Back in the 1940s and 50s, America was more of a Christian nation than it is now. Few people dared to speak out too loudly against God, Jesus and the Bible. Bibles were still in many classrooms and the majority of public schools opened each day with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag.
Hollywood, which was considered too liberal for the day, would almost be considered conservative by today’s standards. Several studios decided to try their hand at producing epic movies based on biblical events and people. In 1949, Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah hit the big screen and was a huge success. 1956 saw Charlton Heston don the role of Moses in The Ten Commandments. The film was such a huge success that three years later in 1959, Heston starred in the movie Ben-Hur, based on the novel by Union General Lew Wallace Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.
All three of these moves were big hits with the American people and for the studios. But in the 1960s, America’s culture was starting to change. Bibles and prayer were banned from public schools and hippies, drugs, free sex, war and civil rights protests dominated the decade. In 1965, Hollywood attempted to make another Bible blockbuster and spend $22 million producing The Greatest Story Ever Told. Unlike the previous two decades, this film was a total flop at the box offices and only took in $1.2 million.
Not until 2004’s Mel Gibson hit, The Passion of the Christ, did Hollywood venture much into producing biblically based films. Gibson’s movie was a surprising hit to many, raking in $611.9 million.
Today, most of Hollywood is as liberal as they come which can be seen by the plethora of actors and actresses endorsing Barack Obama. A large percentage of them also happen to be gay. But I do know for a fact that there is still a small contingent of conservative Christians that continue to try to make a difference in Hollywood. One of those is a screenwriter and artist by the name of Ken Johnson, one of the creators of McGee and Me and Adventures in Odyssey, is also the brother to our pastor back in Arizona, Gary Johnson. Another is actor Kirk Cameron, whose works, Fireproof and Monumental are both fantastic and I highly recommend them to everyone, especially families.
But with the vast majority of Hollywood being as liberal as it is, one has to wonder about the line of new films being bantered about. Hollywood seems to be taking another plunge into producing movies based on biblical events and people. Some say they are doing it as the copyright is free and they don’t need to pay a team of scriptwriters.
Among the films rumored in the tabloids are Noah, starring Russell Crowe and a 148 foot long Ark; Gods and Kings, a film about Moses which may get Steven Spielberg involved; Pontius Pilate; Exodus; The Redemption of Cain billed as Will Smith’s directorial debut; and Mary, Mother of Jesus.
With Hollywood’s history of literary interpretation, I would be very hesitant about running right out to the theaters upon their release. Watch for reviews and comments from those that do pay to see the films before giving them your money. If Hollywood is true to form, I doubt if any of them will be close to being accurate. Check the ratings for language, nudity and violence, although the Bible is filled with all three. In other words, don’t assume the movies are worth seeing just because they are based on biblical people and events. Use your discernment before using your wallet.