Evan Almighty: Blasphemy or Irony?
By Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer
CBN.com Talk about a flood? Before the movie was even released, viewers were e-mailing their thoughts on 'Evan Almighty,' both pro and con. We always enjoy a lively conversation here at CBN.com, so we decided to post a message board so that others could read what everyone was saying.
Here in the U.S.A, and on the Internet, people tend to be opinionated. We have an old saying in my family: "That's what makes America great! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion." Well, the opinions on this film are wide-ranging, and in most cases, passionate.
The message boards and e-mail that are coming in have sparked quite an interesting discussion here in the office. So I decided to share my own thoughts on the movie – which I saw during the opening weekend.
Here are just a few of your responses about 'Evan Almighty' with my comments added alongside:
From Tracy: "I have [to] send praise to the makers of ‘Evan Almighty.’ … We all laughed OUT LOUD and had a ball! ... Wow! It was not blasphemous or weird or cheeky. It was wonderfully made and presented well. ... We're going again next weekend!"
I also thoroughly enjoyed this movie as a modern-day parable of the love of God and the importance of obedience to His call on our lives, despite the costs.
From Pamela: "I am so disappointed that the 700 Club has chose[n] to promote the new movie ‘Evan Almighty.’ I have problems with God's name taken in vain, and the bathroom humor, and cuss words."
Others have expressed the same concern that this movie is somehow taking God's name in vain. But I think it's a stretch to say that this is the case.
The name 'Almighty' or 'God Almighty' is used several times throughout the Scriptures. When God reveals himself to Abram in Gen 17:1, He says, "I am God Almighty." The Hebrew here is El Shaddai, which is a title for God meaning "complete, perfect, or having integrity." To say that the title of this movie, or the earlier 'Bruce Almighty,' also directed by Tom Shadyac, is literally calling the characters 'Almighty' is completely missing the point of the films. These movies make it clear that man is flawed, sinful, and incapable of running our own individual lives -- let alone the world or the universe.
Shadyac and writer Steve Oedekerk are employing irony and satire in the naming of these films -- two elements of storytelling that seem to be difficult to grasp for some modern-day Christians. Too many believers today are quick to condemn movies before truly praying about and thinking through -- yes, I said "thinking" through -- the message. They tend to dismiss all of Hollywood with a fundamentalist flourish that betrays a lack of critical judgment. This, I believe, is a weakness in the Church today.
Dictionary.com is helpful on the concept of irony -- "A technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated." In other words, "God is Almighty -- we're not." That's the point.
There has been some concern raised about the use of the acronym A.R.K. used to explain the reason for the biblical flood. Dr. James Dobson, a man that I greatly admire, writes:
“God,” played charmingly by Morgan Freeman, told the new Noah character that the first flood occurred because the people hadn’t done enough “acts of random kindness" (as in A.R.K. Get it?). God destroyed the world and its inhabitants, the contemporary god said, not to punish a wicked and perverse generation as we read in Genesis 6, but as a benign object lesson to encourage people to be nicer to each other. It was bad theology and a radical distortion of Scripture.
I agree that the wickedness of man was the reason that God sent the biblical flood (Gen. 6:5-7). The Hebrew word for “wickedness” found in Gen. 6:5 is "raah," meaning "evil, misery, distress, or injury." Mankind had ceased to love God and to love their fellow men -- I would say that this is the height of "unkindness." So the comical play on words in the movie, "acts of random kindness" or "A.R.K." is actually a profound statement.
I can understand how some would be offended at this line in the movie. It does seem to change God's purpose for the flood. I'm not trying to downplay God's ultimate pre-cross judgment on mankind. The Bible is clear that this worldwide flood was judgment on the wicked:
The LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them." (Genesis 6:7, NASV)
We have already seen several movie and television depictions of the actual account of Noah's flood -- and I think it is important to have this witness in film. But I don't believe Shadyac and company are trying to downplay the fact that the wages of sin is death. Instead, they are coming at the subject from the New Testament perspective of God's love and mercy.
The underlying message of 'Evan Almighty' is the love of God behind the events in our lives. It is actually a wonderful expression of the heart of the Father.
Regarding the "bathroom humor," as I said, I saw the movie, and it really wasn't too much for me (bathroom humor is offensive to me as well). The only thing I can think that Pamela is referring to would be excrement from the many animals that are gathered on the ark. This was a real problem that the real Noah really had to deal with -- but it wasn't too much for me as I watched the movie.
Oh, and I don't remember any cuss words -- though the Christian MovieGuide.org reminds me that there were "four or five light profanities, plus some scatological jokes, especially about bird dung." Again, there is nothing so shocking as to keep even the most proper Christian from going to this movie. If one is concerned about cuss words, one should not speak to one's neighbors (though that would be unbiblical, not to mention unkind). Just as camels are prone to spit, the unredeemed -- and even some of the redeemed -- are prone to cuss.
From Kelly: "I believe the movie is blasphemous and jokingly portrays God's Word. I am very surprised to see so many Christian websites endorsing the movie. (CBN, Crosswalk, Christianity Today, etc.)"
