I doubt most people, least of all believers, would think of the character of Noah from the book of Genesis as a sympathetic figure in need of defense. I know I never did. But when, as a writer, you choose to write about someone like him, as I did in my forthcoming novel, you tend to become hypersensitive to criticism about that character. It’s kind of like when you buy a new car. You never really notice how many of your particular model are on the road until after you’ve purchased one. Then they seem to be everywhere.
The Usual Suspects
And so it was with my story. No sooner had I started writing than I began to take notice of every criticism, misrepresentation, and slight lodged against my protagonist. The first of these came from a most likely source—Hollywood—through the making of a movie that should have served to glorify the character. Instead, it was executed in such a way that it only served to defame him.
Let’s face it, when it comes to telling Biblical stories, Hollywood isn’t renowned for its strict adherence to the Scriptural record. They’re about making money, and in today’s movie-making culture that usually means lots of sex, violence, and high-octane special effects. Such was the case with the release of 2014’s ‘Noah.’ Darren Aronofsky, the movie’s director and an avowed atheist, famously bragged about it being the “least Biblical Biblical movie” ever made. His Noah character, played by Russell Crowe, is a crazed environmentalist who in the end threatens to murder his own grandchildren, an anti-hero who exhibits none of the godliness or obedient traits of the Genesis patriarch. Consequently, the movie was panned by many Christians.
Then there was the collateral damage that accompanied the movie’s premiere. Two weeks prior to its release, a certain liberal HBO personality went on an anti-Christian rant on his nighttime TV show where he ridiculed the 60 percent of adult Americans who believe in the literal interpretation of the ark story, calling them “stupid.”
Of course, characterizations from non-believers like these are to be expected. But what I found more disturbing was the attitude I’d witnessed from my fellow Christians, some of which date back decades. Like so many kids in my neighborhood, I grew up in a Baptist church learning all about Noah’s Ark and Jonah in Sunday school. Later, in my twenties, when I made the choice to convert to Catholicism, I fully expected these Biblical teachings to transfer with me. Imagine, then, my surprise to hear my first priest tell me that Noah and Jonah aren’t to be taken literally, that their stories are only allegorical. Such is the belief of many Catholics today. One popular host appearing on Fox News, an admitted practicing Catholic, preaches this doctrine on his evening cable news television program, often ridiculing the views of born again believers. It was just this sort of disparaging of Biblical truths that sent me screaming from the Catholic Church and back to the safety and security of Evangelical Protestantism.
It’s regrettable many of our Catholic brothers and sisters seem to forget the testimony of a certain Jewish carpenter who vouched for the literal interpretation of the ark account in the Gospel of Matthew. “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matt 24: 37-39). Similarly, this admonition by Jesus is paraphrased in the Gospel of Luke (17: 26-27).
Such snubs are not limited to a questioning of the literalness of Scripture, but also manifest themselves as personal attacks against Noah’s character.
Two years ago, I was pitching my book to an editor from a Christian publishing house at a writer’s conference. Near the end of my presentation, I could see she was searching for a way to politely tell me she wasn’t interested when all of a sudden she smugly dropped this declarative bomb about my main character. “He was kind of a bad guy.” I looked at her stone-faced, as I had given her no reason during my proposal for her to have drawn such a conclusion. This was obviously a person who didn’t know her Bible, or worse, had bought into the Hollywood portrayal cited above.
The Scriptures are clear that “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations,” and that he “walked with God” (Gen 6:9). The apostle Peter referred to him as a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). Furthermore, Noah was a man who remained obedient to this one commandment—the construction of the ark—for over one hundred years. In fact, the only thing found in the Biblical record that could remotely be considered critical of his behavior is that after the flood he planted a vineyard and got drunk. Hardly enough, in my view, to be seen as a “bad guy.”
So what do you think? Do our heroes of the Bible get a fair shake from the media today? And when they do make it into a novel or onto the big screen, are they portrayed in a manner that reflects accurately their contributions to our Christian history? As for Noah, believers and non-believers would do well to remember one thing: If it weren’t for his 100-plus years of obedience, none of us might be here right now.
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