Reflecting on The Book of Eli

February 20, 2010

Although I’ve just begun my reading of the Bible, I have had another experience in the religious realm. Last month, in the company of several friends, I went to see The Book of Eli. I was initially intrigued by the trailers for the movie because I couldn’t really tell what the movie was about; that, and Denzel Washington was kicking some serious ass with that machete-sword. My overall impressions of the movie were good and I was surprised at the correlations between it and the Biblical undertaking I have begun.

I don’t think there are any real spoilers in this review, but apologies to those who think otherwise.

Denzel plays Eli, a wanderer in a post apocalyptic America with a single goal; to get to the west coast. He carries with him a book that Gary Oldman, the film’s villain, believes to hold the key to power over the destitute and rebellious citizens of his shanty town. We soon find out that Eli’s book is indeed the Bible (King James Version).

Oldman’s character, Carnegie, is old enough to remember the time before the apocalyptic events when vast amounts of people were held together under the roof of one faith or another. However, the young people in the apocalyptic, American wasteland cannot read and have no idea what religion is. Carnegie recognizes this as an opportunity to unite people under his leadership if only he had the right words to gain their faith, trust and hope. The words he searches for are the words of the Bible in Eli’s hands.

What I found interesting and entertaining about The Book of Eli is that the villain of the movie aims to use the Bible for power and control. Carnegie would spread the word of the Lord via the Bible as a pseudo-prophet to gain power over the anarchistic world. Although we are led to believe the people would be united, Carnegie would be a ruler throne-bound by greed, and in my mind this would be bad. In a time before the film’s apocalypse (our modern day) to spread the gospel would be seen as a righteous and laudable act, but Eli creates a scenario where such actions have evil undertones. I am impressed at the film’s ability to show the extremely slight change in intentions that can turn the Bible from something inspiring to something controlling.

The movie seems to suggest that the Bible itself is neither good nor evil, and that human interpretation determines how it is accepted. It is for this reason that I would recommend the movie to those hesitant due to the religious sub-plot. There is no blatant pro-Bible or anti-religious theme in the movie as it is clear the true goal of the film was to create an action movie with a new story instead of the tried and true Hollywood methods. That being said, the movie does provide great actions sequences and an eerily cool soundtrack.

I know this partial review is a little late, but if any theatres around you are still playing The Book of Eli I recommend you go see it.

Whether or not interpretation is really all that keeps the Bible from being good or evil, I will have to keep reading to find out.

In the beginning

February 17, 2010

In the beginning of Genesis God creates everything that we know of Earth today. Here’s the short version:

Day 0: Heaven and Earth are created

Day 1: Light is created, day and night are distinguished

Day 2: Boundaries between Heaven and Earth are established

Day 3: The waters of Earth are gathered together into seas and land masses are formed, God puts plants on the land and realizes that it’s all “good”

Day 4: Sun, Moon and stars are created and all is “good”

Day 5: Ocean and bird life are created and all is still “good”

Day 6: Land creatures are created: cattle, beasts and “creeping things”, man makes an entrance. All is “good”

Day 7: God relaxes

I have to hand it to Him. I can’t make a post in one week and He goes and makes a whole planet complete with landscapes and life forms and still has time to rest. Apparently “time management” was created somewhere in there too. But after it all, I get the feeling that God is a little too apathetic towards the whole creation thing. All of his creations are just “good” to him. I can understand being a little bit humble, but if I made a planet, I’d at least think it was great.

It would be easy for the Bible to say “God created all the animals in the oceans, on the land and in the sky” and be done with it. Instead, the text singles out specific creatures or smaller classifications of creatures from the rest of the herd (bad pun I’m sorry). For instance:

“Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” (Gen 1:24)

Why “cattle” specifically I am not sure. I know the Indians revere cows as part of their religion so maybe it is something like that. Or maybe God thought they were as delicious as I find them. Regardless, the emphasis on “cattle” leads me to believe they were important for the first peoples and therefore deserve special attention in the beginning. The “creeping things” must be insects and the like. Their description later on is as riveting as it is revealing: “every creeping thing that creeps” (Gen 8:17). I’m not sure what other people have been taught, but I was under the impression you aren’t supposed to use the word you are defining in your definition. Alas, times were different back in the day, but I’ve apparently already stumbled on something God did not conceive of: creative writing.

Before the beasts of the land took shape, God filled the seas with a peculiarly defined sect of animals:

“So God created the great sea monsters” (Gen 1:21)

Although I have not personally met those deeply religious folks that believe the earth to be only 6000 years old or that dinosaurs are a myth, I have spoken with people who have. The short excerpt above seems to me like a perfectly good source to support the existence of dinosaurs from a religious point of view. Although it does nothing for the “6000 year Earth” crowd, the writing of the “great sea monsters” could help bridge the gap between archaeologists and biblicalists (I made that word up, but you get the idea).

When reflecting on “Big Week” I wonder why God chose to make Earth in the order He did. Regardless of His reasoning, it is interesting that He chose to make sea creatures before land creatures. I’m no expert on evolution, but I am under the impression that it says land creatures evolved from water creatures. In other words, land creatures came after sea creatures. In biblical words, God creates ocean life and then land life. It may be a stretch to use this as common ground between creationists and evolutionists, but sometimes a stretch is all people need.

Last but not least God creates man. Actually, let me take that back.

Lastly, God creates man. Everyone isn’t perfect and there are some stellar people out there, but, let’s face it, cows haven’t given God as much shit as mankind has.

Hey, maybe that’s why he singled them out.