Elizabeth Stoker–Hollywood’s cheap Christianity: Noah, Ben-Hur and a persecution fixation

Christian cinema is having a bit of a moment, with the release of “Noah,” Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and Timur Bekmambetov’s soon-to-follow “Ben-Hur.” The genre is nothing new, of course. Consider Cecil B. DeMille’s early 20th century Christian epic trilogy, consisting of “The Ten Commandments,” “The King of Kings” and “The Sign of the Cross”: Epic in its proportions and daring in its subject matter, it spoke dramatically to a generation of Americans beset by the travails of unprecedented war and economic depression.

For as much as Christian cinema repeats enduring Christian images and ideas ”“ the same characters and stories are bound to reappear ”“ it also tends to report on its target audience. This was true, for example, of 1973’s “Godspell,” a film rendition of the Broadway musical that reimagines Jesus and his disciples as the few outcast hippies in a New York City full of urban apathy. And now, in the era of big budget blockbusters, our theaters are preparing to host a deluge of Christian-themed epic cinema, with “Noah” being the latest iteration.

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