downey had an agenda – and that every episode they told had one goal: To get to the climax of Jesus’s life and death.
“They [the producers] were focusing on the final stage of the Bible story, which is Christ’s appearance,” he said. “It’s all a buildup to that. They take a celebrity approach to The Bible, and highlight the figures people know and present them in ways that make it seem that when you get to Jesus, you’ll feel that this was how it was meant to be all along.”Enns did not explain why film makers would want to spend four years making a 10 hour series focusing on biblical figures no one knows.
While certainly a capitalistic endeavor, one can hardly argue that Burnett and Downey were gouging people by selling the dvds for under $40; in any interview with the couple, their faith is apparent.
What they hoped to accomplish was to bring a few well known Bible characters to life in a realistic way to an audience which, these days, is largely unschooled in The Bible; the event of the series made me think of even Christ in ways I hadn't before, though I have been a reader of The Bible my entire life.The stories did not center around celebrities, other than the celebrity of Jesus Christ, though Enns snootily complains of a "celebrity approach."
Enns's comment that the series is all a "buildup to [Christ's birth]" smells suspiciously rank, considering that the divine birth is at the crux of Christianity.
The books of The Bible are a buildup to the birth of Christ.
Surely the biblical scholar and Messiah College graduate Enns knows that Old Testament types are metaphors of the Christ Himself, Old Testament verifications of New Testament realities, such as Jonah, who is written as history in The Bible. Three days and nights in a great fish were an anticipation of Christ's three days and nights in the tomb.
While atheists and the irreligious claim they've been put off by the harshness of Deuteronomy and Leviticus and will never, ever have any use for the Bible itself because of all the laws (basically unkeepable) that seem to make little sense to modern minds and are so restrictive that one feels smothered and panicky just reading them, there seems to be little understanding on the facts regarding Old Testament law and life:
- 1) many Old Testament laws reflected societal thinking at the time. New Testament sriptural admonitions such as rendering unto Caesar that which is his include living within the societal structure.
- 2) Life in the Middle East in those days was extraordinarily violent (so much so that even watching The Bible series was difficult at times and certainly not for children, what with the eye gouging and beheading that went on). One only has to observe certain contemporary behaviors such as honor killings to realize not much has changed for some cultures, unlike Jesus, who condemned the sin of the male accusers.
- 3) Many of the laws had a practical purpose, such as not purposely offending others or not getting sick from eating bloody diseased meat. This was explained in the New Testament. A year of living biblically might explain some of the laws.
- 4) Many of the laws were for Israel only, representing her bond to God and the discipline of remaining faithful.
- 5) Finally, the birth of Christ introduced the idea of salvation through grace from all the rules, regulations and laws. Not that we may sin that grace may abound, but that God would love all us nasty violent little engines of hate so much that He would put His dearest Son into the hands of creatures who like to torture even their neighbors and certainly their enemies. Thus the death, resurrection and love of Christ in the New Testament balance the rigidity of the Old.
And this was the son of God, His death reflecting the will of God and prophecy, which makes the death of the Christ that much more, shall we say, sacrificial and significant?
Giving up Christ to be tortured and die was not like giving up flying on Air Force One to Hawaii or such.
But say you don't believe the Bible or even in God.
Then why is it so necessary, so essential to frequently repeat that The Bible is all a fake? A fraud. There was no historical Christ who died or at least, if some guy named Jesus did die, then He did not rise from the dead.
Say you don't believe any biblical tradition.
Then why and how does it make sense to spend so much time and expend so much energy disputing the faith of others?
Doesn't that seem like a waste of a life, unless of course you're going to make a name for yourself and make money off that dissent?
And wouldn't this attitude--that there's barely enough time to disparage Christianity in one short life--indicate that there is something diseased and yet eternal about the hater, in addition to the spiritual awareness that Christianity and therefore Jehovah are bigger than oneself?
When I was younger, I remember wondering why such a sinner like Rahab, the prostitute who helped Joshua flee discovery from the city of Jericho, was a direct progenitor of the line of Christ.
Many observers wondered why God used such a flawed vessel as Mel Gibson to make such an extraordinary film as The Passion of the Christ which was widely mocked, ridiculed and dismissed before it was even released.
Yet it all makes sense, this use of the most terribly flawed of humans to introduce the divine to the world.
Who would have been good enough?
We are all terribly flawed, our goodness as filthy rags in the eyes of a Creator whose throne we are not qualified to approach.
So, yes, The Bible series and The Bible itself do sort of reach a dramatic climax with the arrival of Christ, whose sacrifices are extreme by any human measure, even moreso by a divine measure.
If not for that, then those vicious vitriolic souls who take an opportunity to tweet H8 at the Rick Warren family as they grieve the lost son would be right: there is no hope and no chance of meeting again in another place.
We can do whatever we want in this plane of existence without concern for the consequences of our actions, a direct contradiction of the principles of Western Civilization and Christianity which are linearly structured rather than circularly.
All this fist shaking at God does not change the truth.
I saw a man sitting on a bench in the warm California sun outside church today, dressed all in black, apparently waiting for the food distribution after the service.
His face was pinched with early lines and signs of abuses from the choices he has made.
He drew attention to himself as I passed but when I asked how he was, he shrugged and said, "Dunno. Ain't good." He appeared to me to be self-pitying, having practiced the look and the answer many times. He refused to go into the service, shrugging his shoulders when I asked, determined to resist help.
He was a beggar.
Our worlds are very different. I have earned a Master's Degree in English, live in a nice home and have a comfortable income.
But you see, I too am a beggar. He could find real food in spirituality but chooses not to.
We can grow discouraged that the world around us seems so lost, so filled with hate.
The silhouettes of such hate have never been so clearly drawn against a bright sunny background.
It is in these circumstances that we can more clearly see God through the murk of countless foods, gadgets, distractions.
I personally have never been so happy. Perhaps this is because I have turned off so many of the conservative political commentators I regularly follow who seem to think it's all over. There is no hope. All is lost.
Instead I listen to the podcasts of Chuck Swindoll, Ravi Zacharias and The Rock church of the Inland Empire, who remind that this world is not governed by the foul politicians in whom we put so much responsibility, though there may be other worldly twins of political leaders.
Or perhaps this is because the answers we seek--those of us who are spiritually hungry-- are not found around us but in us, if we are persistent enough to look.
Certainly the accelerating pressure of pagan demands and the shrill voices of the Left, because they need to control the conversation as selfishly and as carnally as they can, cause Christians to cringe and worry. Because there seems to be no clear voice on our side (certainly not the elite Republicans), we feel adrift, lonely and separated from the world.
Yet I do not doubt that God is moving in this great land. I do not question that the prayers of millions will be answered, though in God's time and perhaps not in the way we choose.
I do know that signs and wonders will abound; some will not be from above, just as Moses experienced with Pharaoh.
But the differences between believers and unbelievers should be sharp and clear; all this means is that the war between spiritual entities is very real and very intentional and very biblical.
This should inspire, and not discourage, us to see with eyes of faith rather than physical eyes.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. I Corinthians 9: 24.