EMBRACING CHRISTIAN MYTHOLOGY in EXODUS: GODS & KINGS
Humphrey Carpenter tells a story in his book The Inklings of a conversation between J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Hugo Dyson. The conversation is significant because it essentially is what led Lewis to faith in Christianity. What most people don’t know is that it was not a conversation about apologetics or even theology. Instead it was a late-night discussion on mythology that Lewis would later claim to have changed his journey.
Christians get very nervous about the term mythology, afraid that if the concept is embraced it all, it’s a consolation that the things they believe in are not true. Being an expert in literature, Lewis struggled with Biblical texts because in his experience, myths gave us beauty and meaning, but might be historically inaccurate. However, history, while being true, gave us no meaning or beauty. People of faith have had the same relationship with films based on epic Biblical stories. Faith audiences have panned films that have been creative, beautiful, and interesting often because they play fast and loose with adhering to every jot and tittle in the Biblical narrative. In the same vein, films that have strived to remain flawless in their presentation of Scriptural narratives are usually boring and hold little commercial or entertainment value.
Believers and secular audiences alike have loved films that are allegorical interpretations of Biblical truths. The Lord of the Rings films and The Chronicles of Narnia series both present truths from Scripture without seeming preachy to the non-believer or problematic to the faithful. Instead of demanding films like Noah or Exodus be documentaries of Biblical scripture, could we instead view them as mythology based on the truths of Biblical scripture? Instead of insisting these films be history lessons from the Bible, could we instead accept them as mythic tales that will likely cause some to pursue the source material?
The deviations from the Biblical narrative in Exodus do not weaken the truth of Moses’s story. The film is “Christian Mythology” at it’s BEST. The images are beautiful and take us inside the story in a way we’ve never experienced before. In the film, we see a man who was struggling (and occasionally succeeding) to walk out a relationship with the mysterious, wonderful, loving, and sometimes confusing Maker of the universe. And who among us can’t relate to that?
Last year, I saw the Broadway show, The Book of Mormon. I realize some readers will hold me in contempt just for going to such an event. But I believe in actually seeing something before judging it. While waiting for the play to start, I was thumbing through the program and an ad caught my eye. It was an ad paid for by the Mormon Church. It said something to the effect of “Enjoy the play! If you want to know the real story, come visit us on our website at…” I could not have been more impressed. Instead of boycotting or trash talking a production that is FAR more offensive to their faith than Noah or Exodus could EVER be to anyone else’s, they engaged the people who were interested in the play with a wink and a smile. How refreshing it is to people when those we assume will be offended, purposely decide not to be, and instead are gracious. This leads me to utter a phrase I thought I would never say, “Let’s take a page from The Book of Mormon, shall we?”