December 19, 2007

Who's Laughing?

2007 1535 page17 capASTOR TURNS MOVIE CRITIC!
That’s how some might describe me, because I candidly express my lack of appreciation for many of our modern-day movies. But even church members who are avid movie fans must admit there’s a time to stand up and cry, “Foul!”
A June issue of Time magazine features an article on the arts titled “Comedians’ Little Secret.”* The article opens with a full-page picture of a skeptic’s so-called “humorous” view of the biblical Noah, complete with long white hair and beard. The wind is blowing his robe, removing all modesty, and Noah’s face reflects surprise and dismay.
Why should a minister of the gospel care what Hollywood screens these days? Because there comes a time when Christians must speak up and take action for the welfare of their community.
2007 1535 page17Journalist Richard Corliss reports in the Time article, “Apatow’s 2005 comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin made a star of Steve Carell, who was then signed to be the lead in Evan Almighty. It’s a sequel to the Jim Carrey hit Bruce Almighty, in which an ordinary guy is given supernatural powers by God Himself. This time,” Corliss continues, “Congressman Evan (Carell) is told to build an ark in preparation for a coming flood. A premise for surefire laughs—unless you happen to live in New Orleans. But God didn’t foot the bill for the movie’s cost overruns; Universal did. The final price tag was something like $175 million, the highest ever for a comedy, and that doesn’t include the $40 million or so for marketing the picture.”
Moviemakers may be getting rich because people enjoy a good laugh. But the things Americans chuckle at can denote what kind of people we are. We reveal a lot about ourselves by what we find humorous.
As Christians, however, we should be hesitant even to speak the term “God Almighty.” Such references to our Lord and Savior should, in fact, be whispered in holy awe.
The spoof Time describes makes light of an event in human history that occurred because that generation of men, women, and children was so totally depraved, God had no choice but to end it—for their own sakes. But that tremendous loss of human life deemed necessary by God is no laughing matter, especially as we consider what the future holds.
In Matthew 24:37-39 Jesus told His disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
The coming of a great flood was not a “secret” thing. Noah preached about it for more than 100 years to warn as many people as possible to seek safety in the ark. Sadly, only he and his family chose to take the Lord at His word. And Jesus highlights the similarities between the days of Noah and those just before the Second Coming—an event that also won’t be secret. These are sobering thoughts, not something to be taken lightly.
To pay admission to sit in a theater—or even in front of our home televisions and DVD players—and laugh at a historical event such as the biblical Flood, makes us party to poking fun at our wonderful God. Our Lord may indeed have a sense of humor, but I doubt He saw any humor in the deaths of His children in the floodwaters.
I do not attend the public theater, and I don’t condemn those who do, but God gives us a simple rule of thumb to rate any kind of “entertainment.” If we strive to follow this holy counsel, it will ultimately keep us safe in our walk with God:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8, KJV).
Dick Rentfro is a retired pastor living in Thorp, Washington.