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Russell Crowe as Noah
Paramount Pictures
Russell Crowe as Noah

Noah’s opportunity

Culture

We haven’t seen the movie, Noah, yet, but the flack surrounding it has already been the center of several conversations at our house.

The question being: How do we think about culture?

Growing up in a Southern Baptist home, we listened only to hymns and classical music. I once dared to buy a tape of Amy Grant’s My Father’s Eyes and would sneak into my closet when “I Have Decided” came on. My parents had good intentions, but the effect of their strict policies was that their five children learned that culture was inherently evil and we must sneak around in order to engage with it.

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Because I know the bad effect this had on me and my siblings, I don’t want to outright ban my children from the culture. Instead, I want to teach them how to engage with it thoughtfully. Labeling all rock music “bad” did not keep us from listening to it; it just made it forbidden fruit we couldn’t wait to sample. The same went for “non-Christian” movies, concerts, or art. I recall my mother telling us about something in the news she’d heard about a crucifix sitting in a jar of urine someone called “art”—a perfect opportunity for a discussion about the nature of art, truth, beauty, and goodness, but if we had one, I don’t remember it.

As a parent, I now understand that my folks were simply afraid of outside influences. They took their responsibilities seriously and protected us the way they thought best. But the end result was the incredible guilt we felt (many times unnecessarily) whenever we encountered the “non-Christian” world. We became confused about the difference between God’s laws and man’s.

The criticism surrounding Noah is not something we should run and hide from, but an opportunity to teach our children, with discretion, how to think about our culture.

I once loaned a friend a book of theology and she returned it saying that the writer had one point wrong, therefore everything in his book was a lie. Such all-or-nothing thinking keeps our children from thinking critically. Even though Noah might be wildly untrue to the biblical narrative, not everything in it is rotten. Some might argue that the good parts of the movie seduce us into liking something anti-God, which certainly can happen. We can always see a demon where we want to.

But why not, rather, admit that, yes, this part of the movie was thrilling or that part was well-played, instead of pooh-poohing it all as trash? Our children need sifting skills, and a person who has to think in sweeping prejudices usually does not have a loud voice in the Great Conversation. Love it or hate it, movies and rock ’n’ roll are now part of that.

Noah may have major flaws, but it also offers parents a concrete example to teach our kids how to think. So, whether the movie is good or needs a rotten tomato, I plan to watch it for just that reason.

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.

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