I am personal friends with individual believers who work for the Christian media organizations in Kelly's list. These folks are sincere, godly people who take their role as leaders in the Church very seriously. I know that they would not endorse a film that was blasphemous or that jokingly portrayed the Scriptures.
In the latest edition of Christianity Today, Editor David Neff explains their reason for promoting the movie. "The advertisement that most subscribers see wrapped around this issue's cover is a bold symbol of the new cooperative spirit [between conservative Christians and Hollywood]. Yet the relationship is still cautious and tentative. … And as Christians continue to encourage Hollywood's best intentions, we may become more than a market segment and begin to engage in serious dialogue about our vision for American society and culture."
"In the meantime, we can appreciate the fact that Hollywood is giving us good clean laughs while exploring religious themes."
Amen, David. Well written.
From Kim: I pray that no one else goes to see the movie, I have no doubts that it isn't funny... Rather than taking time out to see the movie and rave about it, we should all be winning souls to Christ, I'm sure this movie isn't going to do that.
Actually, I think this would be a perfect movie to use to share the gospel with an unbeliever. It clearly shows the love of God in warning Evan about the coming flood -- which, by the way, is not a worldwide flood that would destroy every living being like the biblical flood did (by now most people have heard this, so I don’t think I'm giving anything away). And it portrays the importance of obedience to God, regardless of the consequences.
Kim uses the phrase, "I'm sure this movie isn't going to do that," which leads me to believe that she hasn't seen the movie. When so many Christian leaders who HAVE seen the movie are giving their endorsement, it may be prudent to actually watch the movie before making such strong judgments.
Oh, and this film was very funny. Those in the audience with me laughed out loud several times throughout the movie.
From Mdmbutterfly: The whole concept of the movie bugs me, not just the humanization of God. After the flood, God promised Noah that He would never flood the earth again. God takes His promises very seriously. … GOD Does Not Break HIS Promises. This movie subtly declares that He does.
Miss Butterfly’s comment about a second flood was one of my greatest concerns as well before seeing the movie. But the flood in 'Evan Almighty' is not worldwide; it is a flooded valley in Northern Virginia. So there is no broken promise here. And unlike the biblical flood, where all the wicked ignored Noah and perished, in this movie God’s love and mercy (a New Testament paradigm) intervenes and not a single person is killed. Shadyac puts an exclamation point on the message by adding a bright rainbow in the sky (I did mention that he is a Christian, right? He gets it – and he delivers it in this film.)
This movie is a modern-day parable – a story meant to teach lessons. Jesus made radical, abstract, spiritual concepts understandable to his audience in the First Century – and to us today – by teaching in parables. In two of these parables -- the parable of the prodigal son and the parable of the man who leased out his vineyard – Jesus humanizes His Heavenly Father in order to describe the character of God to His followers.
Isn’t this what writer Steve Oedekerk and director Tom Shadyac have done in 'Evan Almighty?'
If Jesus were on the Earth today, He might just get His message out to the world through a movie. He might just tell a parable through this movie. And in this parable, He might have God personified to help us understand the lesson – just like He did in the verbal stories He told to his disciples in the First Century.
If it was O.K. for Jesus to humanize God for the sake of the lesson in First Century biblical parables, why wouldn’t it be O.K. in Twenty-First Century biblical parables?
From TryTryTry: I can't believe it - - Pharisee spirit alive and well in America. It's a fantasy movie. It wasn't about God flooding anything but a corrupt politician cutting corners and causing a flood. Duhhh????? Then God in His grace rescued people. Is that too good a God for you? Remember the apostle Peter after denying Jesus 3 times? Where was the nasty treatment from Jesus? He showed him grace. There could be a warning in this movie for people about another 911 and God wanting to alert people. Oh, but God wouldn't care enough to do that. We all deserve to die! Did anyone get that Jesus came to save souls?
I think I can say yes and amen to everything TryTryTry is saying. Here’s another view worth considering:
From Daisygirl2912: I hope everyone will see this movie before judging it. I saw it and there was nothing presented that I think was contrary to Scripture. As to God saying He would never flood the earth again. He didn't say there would never be another flood...just not one that would destroy the earth. This was a wonderful, entertaining movie, made by a fellow believer. Please don't judge it before you see it. I can understand from some of these posts why unbelievers say we are judgmental and narrow minded. Find out the facts...then speak your mind!
Again, amen! And one more:
From KiwiGreen: I was pleasantly surprised -- no, I was actually shocked that in this day and age Hollywood would produce a movie that was basically a Biblical story without negative attitudes and sneers and something Christian. Without giving away the plot with details, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Morgan Freeman's portrayal of God, right down to his sense of humor! Great job in casting! I didn't see anything really disrespectful. I can see how this movie could easily open doors for conversations about the real worldwide flood, God, creation, Biblical archeology, etc. … They finally made one we can go to see…
I couldn’t agree more -- the God of love answers the prayer of a man who desires to change the world, and He does it by directing him to prepare the means of saving his community from a disaster, and the country from a corrupt politician. It sounds like a great movie. I think I’ll go and see it again!
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