The Next “Christian” Boycott: Noah

A few days ago a friend of mine complained that the creators of the new Noah movie were planning on “playing down the religious aspects” of the story, and essentially removing God from the script.

How can that even be done? If the movie is about a man who builds a boat in order to survive a flood, and he and his family are the only survivors on the planet, the story of God is being told, whether or not God is a character in the movie or not. The Christian truths of incarnation, death, resurrection and redemption are present, whether or not the story is told straight from the Bible or “watered down.”

But his comments got me thinking – visions of previous boycotts raced through my mind. Theatres burning to the ground as Christians proclaimed the evils of “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Churches ablaze with anger at “The Da Vinci Code.”

This is kind of becoming our modus operandi. Because of main stream Christianity’s involvement in politics and social policing, we now seem to be known less for what we should practice than for what we are against.

This practice of boycotting “immoral” or “unChristian” films is one place where the modern obsession with classifying has completely infiltrated those who follow Christ: many of us have become obsessed over applying the Christian label to everything from music to books, from art to theme parks.

What we don’t understand is that trying to call a movie or a book “Christian” is just plain silly.

What do we mean when we use the word Christian as an adjective? Do we mean a Christian created it? Do we mean it carries a Christian message (again, rather vague, but in this case we could use the model of incarnation, death, resurrection and redemption as a starting point). Do we mean that it has a moral? Doesn’t use swear words?

If someone dedicated to following Christ’s way of life built a car and called it John 316, would it be a Christian car? If someone who does not claim to be a Christian printed a Bible, would that Bible be “secular”?

And, you’re beginning to wonder, what the heck does all this talk of labeling stuff have to do with a boycott of the movie “Noah”?

This is where the two come together: once we became comfortable classifying things as either Christian or non-Christian, we took the next logical step – Christian equals good and full of truth; non-Christian equals bad and devoid of truth. This is clearly a messed up hierarchy, for so many reasons. For one, truth can be found everywhere. Two, the quality of much that has been labeled “Christian” is so obviously substandard. Three, many people or movements labeled non-Christian are clearly accomplishing much that is good.

Yet at least a generation ago, Christians stopped looking for truth in things like “secular” movies and art. We stopped identifying the varying and beautiful ways in which God proclaims his message. We limit God’s ability to communicate. And we continue to miss out, trying harder and harder to clarify the line between secular and sacred, a line which should not even exist.

* * * * *

This is not a new conversation. These are not original ideas. I only bring them up because of how this desire to classify, I believe, is what leads to the classic boycott spearheaded by Christians. In essence, when Christian people boycott movies, they are saying, “Stop! Don’t support the message this movie is furthering by going to see it! Stay where you are! This viewpoint is wrong/immoral/anti-religion/anti-Christian! Don’t watch this movie!”

And, as has happened throughout the generations, when we are told not to do something, especially by the church, we want to do it even more than we did in the first place.

What if, instead of boycotting things, Christians leaned more heavily on education? Instead of trying to bully and intimidate people (usually fellow Christians!) out of seeing a particular movie or reading a particular book, why not present the alternative viewpoint through social media, blogs and other avenues? Let people know the perceived dangers at hand. Say your piece nicely.

Why do we insist on boycotting things? Can boycotts be an effective method of instigating change or setting limits in our democracy, or in an age when “all PR is good PR” do boycotts only provide free marketing for otherwise shoddy products (yeah, I’m looking at you “The Da Vinci Code)?

16 Replies to “The Next “Christian” Boycott: Noah”

  1. “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'” -Abraham Kuyper

  2. Great insight Shawn. I’ve often thought similar things about finding God’s beauty and lessons everywhere. A sunset is not inherently Christian, but it sure does show us God’s love of beautiful things. Even an atheist who treats others with love and respect can still be used (and is used) in God’s plan. After all, God is good all of the time. Cheers.

  3. Hey Shawn,

    Really enjoyed reading this.
    I cannot agree more with what you are saying.
    Something you said really stuck out in my mind, and I could not have put it more profoundly – “we now seem to be known less for what we should practice than for what we are against.”

    I dont know about the US, but certainly in the UK, Christianity is becoming more and more a distant memory. I generally feel this is because of this need to publicly judge/boycott in a day and age when this simply is not acceptable, or at least its not accepted.
    Especially when considering the Catholic church continually embarrasses itself. The general public are unable to differentiate between such a joke of an institution and the majority – well balanced, positive Christians.
    I would love to see a massive change of stance and positioning so that the popularity of something so positive can grow again. Stop the judging, boycotting, over bearing old school opinions and like you say, educate in the right way, to people who want to listen.

