As you probably noticed the History Channel’s epic mini-series “The Bible” trended big after its premier. The fact that one of Hollywood’s power couples Mark Burnett and Roma Downey produced this series is a witness that “The Bible” still continues to be a world-changer. My wife and I were part of the diverse leadership that has been fully-committed to promoting this production. Along with leaders and organizations like Luis Palau, Leith Anderson, Focus on The Family, World Evangelical Alliance, and T.D. Jakes we thought this was a project worth backing. I was part of an informal committee that got behind the project and agreed to talk about why I . My wife and I have traveled with Mark and Roma and helped promote it to thousands of Latino Evangelical congregations across the country. The question is, “why?”
First and foremost, we know that the project would have detractors from all sides. Some progressives would think it’s too religious while others would think it doesn’t stick closely enough to the holy Bible itself. My concern is that both sides are missing the point. This mini-series proclaims to be a film- adaptation of some of the most well-known Bible stories. It never claims to be a visual-literalist rendering of Scripture. This labor of love seeks to get the nation in the world talking about the Holy Bible again. This is not a bad thing. I watched it with my wife and two sons to re-introduce them to some of the stories. Afterwards, we actually opened their children’s Bible and reread some of the stories. The point here is that having the mini-series as a conversation opener in kitchens and board rooms across the nation need not be seen as a threat to pluralism or Scripture itself. The mini-series is a gift in that it calls those who wish to revisit or visit for the first time the stories of Scripture. Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, or agnostic this conversation is worth having. If the mediums of television, film, and theater have been used to engage the nation in topics like sexuality, war, violence and power why not the Bible?
One reason I am watching and supporting “The Bible” is because I know that television is often the nation’s number one form of consumption. I know there may be detractors who say but I don’t agree with the rendition in this scene or that. Some would say, “I would’ve done it differently.” That’s fine. But let’s not miss the proverbial forest for the trees. A major Hollywood couple invested their time, energy and gifts to get people talking about the Bible again. With all of the options that television has to offer, some quite toxic, why not an adaptation of the holy Bible? Again, it’s not claiming to be anything other than that. People all over the country right now may be reading their bibles for the first time. This is not a bad thing.
Mark and Roma had something to lose with this risk of faith. They are already a Hollywood couple known for “Touched By An Angel,” “Survivor,” “The Voice” and many others. The critics may well miss the point of a film version of The Bible. Did Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments” (1956) seek to give a visual word-for-word rendition of Exodus? No. Did Franco Zeffirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth” (1977) give a visual word-for-word rendition of the Gospels? No. Each of them was a film adaptation that invited people to read the stories for themselves. The point is that a film was made by two people who love the Bible and want to share it (at great personal investment) with a new generation. This is not a bad thing.
As a seminary professor and pastor I’ve done some praying, thinking, and teaching about the holy Bible. My hope is not that we would enter into some endless bickering about how accurate or inaccurate an adaptation is but rather we would be challenged to invite a new generation to engage the Bible anew. This is not a bad thing. I welcome it.
Rev. Gabriel Salguero
President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Pastor, The Lamb’s Church
New York, NY