Exodus: God's and Kings

The following review by Brett McCracken originally appeared in Christianity Today online.

Ridley Scott’s version of the Exodus story focuses on the tenuous relationship/rivalry between Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton). Raised as brothers and princes of Egypt in the palace of Pharaoh senior (John Turturro), the two spend most of the movie opposing each other in a (quite literally) cutthroat manner.

The relationship reminded me a bit of the dynamic between Christian filmgoers and “secular” Hollywood films, like Exodus, which attempt to adapt the Bible. The Christian filmgoers are a bit like Ramses: hardhearted, skeptical and maybe a bit jealous, looking for every reason to punish the secular outsider who has the nerve to tell a story that isn’t theirs. I’m not saying Ridley Scott is Moses, mind you; just that Christian audiences can sometimes act like Ramses: stubborn, grumpy, vengeful, close-minded and unwilling to listen to someone they’ve already decided is an enemy.

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Are You Free to NOT Drink?

Brett McCracken is one of the original team of bloggers for ConversantLife.com. His newest book, Gray Matters (Baker Books), examines some of the hot-button gray matters of Christian cultural consumption. In this excerpt, Brett explores the matter of alcohol.

I went to an evangelical Christian college that did not permit the consumption of alcohol. I grew up in a household and a conservative church culture–Midwest to boot–where drinking was out of the question and seen as bereft of goodness. I’m the child of an American evangelicalism that has had a decidedly contentious (to put it mildly) relationship with alcohol (see Christians and Alcohol: A Timeline”).

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The Divine Guide in Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life"

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” (Revelation 21:2-4)

“…also, on either side of the river, the tree of life.” (Revelation 22:2)

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9 Tips for Eating Christianly

For the last 10 months I’ve been writing a book about Christian approaches to consuming culture, and one of the things I discuss in the book is food. How can Christians be better consumers of food? It’s a topic pertinent to anyone of faith (we all eat), but maybe not one that is discussed as much as it should be (though a number of great books have been exploring it of late–such as this, this, and this.)

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33 Films That Take Faith Seriously

Christian moviegoers sometimes lament the dearth of good, positive, realistic portrayals of faith in film. If Christians are portrayed in film, it’s usually as right-wing zealots (Citizen Ruth), scary pentecostals (Jesus Camp), or psychotic killers (Night of the Hunter). Or faith is reduced to schmaltzy simplicity, as in most “Christian films” (Facing the Giants, The Grace Card). But many films throughout cinema history have actually provided rich, artful portraits of faith. The following is a list of 33 films that take faith seriously; films I believe every Christian should make a point to see.

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Moving Beyond "Christian Films"

The filmmakers and many of the defenders of Blue Like Jazz have gone out of their way to distance Jazz from the “Christian film” stigma. Understandably. Director Steve Taylor even stirred up what really amounts to a non-controversy by declaring that the “Christian Movie Establishment… is out to get us,” going so far as to say that Sherwood Baptist (the church behind Courageous and Fireproof) issued a “fatwa” against Blue Like Jazz. 

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Review: The Grey

Joe Carnahan’s The Grey is the first truly great 2012 release. Which is surprising. I didn’t expect all that much from it, thinking it might just be a typical “angry Liam Neeson” action film. But wow is it more than that.

Ostensibly a “been there done that” narrative (survivors of a plane crash in the harsh environs of remote Alaska try to stay alive), The Grey adds impressive layers of depth to what might otherwise just be a serviceable action thriller.

Neeson leads a band of seven survivors when a plane full of oil drillers crashes in the wintry, impossible wilderness of Alaska. From there, the movie could essentially be called Man vs. Wild. Or, more appropriately: Man vs. Wolves. There are wolves everywhere, and they are territorial and hungry. They like killing humans. And, one by one, they savagely pick off the band of plane crash survivors, stalking them mercilessly with those big, bad, glow-in-the-dark eyes.

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Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl

N.D. Wilson’s new “bookumentary” DVD, Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl, is sort of like the Waking Life of Christian apologetics films. And by that I mean, it’s full of awe, curiosity, philosophizing, and a lot of talking about ideas. Like the contemplative films of Richard Linklater (Waking Life, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset), Wilson’s film–inspired by his 2009 book of the same title–is heavy on heady, talky vignettes. It’s essentially a philosophy/apologetics education condensed into a series of 3-4 minute soliloquies and poetic riffs on huge ideas, packaged amidst images of beauty and a liturgical ambience.

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Best Books I Read in 2011

My 2011 recaps ends here, with my list of the best books I read in 2011. I read 42 books, of vast variety–some old, some new, some fiction, mostly nonfiction–many of which were in some way research for the book I am currently writing. About half were for no other purpose than pleasure. Here are my picks for the ones that stood out the most:

10) Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? by C. John Collins: A very thought provoking, biblically informed and fair assessment of a timely and important question. See also this Christianity Today story on the topic of the historical Adam.

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Best Films of 2011

Perhaps I’m biased (see my #1 pick and the entire month of May in my blog archive), but 2011 was a banner year for cinema. The Tree of Life is one thing, but there was a lot more going on this year to make a cinephile like me excited. There was a lot of artful doomsday (Melancholia, Take Shelter, Tree of Life, Another Earth), some great homages to early, classic and Spielbergian cinema (Hugo, The Artist, War Horse, Super 8), and some truly exceptional films about faith (Of Gods and Men, Higher Ground, The Way, The Mill & the Cross, Tree of Life). There was so much good cinema that my “best of” list actually includes three different top tens: the best 10, the second best 10, and then 10 honorable mentions. Many of them are available now on Netflix Instant, while a few of them have yet to release in most parts of the country. However you can, I hope you get a chance to see them!

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About
Brett currently works full-time for Biola University as managing editor for Biola magazine. He also writes movie reviews for Christianity Today and contributes frequently to Relevant magazine.


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