Pete Enns & The Bible for Normal People

The Idolatry of the Oscars

the oscars

Jared Byas, M.A.

As a former teaching pastor and professor of philosophy and biblical studies, he speaks regularly on the Bible, truth, creativity, wisdom, and the Christian faith.Tweets at @jbyas

When I was an impressionable youth I had an adult compare the Oscar statue to the idols of old, those stone figures that the Israelites foolishly worshipped instead of the true God. And so, for as long as I remember, Hollywood and Christian were mutually exclusive.

Fortunately for me, unfortunately for my parents, my thirst for the arts and my insatiable curiosity meant that I couldn’t keep my little fingers off music and movies my parents deemed not only inappropriate but downright demonic. I probably had to break the same Jay-Z CD at least 3 times in high school alone.

When I was in 5th grade I watched my first Rated-R movie. Having a best friend whose parents didn’t think that the Devil incarnated all things coming from Hollywood turned out to be a lifesaver. The movie was Bloodsport by the way. And it was Damme good.

The irony of all this was that some of the foundational theology I still cling to are things I learned in movies I wasn’t allowed to watch. Here are a few characters that absolutely shaped my faith as a teenager:

Stephen (“the Irishman” from Braveheart)

“Is your father a ghost, or do you converse with the Almighty?” asks Hamish. Stephen replies, “In order to find his equal, an Irishman is forced to talk to God.” He then looks up, “Yes Father!” and looking at Hamish says, “The Almighty says, ‘Don’t change the subject, just answer the fuckin’ question.’”

Stephen became a character that allowed me to see that God relates to individuals differently, that we don’t have to give up our uniqueness to be Christians. I loved how quirky Stephen was and how people didn’t trust his out-of-the-box weirdness, especially how he related to God, but he simply didn’t care. And in the end he was in the inner circle of the most trusted, a loyal and faithful friend.

Tevye (“the father” in Fiddler on the Roof)

“Sometimes I think, when it gets too quiet up there, You say to Yourself, ‘What kind of mischief can I play on My friend Tevye?’”

Tevye was so transformational for me. He let me peek into Jewish culture where confronting God and questioning God was acceptable. He was so secure in his relationship with God that his doubts did not seem to be an affront to God but a sign of their incredible intimacy. I also loved his complete inability to get anything right about “the Good Book.”

Abbe Faria (“the Priest” in Count of Monte Cristo)

“Here is your final lesson—do not commit the crime for which you now serve the sentence. God said, ‘Vengeance is mine.’ “I don’t believe in God,” replies Edmond Dantes. Abbe Faria answers, “It doesn’t matter. He believes in you.”

What I learned from Abbe Faria was his absolute patience with Edmond. That is, I learned that the love of God does not get frustrated or impatient when it doesn’t “convert” but is content with speaking a truth that affirms the other. There was such a gentleness in his relationship with Edmond, even though Edmond was obviously not in a place to believe in the God that Faria believed in. It is not an overstatement to say that Abbe Faria is the character who helped me begin to question the militaristic approach to non-Christians that I had learned.

On February 17 we have on the podcast Bible scholar Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch who teaches Bible & Film at Eastern University. Make sure to give it a listen – but in the meantime, as you anxiously await the Oscars on February 24, she has graciously given us a list of movies she would recommend if you are looking for movies that are impacted by the Bible, have explicit Biblical themes, or make you think about faith in new ways. Almost none of which I would have been able to watch if I still carried the beliefs of my youth.

