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The Most “Biblical” Movie?

Sometimes I get asked for a list of movies that “represent Biblical values.” Generally the people asking me this are looking for movies like “Fireproof” or “Passion of the Christ,” movies made by Christians for Christians to drag their non-Christian friends to.  Unfortunately, I usually forget that’s what they’re looking for, and instead recommend movies like “Flight,” or “Secret Sunshine,” or “Of Gods and Men.” (I recommended “Flight” to somebody recently as an example of a movie about redemption, and they wrote back to me “I can’t believe you liked that movie! There was a naked woman on the screen in the VERY FIRST SCENE!” …And then I wonder which Bible they’re reading.)

There are a ton of movies that make me think of scripture while I’m watching them. But the reverse is much more rare — in fact, there’s only one movie that I’ve thought about while reading the Bible. And it’s happened multiple times. That movie is “The Godfather.”

For instance:

–In 1 Kings Chapter 2, David is old, and has made peace with all his enemies, promising never to strike back against them as long as he lives. On his deathbed, he calls his son Solomon to him, and reminds him of everyone who has done him wrong. And as soon David is dead, Solomon kills all of his father’s enemies.

Which, of course, is exactly what Michael Corleone does at the end of “The Godfather.”

–I’ve been reading a lot lately, in various sources, about Paul the Apostle’s use of the words “grace” and “faith” in his letters. Several authors have pointed out that he was borrowing these words from Greek culture, in particular, the patronage system. You see, a rich patron would grant a favor to a merchant or an artisan — maybe speaking to a judge about an unfriendly law or approaching another patron about the rising price of a commodity, for instance. This is an act of “grace.” And from then, the merchant or artisan owes “faith” to the patron – loyalty, allegiance, and sometimes, service.

…and I think of Don Corleone telling Bonasera, “Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.”


One more example – and this one’s going to take some explaining, because the story is epic, but also complicated. (Kind of like the Godfather.)

2 Chronicles 22-23. Ahaziah is king of Judah, but he is mortally wounded in battle. When his mother, Athalia, sees that he is going to die, she kills all of his children — her grandchildren — and everyone else who could claim to be an heir to the throne, so that she can rule Judah, after he is gone. Which she does.

Except Joash, who was a little boy. Athalia’s sister Jehosheba rescued the child and raised him in secrecy. Jehosheba’s husband was Jehoiada, and he was a priest.

Seven years later, when the boy was becoming a man, Jehoiada staged a coup at the Temple. With the priests and the heads of the Israelite families backing him, he declared Joash king, and executed Queen Athalia. Joash was a good king, because Jehoiada was a good advisor, and Judah prospered.

OK, stick with me here.  Eventually Jehoiada died, and Joash started listening to other advisors.  And they led him, and he started worshipping other gods (Israel’s cardinal sin.) So then Jehoiada’s son, Zechariah, who must have grown up right alongside Joash, comes to him and challenges him. “Why do you disobey YHWH’s commands?  You will not prosper.”

And Joash had him executed for it.  The son of his surrogate father, all but his brother.  He had him killed because he challenged his authority.

And when I try to grasp this level of betrayal, of blackhearted going against everything he’s ever been taught and given, my mind goes to Michael ordering the murder of Fredo at the end of “Godfather Part II.”  It’s the moment when Michael’s journey to the dark side (to quote another great movie) is complete — when he has become the complete antithesis of his father.

Over and over again, I read the Bible and I think about “The Godfather.”  Could it be the most biblical movie ever made?





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