Not because, as 20th Century Fox puts it, “Scott brings new life to the story of the defiant leader Moses as he rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.”
Not, in other words, because the film, like the Bible,
- Depicts the Jews as captives in Egypt when Jews were never held captive in Egypt – after all, the pyramids were already built by the time the Jews were allegedly there as slaves;
- Depicts the Jews as toiling away as slaves building the pyramids when the pyramids were built by Egyptians who were actually paid for their work;
- Depicts a parting of the Red Sea that never happened, (Ridley Scott uses an earthquake as a trigger to the parting) or plagues that never happened, or any of a host of other legitimate problems with the story.
He doesn’t even complain on the basis of Entertainment Weekly’s “fact-checking” of the film.
But ironically, because the film accurately depicts “God as a petulant child and Moses as a terrorist.”
According to Beck,
We all had Charlton Heston as our Moses icon and so we have the story right. This is going to become the story that your kids will see if you watch it on Netflix. You don’t have to go to the movie theater. People will just go, I’m curious, I want to see it. They’ll watch it and they’ll watch it with their kids. And this will be the story of Moses that will embed in their head.
I don’t think it’s the worst movie I’ve seen. I think it’s one of the more dangerous movies I’ve seen religiously speaking because it’s all screwed up. I think this is a very subversive movie for religion. If you’re holding out hope that this was going to be good, it’s not. Don’t give them any money. Don’t give them any money. Don’t rent it on Netflix. Don’t do anything. Avoid this one literally like the plague that it is.
As I’m watching it, I’m thinking to myself, who are they appealing to? Because as a religious person, as somebody who believes in Moses, somebody who believes in God, somebody who believes in the Ten Commandments, somebody who believes in Exodus, I’m offended. I’m like deeply offended. That you are taking a prophet of the Lord, one of the most humble men of all time and you’re making him an al Qaeda member. It makes absolutely no sense.
It is enough to make you wonder if Beck, like Michele Bachmann and others, have ever actually read the Bible they purport to champion. God IS a petulant child in the Old Testament, whacking people left and right for not worshiping him, or for “disobeying” him. Both Jews and Christians have behaved like religious terrorists over the centuries, Moses not least among them.
Just look at what God did in the Book of Exodus (4:21-23):
And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put in your power; but I will harden is heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: Israel is my firstborn son. I said to you, ‘Let my son go that he may worship me.’ But you refused to let him go; now I will kill your firstborn son.
What kind of sick, twisted character is this God? It’s not that Pharaoh is apparently naturally ill-disposed to letting Moses go, but God “Hardens his heart” and then punishes him for doing what God made him do, by killing his son.
In the film, God is represented by a child, who talks to Moses like God is speaking through him, leading to another Beck complaint:
“And God is a twelve-year-old, maybe ten, eleven year old kid…and petulant would be too kind of a word. He’s like ‘I’m not going to wait around anymore because I’m eleven now!’ It’s bizarre. Moses becomes the latest member of ISIS…he decides to become a terrorist.”
Really, this is brilliant casting, because that’s exactly how God behaves in the Old Testament. And that is precisely what the Bible makes Moses.
And the entire story of Exodus is nightmare theater of pain contrived by God; Again we find (7:1-5):
The Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, I will lay my hand upon Egypt and bring my people the Israelites, company by company, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out from among them.
Again this is all cruel theater orchestrated by God, hardening Pharaoh’s heart and making him say no to Moses so that God has an excuse to punish Egypt for doing what God made them do. You can’t make the story sound worse than it is, because it literally can’t get any worse than it is.
You have to expect Hollywood to throw in its own flourishes. It’s Hollywood, after all. But nothing Ridley Scott has done here even compares to the horrors contained in the Bible itself. Beck and his friends are complaining about what is essentially fluff. It is the story in the Bible they ought to be horrified by.
For example, Beck’s crew complains that Christian Bale, who portrays Moses in the film, and based on things he’s said – “I think the man [Moses] was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life” – never read the Bible.
No, but he did read the Torah. Jewish scripture not good enough for you, Mr. Beck?
This is an interesting criticism coming from the Religious Right, which seems institutionally opposed to reading the Bible, and I think it’s clear that they have no moral high ground where Bible knowledge is concerned.
If Beck wants to complain about the film he ought to complain that it doesn’t follow the Bible closely enough, but nobody would watch such a film. Actually, it would do those of us opposed to the Religious Right’s agenda if such a film were ever made, because then we’d be talking about the Bible and not a film, about God and not Ridley Scott.
It would force a conversation we have never had as a society about what, precisely, is in the Bible. And that is a conversation we sorely need to have, and the sooner the better, given how determined the Religious Right is to teach the Bible to our children in our public schools, and what happens to parents who complain.
As you can see from Beck’s review that is not a conversation the Religious Right is willing to have. He would rather complain about a movie than actually address the story upon which the movie is based.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.