A new movie by Ang Lee is hitting theaters and the movie-appreciating audience is making a buzz over it. Ang Lee was the man who directed Brokeback Mountain (an ode to homosexuality) and the beautiful and absorbing fairy tale Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Lee is considered one of contemporary filmmaking’s best directors. He has been nominated for Oscars and has won Oscars. He is well regarded and has a unique visual style that he brings to the screen which immediately identifies his work.
The movie that’s making so much buzz Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. It won the Booker Prize, garnered other prizes and went on to become a best-seller. This is a story that Hollywood initially sought to bring to the screen because the book was so well-written, unique, and salable.
However, Hollywood soon dropped the idea of making the book into a movie due to the inherently exquisite difficulties of bringing the otherworldly narrative to film. Eventually, most producers thought that it would be too hard to relate the mystical beauty of the tale to film in a way that would hold audience attention.
Ang Lee’s incredible talent was brought to the fore and he surmounted those difficulties. The film was released yesterday. By all accounts it is a visual triumph and a stand-out, unique film compared to the fodder and tripe that usually permeates the theaters at this time of year.
Wikipedia reports, “In a letter directly to Martel, Barack Obama described Life of Pi as “an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling”. Brian Bethune of Maclean’s describes Life of Pi as “[a] head-scratching combination of dense religious allegory, zoological lore and enthralling adventure tale, written with warmth and grace”. Master Plots suggested the “[c]entral themes of Life of Pi concern religion and human faith in God”.
Apparently not only is the story well-told on film, not only is it a feast for the eyes in lyrical beauty and lauded its ability to transport the viewer to another place of peace and transcendence. Not only is it a box-office triumph, but many Christian reviewers are rating it highly also.
This fact has piqued the interest of a usually under-served Christian segment of the movie-going population, and so Christian families are streaming to the movie in droves. This essay is to determine if the movie is good food for Christian families to absorb.
We long for family movies that honor God and exalt Jesus. We are thirsty for some good food to take in, where we can relax in our seats and know that nothing we that we’re presented on the film will assault the eyes or offend God.
Life of Pi is NOT THAT MOVIE.
I have not seen it. Yet I am reviewing it. How can this be? Well, sometimes one can read an outline of the plot and know immediately that it is not worthy of attention. Do I need to watch Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ to know that it is not something I want to enter my mind? No. I don’t have to watch Jesus repudiate God’s plan and descend from the cross to live a fleshly life with Mary to understand it wasn’t something that God wants us to entertain.
One part of Wikipedia’s synopsis caught my attention.
“Pi is raised a Hindu, but as a fourteen-year-old he is introduced to Christianity and Islam, and starts to follow all three religions as he “just wants to love God.” He tries to understand God through the lens of each religion and comes to recognize benefits in each one.”
Right away I know this is not a movie for me. Anything that competes with or elevates anther god to equal status with the One True God is not worthy of my money, time, or attention. Pi, who is born a Hindu, at his mother’s behest to embrace plurality in everything, praises Jesus for bearing our sins while reciting the Quran? No thanks.
But that’s one person’s synopsis, what do others say?
CBN is Christian Broadcasting Network. CBN’s Movie Review says-
“While Christian audiences will be thrilled with the amount of onscreen time devoted to the cause of Christ and what it means to believe, they will also be quite disappointed as Islam and Hinduism receive equal representation. However, when viewed through the eyes of evangelical Christianity, you can’t help but be encouraged by the flickers of faith being projected onscreen. … Filled with thought-provoking moments of self-discovery, redemption and God’s unrequited grace, Life of Pi is an exploration into whether a person truly believes what they say they believe. For Christians, that is whether Jesus Christ went to the Cross as the ultimate sacrifice for sinners to be saved by grace. Unfortunately, this quest is played out for the other three religions as well.”
Are we so desperate for crumbs of a true holiness presented on screen that we are willing to eat the crumb off the corner of satan’s lip after having spewed Allah, Vishnu, and Catholic gods? Why do we settle for “flickers”? And lying flickers at that? Is that what encouragement has diluted down to? Apparently.
Christian Science Monitor wrote:
“Young Pi, raised in a not-very-strict Hindu household, tries his hand at Christianity and Islam as well. He’s an ecumenical free spirit who sees all religions as equally affirming.”
They called it a “sane movie” and gave it a B rating. That’s insane.
