Although storytelling has been around since the days of the real Fred Flintstone, without question, this era has to be the busiest time ever for spinners of tales. The public is bombarded by media fables – with today’s dream weavers using one allegorical figure after another to solve the riddles and frustrations of life. But have these countless humanist illustrations detracted from the legitimate Gospel? Do today’s movie wizards and superheroes trivialize mankind’s true Savior?
In his Entertainment Weekly review of the 1997 film Hercules, critic Owen Gleiberman wrote, “Hercules, the super strong hero born of Zeus, is a Greek precursor to our own messianic myths - he's Jesus with Nautilus equipment.” That statement seems to read matter-of-factly that, according to Mr. Gleiberman, Jesus is a myth. This is a common belief in Hollywood, perhaps brought on by the industry’s atmosphere of illusion. So have we invented Jesus to calm our fears much like the Greek gods were conjured up to explain the stars, the seasons, and nature’s fury?
“Organized religions in general, in my opinion, are dying forms. They were all very important when we didn’t know why the sun moved, why weather changed, or why volcanoes happened. Modern religion is the end trail of mythology” (Bruce Willis quoted in Servant magazine, Spring 2002, taken from an interview in George magazine).
There are thousands of fables, legends, and folktales embraced by movie magicians in order to interpret the mysteries of the universe. And Bruce Willis is not alone with the erroneous theory that religion is merely a fanciful explanation. Many movie scenarios add to this humanistic assumption. In Star Trek VI for example, a scene has Mr. Spock explaining the meaning of a painting of Adam and Eve fleeing the Garden of Eden. Spock says, “It is a depiction from ancient earth mythology. The expulsion from Paradise.” Mythology, eh. That from an actor with points glued to his ears.
Throughout this age of “enlightenment,” many filmmakers use Hercules, or E.T., or Tolkien Middle-earth creatures to express a mortal comprehension of God’s creation. But unlike ancient Greek tales of gods and goddesses or the messianic incarnation, Neo from The Matrix, Jesus is the real deal. There is evidence.
Local Christian bookstores display an entire section of apologetics, offering book after book that substantiate the fact that Christ actually lived, and that he has fulfilled the prophecies. In his book He Walked Among Us, foremost apologist Josh McDowell chronicles documented findings that give evidence for the historical Jesus. “After personally trying, as a skeptic myself, to shatter the historicity and validity of the Scriptures, I had to conclude that they actually are historically trustworthy” (Josh McDowell, He Walked Among Us, Here’s Life Publishers, pp. 117-118.)
Journalist Lee Strobel, once a spiritual scoffer, writes in the well-researched The Case For Christ (Zondervan, page 262), “Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah, or the Anointed One, who would redeem God’s people. In effect, dozens of these Old Testament prophecies created a fingerprint that only the true Messiah could fit. This gave Israel a way to rule out impostors and validate the credentials of the authentic Messiah…Jesus, and only Jesus, matched this prophetic fingerprint.”
There is also proof of another kind that this man from Galilee did more than walk the earth. Through the centuries, persecution of Christians has continued. Most of Christ’s disciples died horrible deaths, as have thousands upon thousands of followers who refused to deny His name. Corrie Ten Boom, imprisoned during WWII for aiding Jews, wrote, “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.” The steadfastness of these men and women would suggest that something far more substantial than myth upholds the followers of Christ.
During an episode from Paulist Productions’ The Jesus Experience, an eight-part series that takes a scholarly examination of the history of Christianity, the documentarians examine Russia’s religious tribulations. Despite Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev’s outlawing of Christianity, the Christian faith proved itself durable and substantial. The Russian revolutionists who doggedly attempted to replace religion with a communist manifesto are now dead, mourned by few, but the Body of Christ has prevailed. Church buildings have been restored and the former USSR is now thriving with Believers.
In spite of a growing awareness of who Jesus is in other parts of the world, however, Hollywoodland often does what it can to draw society away from the deity of Christ. The ABC TV-drama Judas, which aired a few seasons back, presented viewers with a new take on the life of Christ. This spin had Judas helping Jesus define His purpose. Its depiction of the greatest story ever told also excluded the crucifixion. How does one avoid the crucifixion and therefore the resurrection when doing a story about the Christ?
Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ explored similar territory, wherein Jesus questioned his objective. By studying the scriptures, it is impossible to come to the conclusion that Christ was unaware of who He was or His mission. So to portray Him otherwise is misguiding.
Though even the strongest of Believers may question his beliefs at some time, an assuredness that Jesus is our Messiah remains in his soul. The Holy Spirit has placed this confidence deep within. But no matter how many books document the personage of Jesus, or how many testimonies are heard purporting miracles done in His name, ultimately, there is the need for faith. This was by design. For the only way mankind can please God, the only gift it can offer Him, and the only way people can develop a spiritual character, is through faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).
If the Bible truly is the Word of God, and many among great and small have believed so, then a myriad of media messages are misleading. And the exploits of its liberating heroes are pale imitations of what the Lord Jesus has done. Christ said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV). With everything He said and did, that assertion rang loudly, and with authority.
Today’s churchgoers must be vigilant of the post-Christian influence now dominant in Tinseltown. Don’t be fooled by Hollywood’s assertions. “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them” (1 John 4:5 NIV). Jesus, the only route many artists do not seek in order to find peace and assurance, is the one true way to finding salvation. “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God” (I John 4:15 NIV).
People can learn truisms through the parables of the Greek gods or the exploits of Frodo Baggins, but it is Jesus who teaches the truth.