J.D. Walters’ explains why we should be grateful the Bible is like an R-rated movie:
“Skeptics’ reaction to the Bible very often… resembles very much the reaction Christian ratings groups have to ‘unwholesome’ movies. How can the Bible be the sublime Word of God, they ask, when it has such unwholesome content as adultery, war, torture, cursing and plague?… The Bible features such content because it is God’s message to a fallen world. The only reason it is relevant to so many people is that it rings true to our experience. A G-rated Bible is a Bible that cannot speak to fallen man where he is. No one could take it seriously if it laid out a drama in which nothing bad ever happens to good people, everyone always makes the right choices and God never has to judge those who disobey Him. Like the best movies with explicit content, the Bible tells the truth about the world, but thankfully it also offers hope for a better one even as it takes this one absolutely seriously.”
Walters’ perspective is Christian, granted, but it’s also literary. As a skeptic I’m puzzled by other skeptics’ hostility to the bible for its aversive content. It’s probably my love for searingly dramatic conflict and deeply flawed protagonists that makes me want sacred texts and their heroes & deities to have the same.
Isn’t that what’s so precious about, say, The Iliad? It’s exceedingly violent and full of wrath, involving shameless deception by the gods. Homer paints a world of bloody anguish, but with enough glimpses of beauty to suggest better things for those who can grasp the heroic ideal. The story is ultimately about the restoration of humanity’s civilized values through an act of mercy (Achilles giving the corpse of his enemy Hector to Priam). Ditto for The Passion of the Christ, which many people disliked for its heavy R-rated content and gruesome things it suggests about the Judeo-Christian God. But why be threatened by this? Gibson’s film takes us into the eye of that same paradox where wrath and mercy, retribution and forgiveness, become as one. Again we get savagery tied to an act of mercy, a brutally shameful death underscoring the dignity of life tenfold. Secularists can be moved by such themes without endorsing the Christian and pagan myths themselves. But G-Rated (even most PG-Rated) dramas are ill-equipped to mine this stuff.