Despite its box office success, the Son of God Movie isn't very good. Despite its widespread endorsement by Christian leaders, it is not faithful to the Scriptures. Watching this film reminded me of my dealings with seriously disturbed children.
Attachment disordered children have had no loving adult in their lives to whom they can entrust themselves. Their parents are absent or indifferent. Other adults they have encountered have been positively harmful to them. When loving and competent adults do finally enter their lives, these children are afraid to trust.
It would be an understatement to say that these kids can be difficult to deal with. Picture this situation.
You say, "take my hand," as you hold out your hand to him. Rather than take the hand you offer, the child runs around to the other side and reaches for your other hand.
Why does he do it? To prove to himself that he can.
This small act of defiance gives the child the feeling of being in control of the situation.
By the end of the day, you are exhausted. Your spouse asks you, "What did he do that is so terrible?" You feel foolish because can't quite put your finger on the answer to that question.
And then it hits you: the child did not do a single thing that you told him. You have been dealing with one pointless act of rebellion after another, all day long. It doesn't matter whether you are loving or grumpy: you aren't the point. The child's sense of being in control and NOT DEPENDENT on you, is the point.
Needless to say, radical autonomy is profoundly pathological for a six year old. This experience came to mind as I watched the Son of God movie. The film was one senseless deviation from Scripture after another.
Toward the beginning of the film, the scene depicting the call of St. Peter was completely wrong. In the movie, Jesus and "Peter" go out in a boat alone together, Jesus addresses him as "Peter," Jesus concocts a miraculous draught of fish, and "Peter" ponders whether or not to follow Jesus.
In the Bible, Jesus encounters Andrew and his brother who is called Simon at that time. They were on the shore, not out in a boat. The brothers drop everything and immediately follow Jesus. The miraculous draught of fish comes later. So does Jesus' giving him the name "Peter."
The scene depicting the Ascension was also wrong. The Apostles certainly did not just get up after the Ascension, and start walking off to teach all nations.
The Apostles actually went to the Upper Room, elected Matthias to replace Judas, and waited for the Holy Spirit. Only after the descent of the Holy Spirit, were the Apostles emboldened to go out and preach. These are some of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible, which encompass the entire book of the Acts of the Apostles.
Why do these filmmakers think they need "artistic license" when they had a story as good as that? At the crucifixion, the film quite deliberately shows the soldier piercing the side of Christ, and then no blood and water pour out.
Why did they make such an inane change to the story? To prove to themselves that they could. By the end of my second viewing of this film, I am left with the nagging feeling that I am being duped. The filmmakers have taken relentless and pointless liberties with the text. They did not do a single scene completely correctly.
Much like the attachment disordered child refusing to do a single thing his parents tell him. Perhaps this sounds harsh. Maybe it is. Some critics of this film discern a pattern or agenda to these deviations. (See here, here and here.) I cannot find anything so precise.
These filmmakers, for whatever reason, did not trust the Bible enough to portray it faithfully. They did not trust God, their father, enough to tell the story of His son accurately.
Much like the little attachment-disordered child, who cannot entrust himself to anyone, and who goes through life alone, flexing his power, and yet powerless to receive the love that is offered to him. Radical autonomy of the creature toward the creator is profoundly pathological.
The film has been a surprise box office hit, in part because religious leaders endorsed it. Lots of people have seen it in the theaters, and it has made a bunch of money for its makers. We are now entering the next phase of marketing, promoting DVD sales.
To religious educators of all denominations, I would say: Do not buy this film for your congregation. If you do show it, I would strongly suggest you show it to your religious education team, with your Bibles open, and your finger on the "pause" button. Go through it, and note the deviations from Scripture. This will equip them to answer any questions your congregations or students may have.
But please, do not any longer, give this film your unqualified support. It does not deserve that. It will confuse people, in any age where religious confusion is already rampant.
"Who do you say that I am?" is the question Jesus asked his disciples. Simon spoke for the Apostles when he replied, "you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." It was only after this, that Jesus gave him the name "Peter." (MT: 16:16)
This is still the question for us all. Who do we say that Jesus is? Sadly, the Son of God movie will not help us answer that question.