    All you can do by boycotting is force people away. How often do atheists boycot a Christian movement? Look who is gaining the upper hand.



  4. “watered down.” Hehehehe.

    Anyway, I’m totally with you. The art that tends to influence my faith the most is almost exclusively secular. I want a good STORY. If it’s written by a Christian, great. If it’s not, great. Just tell me a story. I’ll trust the Holy Spirit to show me how to apply it to my own story as a Christian.

  5. Boycotting just grinds on and is basically putting out to the world, that “We are a-GINST” something. Sadly, this usually means other people.

    My family recently caught on to the ridiculousness of this approach, realizing that it never shows love for others. Rather, it’s divisive and angry.

    We’ve begun to joke quite a bit about this at home, in hopes of stanching any tendencies in our household. We take every opportunity to lampoon this to drive home the effect and serve as a humorous reminder. For example, if someone has a questionable issue regarding the “moral safety” of an issue, we will retort, “We are a-GINST…” and fill in the blank.

    Overheard in the last 24 hrs: “We are a-ginst that kind of music”, “We are a-ginst books.” “We are a-ginst all theme parks.” And mayonnaise.” My personal favorite: “We are a-ginst off-white wedding dresses.”
    This is not to disregard that some issues involve navigating Scripture carefully, working out our salvation “with fear and trembling”, meaning take it seriously and applying it to ourselves (not the world). BUT, Jesus tells us that loving God and loving others are the most important things in the entirety of the Law. So the conclusion is that we certainly need to keep an eye on what we know is personally moral for ourselves (thus showing loving obedience to God) AND also show love for others at the same time. This would include dropping the anger and focused judgment on the way the world does things, and just being a light by example and not by ranting.
    And by the way, we are “a-GINST” boycotting…;-).

  6. I am have been thinking about this a lot. On one hand, I agree with what I think you are saying — art is art and there is not distinction between Christian art and non-Christian art. There is truth and beauty in art period. Yet, on the other hand, the motives are different (at least I hope they are). And as a result, doesn’t that mean that the art is somehow different? Maybe not. On thing is sure though, we can glean truth from non-Christian movies, music, and books. Great post, Shawn.

    1. I’m not sure that motive makes a difference. I know many anti-Christian authors whose works still carry an unintentional message of incarnation to death to resurrection to redemption. In spite of their motives, the truth comes through.

      I also know of pastors whose only motive was to fleece a congregation, or take advantage of the women in their flock. And they did so, wreaking havoc. But in the midst of their poor motives, people still found Christ, still found freedom from addictions and destructive lifestyles, still found the strength to make positive life changes.

      I don’t think that truth is limited by motive.

      Great question though, Tim. You’ve got me thinking.

  7. Great post and something that I think needs more discussion. I think that ‘labeling’ something as Christian automatically turns off so many people. If un-labeling it opens up doors for people to hear/see a story that could lead them to want to know more, I think that’s a good thing.

  8. Yea, and what does it really mean to label oneself a Christian then? That term is so hugely complicated by socio-political-cultural meanings and interpretations that it almost has no meaning anymore other than, “guess who’s going to heaven!”

  9. Jesus comissioned Peter to feed the sheep. No mention of boycotting the goats nor of picketting the wolves…

  10. “Yet at least a generation ago, Christians stopped looking for truth in things like “secular” movies and art.”

    Reading this sentence (and the rest of the paragraph it started) made me think of the quotes my pastor puts on our church’s bulletins. Every week there is a quote that some how relates to the theme of the service on the front of the bulletins. Sometimes those quotes are from Christian texts, but just as often they’re borrowed from the text of another religion, and more often they come from “secular” sources. No matter where the quotes come from I enjoy reading them and find meaning in them (sometimes even more than in the service). It helps me feel connected and included when I see a quote used from something I enjoy and find meaningful outside of church. My pastor has also been know to make reference (and relevant connections) to “secular” music, movies, books, etc during her sermons. Not to brag too much, but I’m glad I belong to a church that is willing to look for God in “secular” art of varying forms.

  11. Boycotting and such? It’s just the way the members of a majority faith act, which might not be the best way for them to conduct themselves but it’s also an easy behavior to spot, understand and show compassion towards.

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