3:10 to Yuma (dir. James Mangold, 2007)

12 Years a Slave (dir. Steve McQueen, 2013)

Adam’s Apples (dir. Anders Thomas Jenson, 2005)

The Adjustment Bureau (dir. George Nolfi, 2011)

Apocalypse Now (dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)

The Apostle (dir. Robert Duvall, 1997)

Babel (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006)

Babette’s Feast (dir. Gabriel Axel, 1987)

Barton Fink (dir. Coen Brothers, 1991)

Being There (dir. Hal Ashby, 1979)

Ben-Hur (dir. William Wyler, 1959)

Birth of a Nation (dir. Nate Parker, 2016)

Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott, 1982)

Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Vileneuve, 2017)

Blue (dir Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1993)

Breaking the Waves (dir. Lars von Trier, 1996)

Bruce Almighty (dir. Tom Shadyac, 2003)

C.R.A.Z.Y. (dir. Jean-Marc Vallée, 2005)

Cape Fear (dir. Martin Scorsese 1991)

Children of Men (dir. Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)

Contact (dir. Robert Zemekis, 1997)

Cool Hand Luke (dir. Stuart Rosenberg, 1967)

Creation (dir. Jon Amiel, 2009)

David and Bathsheba (dir. Henry King, 1951)

Dead Man Walking (dir. Tim Robbins, 1995)

Evan Almighty (dir. Tom Shadyac, 2007)

Eve and the Firehorse (dir. Julia Kwan, 2005)

Ex Machina (dir. Alex Garland, 2014)

Exodus: Gods and Kings (dir. Ridley Scott, 2014)

The Fountain (dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2006)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (dir. David Fincher, 2011)

God on Trial (dir. Andy De Emmony, 2008)

Godspell (dir. David Greene, 1973)

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1964)

The Green Mile (dir. Frank Darabont, 1999)

The Green Pastures (Marc Connelly/William Keighley, 1936)

Hereafter (dir. Clint Eastwood, 2010)

In the Valley of Elah (dir. Paul Haggis, 2007)

Inherit the Wind (dir. Stanley Kramer, 1960)

Jesus Christ Superstar (dir. Norman Jewison, 1973)

Jesus of Montreal (dir. Denys Arcand, 1989)

Jesus of Nazareth (dir. Franco Zefferilli, 1977)

Keeping Mum (dir. Niall Johnson, 2005)

Ladykillers (dir. Coen Brothers, 2004)

Last Days in the Desert (dir. Rodrigo Garcia, 2015)

Le genèse (dir. Cheick Oumar Sissoko, 1999)

The Last Supper (dir. Thómas Gutiérrez Alea, 1976)

The Last Temptation of Christ (dir. Martin Scorsese, 1988)

Life of Brian (dir. Terry Jones, 1979)

The Mission (dir. Roland Joffé, 1986)

Moonrise Kingdom (dir. Wes Anderson, 2012)

Mother! (dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

Night of the Hunter (dir. Charles Laughton, 1955)

Noah (dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2014)

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (dir. Coen Brothers, 2000)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (dir. Milos Forman, 1975)

Ordet (dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955)

Pale Rider (dir. Clint Eastwood, 1985)

The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004)

The Passion of Joan of Arc (dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928)

Pleasantville (dir. Gary Ross, 1998)

Prince of Egypt (dir. Brenda Chapman, et al., 1998)

Quo Vadis? (dir. Mervin LeRoy, 1951)

Rembrandt (dir. Alexander Korda, 1936)

The Robe (dir. Henry Koster, 1953)

Romero (dir. John Duigan, 1989)

A Serious Man (dir. Coen Brothers, 2009)

Silence (dir. Martin Scorsese, 2016)

The Shawshank Redemption (dir. Frank Darabont, 1994)

Sling Blade (dir. Billy bob Thornton, 1996)

Son of Man (dir. Mark Dornford-May, 2006)

The Ten Commandments (dir. Cecil B. DeMille, 1923)

The Ten Commandments (dir. Cecil B. DeMille, 1956)

Tender Mercies (dir. Bruce Beresford, 1983)

This Is Sodom (dir. .Adam Sanderson, et al., 2010)

The Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Malik, 2011)

True Grit (dir. Coen Brothers, 2010)

The Truman Show (dir. Peter Weir, 1998)

Wall-E (dir. Andrew Stanton, 2008)

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