Films

Denzel Goes Old Testament

Denzel WashingtonDenzel Goes Old Testament” is the title of the film review of The Equalizer by Richard Corliss in the most recent Time (Oct. 6, 2014).  He plays Mac who gets in trouble with the Russian mob for defending a Russian prostitute after she is abused by her pimp.

I wonder what Corliss means by going Old Testament?  

“Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Exo. 34:6)?  I don’t think so.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psa. 23:1)?  Nope.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares YHWH, plans for your welfare and not for evil” (Jer. 29:11)?  Nah.

Sounds more like Ghostbusters, Old Testament-“What he means, Mr Mayor, is Old Testament, real wrath of God type stuff.”  This is right before one of the best lines in cinematic history, “Dogs and cats living together.  Mass hysteria.”

I haven’t seen the film, but Denzel Washington’s character seems like a good guy, a bit vigilante.  But the connotations of OT still don’t seem entirely positive.

What do you think it means to go Old Testament in the context of the review title?  

Three Anecdotes from the Life of Nelson Mandela

RUGBY-WC-FINAL 95-ZAF-NZEveryone is sharing memories about Nelson Mandela, so I thought I should do the same.  No, I never met him.  These are stories from famous people you may have heard of who knew him personally.  As I ate my breakfast this morning reading Time (Dec. 23, 2013, the Pope Francis Man of the Year, issue) these three stories affected me powerfully.

1) From Bono (if you haven’t heard of him, he sings).  Mandela “could charm the birds off the trees–and cash right out of wallets.” He told me once how Margret Thatcher had personally donated £20,000 to his foundation. ‘How did you do that?’ I gasped. The Iron Lady, who was famously frugal, kept a tight grip on her purse. ‘I asked,’ he said with a laugh. ‘You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask.” Then he lowered conspiratorially and said her donations had nauseated some of his cohort. ‘Didn’t she try to squash our movement?’ they complained. His response, ‘Didn’t De Klerk crush our people like flies? And I’m having tea with him next week…He’ll be getting the bill.'”

2) From Morgan Freeman (if you haven’t heard of him, he acts). Mandela initially suggested that Freeman play him in a film. “Nearly 20 years after our first meeting, my company Revelations had the unique pleasure of developing and producing the film Invictus (see #3), with me in the role of Mandela. Consistent with his true character, his only comment after we first screened the movie for him was a humble, ‘Now perhaps people will remember me…'”

3) From Francois Pienaar (if you haven’t heard of him he plays rugby, watch Invictus, pictured with Mandela). “In Pollsmoor Prison, a warden told me a story. On Monday night, it was his job to show movies to the four prisoners, including Mandela. Once, he complained about not having a fresh cup of coffee. So the next Monday night, Madiba (Mandela’s Xhosa clan name) walks over to him with a fresh cup and two biscuits, gives them to him, walks back and watches the movie. The warden was, I would say, very conservative. Yet when he told his story, he was charged. He was shaking.”

This last one moved me to tears.

What have been your favorite Mandela stories you’ve heard in the past few weeks?

Review of History’s Bible Secrets Revealed

John WycliffeOn Wed Nov 13 (2013), The History Channel began a six part series of 1-hour shows entitled Bible Secrets Revealed, with the first episode focused on Translation (click here to watch).

I finally watched my taped version yesterday.

I’ll start with the positive.

The historical section (2nd hour was the best part of the show) was great.  They told the story of John Wycliffe (pictured on left) and William Tyndale, two radical English men who thought the Bible should be available, not just in Latin, but in English, so everyone could read it (assuming they could read English, that is).  Spoiler alert: both were killed for doing something so radical. I will never take for granted the fact that I have easy access to the English Bible. Thanks, John and William.

It was good that the episode pointed up some of the textual problems that often get ignored. The end of Mark’s gospel (Mk. 16:9-20) and the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) aren’t in some of the oldest manuscripts (as your Bible should tell you in a footnote, if you’re Bible doesn’t, get a new one).

There are differing biblical perspectives on who killed Goliath (see 1 Sam. 17:51; 2 Sam. 21:19; 1 Chron. 20:5).  Although, in their attempt to heighten the conflict, one scholar made a point about a supposed textual conflict with Goliath’s sword that was totally unconvincing.

So, it was good to observe those problems, but I had serious problems with how they interpreted the problems.

First, they made it seem like their conclusions are clear-cut, when they are not.  Often these textual issues are highly complicated.  I can understand The History Channel not wanting to go into all the complexity in a 60 minute episode for popular audiences, but what they did bordered on deception.

Second, the narrator frequently said “Scholars say…” (Wikipedia calls this using “weasel words“), and then they would quote one scholar who supposedly represented the academic perspective on that subject. But they didn’t include diverse opinions, just the ones who had the most un-traditional views on the Bible–the scholars who were trying to expose on those hidden secrets.

Third, I don’t know everyone who was interviewed, but when it came to the Bible, there weren’t any who were clearly arguing for an Evangelical perspective.  I can think of dozens of solid, highly respected Old Testament scholars who could have done a great job of being articulate, but perhaps not as shockingly provocative.

Overall, I’m glad I watched and will continue watching, but as I tell my students, be critical.

If you watched it, what did you think? 

Civil Rights Week (The Butler, 42, Jim Crow)

This week is Civil Rights Week for the Lamb family.  Yes, I know Black History month is February, but we think it’s good to think about these issues at other times of the year too.  I’m glad our family with 2 teen boys choose a film focusing on race over The Wolverine and Elysium.


1) We saw Lee Daniel’s The Butler on Sunday night as a family.  A powerful portrayal of US history, focusing particularly the Civil Rights movement from perspective of a black butler serving in the White House.  The story of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), which is loosely based on the true story of Eugene Allen who served 8 presidents.  (Allen’s story is told in The Butler: A Witness to History by Wil Haygood.)  The film is full of ironies.  LBJ (Liev Schreiber) got the Civil Rights Act passed (1965) and yet frequently used the N-word.  Reagan (Alan Rickman) helped Gaines and the black White House staff get more equitable wages, yet opposed sanctions against racist Apartheid South Africa.  The Lamb family loved this flick: 4 thumbs up.  (Technically, we have 8 thumbs, but I think each person only gets to vote with 1 thumb, so 4 is a perfect score.)

2) On Tuesday and Wednesday night we watched 42, the biopic telling the story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), the first black major league baseball player.  The boys were familiar with the story from a young age, reading a children’s book, Teammates, about the relationship between Robinson and all-star short-stop Pee Wee Reece.  (I was moved to tears whenever I read it.)  The Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford, with the most bizarre facial expressions) selects Robinson to break the color barrier.  After brutal verbal racial abuse by the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies (embarrassing for us Phillies’ fans), Robinson returns to the tunnel, smashing his bat.  Rickey comes to talk, Robinson yells, “You don’t know what it’s like!”  Rickey, “No, I don’t.  You do.”  Good response.  It was great to see the Dodgers eventually stand up against the racial hatred.  I wonder what they would have done if Robinson was having a mediocre season?  Lamb family verdict: 4 thumbs up.


3) On the recommendation of my younger son Noah, who read it for AP US history, I started reading The Strange Career of Jim Crow by C. Vann Woodward.  I’ll share some thoughts this classic history of racial segregation in the next post.