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A message for my fellow Christians: chill out, ‘Noah’ is just a movie

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 (Paramount)

I watched some great movies this past year, like “12 Years a Slave,” “Captain Phillips,” and “Lone Survivor.” 

These mainstream, award-winning movies were all based on books, which in turn were based on actual real-life events. 

These films took a couple of hours to bring to life the story and events that entertained and moved us, but there were liberties taken. There were things left out. There were characters exaggerated. 

In some cases, the directors and producers had input from those who lived the story, as well as large amounts of historical material to glean information from so we could all sit in the theater and enjoy a filmed version of a great story.

It’s embarrassing to belong to a faith that attracts a group of people who always have to be right, and when something pushes them just a bit, they want to shut it down or keep people away.

In a sense, you could say these were paraphrases, not actual word-for-word translations.

Which leads me to “Noah.”

The story of Noah is from the first book in the Bible – Genesis – and takes up only four chapters. But those four chapters were enough to inspire director Darren Aronofsky, when he was only 13-years-old, to write a poem about Noah for his English class. That poem won him a United Nations contest and put a seed in Darren. "Noah” has been a movie he has always wanted to make.

My son Nolan is a working actor and only had a few small projects and commercials under his belt when he auditioned for the role of Young Ham in Noah. 

A few weeks into the audition process, we got a call to fly to New York City so that Nolan could audition in front of Darren. The following week he booked the role and less than a month later we were in Iceland shooting the movie.

I read the script. I personally spent six weeks on set. And you know what I saw? I saw a whole crew of people who were passionate about telling this story

One of the last scenes my son shot brought me to tears. In the scene, Young Ham asks his father Noah, “What is it?” Noah responds, telling Ham, “This is our ark.” I watched that scene over and over and over and over.

Every time Noah said, “This is our ark,” I got chills. 

Why? Because I believe this story is true. It’s true even when Noah and Ham speak in mid-Atlantic accents. That isn’t how they talked back then, but who cares? What matters is this story is powerful and it will move you, especially those who hold this story as part of their faith.

There has been a lot of talk over this film, both positive and negative, but I know the film will do great. 

I don't write this to sell tickets.

I write this because it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to belong to a faith that attracts a group of people who always have to be right, and when something pushes them just a bit, they want to shut it down or keep people away.

The Bible has some amazing stories in it. Millions of dollars are being spent to bring stories from the Bible alive in the coming years in addtion to Noah including Moses, Goliath and Mary. 

All I had as a kid was a King James Bible, while my kids now have a ton of resources, including Hollywood’s help, at learning some of the best Bible stories. 

As a pastor and a Christian, I find this to be truly amazing. If there are things that don’t line up in these movies with your opinions on what happened, then you have a great chance to follow up at dinner with your family or friends or small groups and talk about it. Talk about what you agreed with and what you didn’t. Remember, you have access to the book.

And then bring it back to Jesus. As Christians, that’s supposed to be the point, isn’t it?

I recently saw "The Book of Mormon," the Broadway musical. It is outrageous, irreverent and flat-out hysterical. There is a reason it’s setting records all over the country. I didn’t know much about the Mormon faith, but I’ll tell you this: I have a better understanding and more interest in it after watching this play.

The thing Christians of all denominations could learn from the Mormons is this: the playbill for "The Book of Mormon" contained three full-page advertisements for the Mormon church! This play pokes fun at the Mormons for two solid hours, and yet the Mormon church chose to spend their money and advertise themselves.

I think it was the smartest response they could have.

Imagine what would happen if, instead of a heated debate about “Noah,” you just had people from all walks of the Christian faith get behind Hollywood for telling these great stories of faith.

What if we embraced these visions and used them for the Gospel?

Wouldn’t that look a lot like Jesus?

Craig Gross, author, pastor and founder of XXXChurch.com and iParent.TV. Craig’s son, Nolan appears in Noah as young Ham.