So let me begin my comments about Son of God, the Movie by saying that there are tons of evangelicals who are excited about this movie because of the evangelistic opportunities it represents. Their motives are pure and happy, and I wish everybody well. I hope that lots of people who are given pre-bought theater tickets pray the prayer.
Let me also begin these comments by saying that I will do my level best to keep the Second Commandment out of this. This not because the Second Commandment is irrelevant — indeed, that commandment lurks in the background of all Jesus movies, as the great unspoken explanation for why these movies are so consistently lame. It might help you follow these comments if you know that my general outlook on these things is akin to the views of the Scots Covenanters, and my idea of an ecclesiastical relic is a Claymoor hanging in the narthex. So you will have to grant me some leeway on the subject.
That said, and judging by the trailer — which is what they want us to judge by, right? — we have yet another Jesus who perpetuates our perennial and mule-headed idea that holiness consists of one part anemia, one part effeminacy, two parts stoner-mystique, and one part slight constipation, this time with a British accent. But I don’t want a Russell Brand Jesus.
The Lord’s first command was “follow me,” and so why do we always get these guys that you wouldn’t want to follow for ninety seconds on an escalator?
When King of Kings first came out several generations ago, one insightful lady of the English aristocracy wrote that if Jesus really had been like that, she would have been among those who were crying out, “Give us Barabbas!” Flipping this observation around, as a friend of mine recently did, we should be able to tell that a Jesus movie had been really successful in portraying the Lord if half the crowds in the theaters wanted to crucify Him — and not for being such a milksop either, but rather because He was a dangerous firebrand. A really good Jesus movie would have a bipartisan bill denouncing it — called Save the American Dream Act — passing both houses of Congress handily in a rush to get it to the president’s desk.
But alas. And if you ask me why I am not holding my breath, I would simply say that we really do need to have a thoughtful discussion of the Second Commandment, one that gets past — har, har — surface appearances.