Saturday, March 29, 2014
"…all were wiped out from the earth. Only Noah and those with him in the ark were left…" Gen. 2:23
Noah may be the first truly biblical epic of the twenty-first century - a cinematic effort that hasn't been seen since Charlton Heston parted the Red Sea in DeMille's 1956 opus, The Ten Commandments.
In this re-telling of the classic Sunday school story, Noah (Russell Crowe) is a gritty, fiercely determined antihero, choosing a nomadic life, isolated from the corruption, violence, and industrial waste brought on by the descendants of Cain. But most of all, he is faithful follower of the "Creator" - a term that highlights Noah's appreciation for what is good and pure about the natural world.
Noah has such a regard for the work of the Creator that he is horribly offended by the actions of others: their wasteful use of the land and its creatures; their penchant for selfish violence and oppression; and their lack of respect and humility before the Almighty. With such an outlook on life, he is more than willing to help God prepare for the end of the world - to bring about a new Eden with the innocent birds and beasts of creation.
No one can argue with Noah's determination.
He is obedient beyond understanding - but in so doing, he alienates even those closest to him. He chooses to keep the full details of his biblical task to himself, letting it fester inside his mind and heart as he watches helplessly as his children wrestle with a world without companionship.
Then the great deluge came and "…all were wiped out from the earth. Only Noah and those with him in the ark were left." (Gen. 2:23) After the screams of the drowning people subside, Noah has all the time in the world to be left alone with his thoughts, plagued by his own choices. Then and only then does he finally open up - but perhaps it is too late to do any good.
How often are we like Noah? Perhaps we have moments when we choose to internalize all our anxieties - or take upon ourselves the incredible tasks God has given us, without telling others. Maybe we don't want to be a burden. Maybe we feel that others will laugh at our insecurities about our weakness, our fears, or our worries. Maybe we just don't want to bother others with our own issues.
Whatever the reason, how often we walk in the footsteps of Noah (at least Russell Crowe's version of him)! We tell others "I'm fine" when we're really torn inside.
God may have given Noah a task to complete, but He didn't say "and keep this to yourself…"
In short order, family bonds begin to unravel, no matter how much Noah teaches his clan to humbly obey God and respect the purity of creation. Even when he explains himself in the latter half of the film, he seems too far down his own path to let anything or anyone new in.
True family is about honest, selfless, and open dialogue - and Noah's wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson, in her best performance to date) preach yet even more divine truths than Noah could offer... love, compassion, and mercy for starters. Unfortunately, such conversations never take place in enough time because Noah internalizes all the struggle for himself.
For humanity to thrive after the Flood, natural purity, isolation, and obedience won't be enough. Love, mercy, and compassion are also essential to the survival of God's greatest creation, the human race. And dialogue and engagement are part of that mix, no matter how hard it might seem.
True, in time, humanity will slip back into old patterns - but the hope for the future in ancient times and hope for the future in our time lies in the mix of the virtues espoused by all members of this "first family." We need nonviolence, natural balance and order, humility and obedience before the Almighty, as Noah preached, but we also need forgiveness, mercy, compassion, dialogue and engagement, and above all, selfless love to make it all come together.
All are necessary for us. Without all of them, we fall just shy of the mark. Let us pray that we can increase our capacity for all these divine virtues in our daily lives.
On a final note… perhaps this movie is a bit mislabeled, as we need not just Noah's witness of faith, but the witness of his entire family ("those with him in the ark"). Their story together, their dialogue with each other, is truly the stuff of biblical epics.