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“Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

Many could continue the next verses. It is a well loved hymn and is recognized by many, both within the church and without.

John Newton wrote the words to the song partly from an experience in 1748. He was a captain of a slave ship. On one of his passages, encountered a violent storm where he and the crew feared for their lives. They cried out for mercy. When the storm passed, and all were still alive, John believed God had spared his life. In his gratitude he pledged to follow God. His conversion didn’t happen right away. It took seven years for him to quit the slave trade, and more from health concern than from conscience.

The story can be framed thus. John, is a disgusting and despicable man. The ship he is captaining encounters a fierce storm, where all were feared for their lives. John called out to God, pleading for him to show mercy, and spare his life. According to John, his prayer was answered. God spares his life. This story could be used as an example of a loving God answering the prayer of a desperate and unworthy sinner.

While this is an inspiring story from John’s perspective, and fits the point of view of many a church-goer, there are other points of view, that have a tendency to create discomfort. How do we tell the story of human traffic being held in claustrophobic holds so cramped they cannot even sit up? Is it possible to believe in a God of mercy, when the horror around them point to a God who is not even paying attention to their plight? Could we blame those slaves, who, if given the opportunity, wrenched mercy from God into their own hands, diving into the sea, and letting their chains drag them down until they drowned?

Stories have multiple facets. There is truth on all sides. Some perspectives are more comfortable and confirming to tell. Some stories are not so easily told. Perception becomes our reality.

It is remarkable that the song,”Amazing grace” is so recognizable, and is performed so often, by such diverse groups. With a dubious beginning, it has risen to become one of the most recognizable hymns of the church. Perhaps, even with all facets stories present, there is a deep and universal truth, that we are all looking for grace, whether captain or slave, that we feel undeserving of that grace, but when it is bestowed, we experience as wonder.

Seeing a trailer in the theatre for the new movie “Noah”, I chuckled. In the dark I leaned over to my wife, and whispered, “Well this is one movie I won’t need to see.” My wife agreed. I am familiar with the story of Noah, so I didn’t think I needed to see a big budget CGI (computer generated images) Blockbuster-fest. They really don’t interest me these days. As the reviews rolled in I was even more convinced that I didn’t need to see this film, gratified that this was one movie I could take off my list of “must-sees.”

Then I read a review of Noah from Cathleen Falsani. While some may believe she engaged in a bit of hyperbole, two sentences caught my eye. “Crowe’s Noah is incredibly compelling. Rather than a two-dimensional cartoon of a man, his Noah is truly human — complicated and conflicted, at times brooding and broken, but ultimately redeemed. He must navigate apocalypses both real and relational, searching imperfectly for a balance between justice and mercy that Thomas Aquinas says is found “in everyone of God’s works.” http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/03/27/noah-deeply-passionately-biblical.

Okay, that hooked me. My wife doesn’t go for these types of flicks, no matter how compelling Noah might be. My daughter was coming into town from college and would be up for taking in a movie. So she and I went.

I found the movie fascinating. Both my daughter and I agreed that the movie became far more intriguing, the further it went into the story. Granted, holding it up to the biblical narrative, there are parts that did not line up.

The biggest takeaway for me was the question of revelation. If you believe God has entrusted you with a task, where is the balance point between rigidly staying the course, and allowing for new direction, further revelation, a more flexible faith. Noah believed he knew what God had asked him to do. Part of that revelation was his belief that mankind was to die out because what they had been successful at was fouling their own nest. They held in contempt what had been bestowed by the creator. By her grandfather gifting Lia,(Noah’s adopted daughter) with a fertile womb, reversing her barrenness, and by Noah’s inability to kill his grandchildren, his focus is modified. Noah, in the end, adopts a vision that is more life affirming. I believe that question is very relevant, even today.

There are other themes that I enjoyed in the movie. Overall I found it to be a thought provoking experience.

As reviews continue to flow in I am amazed by how many people are bothered by this depiction of Noah. Can you believe it? Noah is vegan, Noah is an environmental nutter, Noah’s God hates mankind. The director is an atheist.

For me a movie is a story, told by a storyteller, from the storyteller’s perspective. I have to believe that cultures that function through oral tradition deal with this all the time. Stories help me understand the world from differing perspectives. For example if Aronofsky, the writer and director of the film, is an atheist, does that mean that he doesn’t have a valid story to tell? Can we not even listen to a vision that differs from ours? If he uses the story of Noah to illustrate his perspective, how does that differ from the story of Cain and Abel, used as a scaffold to create the book and the movie “East of eden”?

Movies are remade all the time. Stories are retold all the time. Many times stories are told from a different perspective. It is more compelling if you do. Changing it up allows us to understand subtle motivations of the main characters. One example is “Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory”, and “Charlie and the chocolate factory”. They follow roughly the same story but they are very different movies. And soon to be released will be “Godzilla”. I’m not sure where to go with that one.

I liked the movie “Noah”, because it encouraged me to consider different ways of viewing the world. Just because it didn’t tell the story exactly as the Bible told it, doesn’t destroy the story, the Bible, or my belief. It gave me something worthwhile to consider and increase my perception of my human condition. For that I am appreciative.

Having stated an opinion about the movie, one should never forget that this is also a business venture. While it was a movie that made me think, there are investors on the line who stand to win or lose big. Focus groups have determined which version of the movie is thought to have the largest draw. No one wants to be that director who lost millions.

Also, how come I haven’t seen Tubal-Cain picked on. After all he was believed to be the first freemason, in a long line of masons that included George Washington, to name just one.

I did think Noah and his family looked pretty Caucasian. I believe they were brought in to ensure the film had star power, a business decision.

In the end, I enjoyed the movie. It made me think, I was entertained, and the next morning I got up and carried on with my life.