Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Holy moly! ‘The Bible’ series turns heads

The 10-part series aired on the History Channel and has brought many of the book’s well-known stories to life

Walking through the hallways of DeMoss on my way to class, I recently overheard two students discussing an episode of History Channel’s “The Bible.” The conversation centered around a question one of them asked: “Doesn’t it bother you that the Bible has become nothing more than entertainment?”

I will be the first to admit that I was exceedingly skeptical the first time I heard that the History Channel would be airing a miniseries chronicling the Bible.

Holiness in hollywood? — The show has brought new interest in the Bible with 100 million viewers and has become the No. 1 miniseries of all time. Google images

In fact, I can clearly remember discussing what I thought the show would look like with my Sunday night small group. My comments were cynical and pessimistic, with interspersed eye rolls and head shakes. Hollywood could not possibly hope to accurately portray something as spiritual and religious as the Bible.

Convinced as I was that the series would be a terrible misrepresentation of the Christian faith, I nevertheless pledged to watch the show. Though I secretly harbored the intention of later discussing how theologically off-base and doctrinally unsound the producers were, I professed an open mind and diligently watched all 10 hours.

Was the show perfect? No, it was not. But was I wrong in my initial opinion? Absolutely.

To my shock and surprise, “The Bible” boasted unprecedented success. According to the History Channel, the program reached more than 100 million viewers in its five weeks on air and has become the No. 1 television miniseries of all time, breaking record DVD and Blu-Ray sales with 525,000 units sold in the first week alone.

But the success does not end there.

According to YouVersion, their Bible application reached 88 million total downloads in the month of March. This propelled the free application into the top 15 for all free apps in the iTunes store. The company additionally reported seeing 3.4 billion minutes of user engagement within the application.

The novel based on the miniseries became an instant national bestseller, with both Publishers Weekly and the New York Times debuting the book written by creators Mark Burnett and Roma Downey on their top must-read lists.

Simon Swart, executive vice president and general manager of Twentieth Century Fox, also released a statement noting the broad audience and rarity of the project.

“The series continues to exceed rating expectations around the world,” Swart said. “‘The Bible’ series is clearly a phenomenon that will be enjoyed by families for many years.”

The series has already been televised in Spain, Portugal and Columbia and is anticipated to premiere in Greece, Holland, Brazil, Croatia, France and England this coming fall.

So, back to the original question posed by my fellow student. “The Bible” was never just entertainment. Though the television series may very well fade away and eventually become nothing more than a memory, for a fleeting moment, millions of people around the world were exposed to truth — and if we believe the promise of Isaiah 55:11, the word of God never comes back void.

Still, the show may have added in a few flashy, overly-dramatic moments while throwing in handfuls of Hollywood magic here and there. Though my initial reaction was to jump up and down and immediately condemn these minor mistakes, I quickly realized that doing so would only display a holier-than-thou, legalistic attitude. After all, no imperfect human being could ever script or produce a perfect representation of the Word — and certainly not within a 10-hour time restraint.

Yet, even though no human hand could ever capture the infinite complexities of all that God reveals through Scripture, for five weeks, “The Bible” managed to both challenge believers in their faith and welcome the unsaved to further seek a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the man who forever changed history.

The series sparked conversation, much like the one I overheard, and forced Christians back to their Bibles to examine the facts. But most importantly, it poured light into homes where the Bible was never read. If ever there was an example of technology being used for the glory and kingdom of Christ, I would say this was it.

Perhaps one of my favorite quotes concerning the Bible comes from 19th century pastor Charles Spurgeon, who proclaimed, “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it, and it will defend itself.”

And so it did. The statistics speak volumes about our generation — people are curious, and they are longing for more. In an industry that is saturated with greed, deception and manipulation, the story of Christ’s sacrificial love and faithfulness captured the hearts and the minds of millions.

We may never know the true intentions or motives of those involved with producing and distributing the series.

Perhaps it was, as critics insist, for entertainment and profit’s sake alone. However, in the words of Paul in Philippians 1:18, “What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

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