Christian Cinema gave it ‘five doves’ and referred to the fact that the movie is ‘Dove Family Approved’ by the Dove Foundation several times in its review. So let’s see what they wrote:
“Pi’s agnostic father taught him, “Faith is a house with many rooms.” Pi himself is a religious person, but without a specific doctrine. He often prays to the God he learned about from a Catholic priest, but occasionally sends up an appeal to Allah, Vishnu, and Krishna. One desperate prayer Pi cries out when he’s nearly lost all hope is, “God, I give myself to you, a vessel.” The cinematography is spectacular, and the CGI and 3D effects rival those in “Avatar.” The movie is rated PG, however, there are several tragic events that are better taken in by older audiences. Therefore, we are pleased to award this profoundly moving story on film the Dove “Family-Approved” Seal for audiences over age 12.”
How can this be a Christian-approved movie when it is blatantly stated that the main protagonist prays to false gods, and when all his hope is lost, gives himself to one of them? Which one? The Catholic false god? The Hindu false God? The Muslim false god? And the Dove Foundation calls this “profoundly moving?!”
Crosswalk is the only Christian review I’ve read that calls it what it is, ‘full of wonder but a poison pill’. They write-
“English theologian Ronald Knox once quipped, “Comparative religion is an admirable recipe for making people comparatively religious.” The current spirit of our age is to embrace many faiths as leading to the same god, not a philosophy that works with orthodox Christianity. The Bible practically screams warnings against such thinking, such as in 1 John 4, 2 John 1, 1 Timothy 4, 2 Corinthians 11—the list goes on.”
“Life of Pi“, the new film from director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and based on the bestselling book from Yann Martel, has, at its core, a message that Christians reject. But—can there be a “but” after that?—the filmmaking in Life of Pi is often nothing short of spectacular. It has images of beauty and power that won’t be matched by any other film this year. Visually, it’s marvelous—it literally contains one marvel after another. But sandwiched in between those thrills is a message that’s contrary to the Gospel.”
That is how satan works. Sinuously. Beautifully. He comes as a beautiful angel of light but he brings death.
You will be tempted to view the film for its vaunted visuals. In 3D I hear it is even prettier. But do you want to violate the scripture that says–
“Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.” (Proverbs 23:31-32)
Gill’s Exposition says
“when it moveth itself aright; sparkles in the glass, or goes down the throat pleasantly; or rather looks well to the eye, and appears right and good, and promises a great deal of satisfaction and delight.”
You say, ‘But that is a prohibition against drinking too much wine! It has nothing to do with a movie!”
The principle is the same. It sparkles… you’re attracted to it… you drink it in… it poisons you.
Listen to what Psalm 101:3-4 says- “I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil.” (NLT)
I would rather you go to see Brokeback Mountain, because it is honest in its lies and perversity. At least it is what it is. Life of Pi is what it isn’t. Mixing our Holy God with other gods and equalizing them is a worse blasphemy. Why would a Hindu or a Catholic think he needs Jesus after seeing this film, and especially if you are sitting next to him enthusiastically affirming the movie’s premise? Why would a recently saved youth or a weaker Christian brother see the need to repent of his Oprah-Osteen “many paths” apostasy when he sees you taking in the same lies, and liking it?
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21). An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God. Or competes with Him.
Read this from 1 Samuel 5:1-5:
“When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.”
God tolerates no others in His house. Now your body is His house.
GotQuestions asks, “Should a Christian go to movies?“
“The Bible tells us that many things are permitted, but not all things are beneficial or constructive (1 Corinthians 10:23). It also says that whatever we say or do (or watch) should be done to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are to set our minds on things that are noble and pure (Philippians 4:8). If—and this is a big if—we can watch a movie or TV program that contains questionable content AND still be in agreement with these commands from the Bible, then it’s hard to see a wrong in this. The danger lies in (1) how what we are watching affects our heart and (2) how it affects others.”
It IS a danger, especially in this day of the last days when satan’s encroachment into everything is so pervasive. MacArthur said in his sermon, The Danger of Being a Friend of the World, “The evil impulses of man’s heart draw him toward worldliness and a worldly life brings one into a conflict with God.”
This movie will draw you, beautifully, but it is a draw toward compromise nonetheless. I take a hard line, as you know. I believe I could watch that movie and enjoy its visuals and its reported life-affirming message without compromise to my faith. I believe that my watching it would not present a stumbling block to weaker ones in my sphere. I believe my faith is very strong and that it would not be a problem. However, I will not watch it. Why?
Because my faith is so strong! It pains me to see other gods given equal time. It hurts to see others fall under satan’s lie that there are many paths to ‘life’. I mourn over the lies satan so easily sends out in tendrils that choke a heart. Unless the movie clearly identifies Jesus as the only way by the end of the film, it is not life-affirming. It is death affirming. My faith won’t let me spend two hours in a death-affirming event, no matter how prettily it’s presented.
Proverbs 26:23 says it best, “Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart.” The heart of Life of Pi is evil. I reject the crumb satan offers from his lips and I will stay away.