WASHINGTON (RNS) Director Darren Aronofsky says he is not religious, and that his Russell Crowe blockbuster movie “Noah” is the “least-biblical biblical film ever made.”

But the strong environmental message of his film — which makes Noah a hero as a God-inspired steward of the earth — firmly roots itself in Scripture, Aronofsky told an audience of religious environmentalists on Wednesday (April 23). Many of them hope the message of the movie, which has grossed more than $300 million since its release on March 28, spurs more people of faith to work against climate change.

In “Noah,” Aronofsky said, he hoped to capture the beauty of creation, and to dramatize God’s dramatic decision to destroy it because of human sin. Noah, he said, “is saving the animals. He is not looking for innocent (human) babies. It’s about saving the animals.”

People of faith and environmentalists should make common cause, he said. “Bringing those two movements together would be an incredible help for the environmental movement,” he said at a panel, “‘Noah’ and the Nexus of Faith and Environmentalism,” hosted by the Center for American Progress.

Darren Aronofsky on the set of "Noah." Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises

Darren Aronofsky on the set of “Noah.” Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises


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“We know that climate change is real. … The science is clear. The warnings are dire,” said Sally Steenland, director of CAP’s Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative. “Movies like ‘Noah’ stir us in a way that scientific charts and numbers do not.”

Like artists and filmmakers, people of faith are well positioned to apply “moral imagination” to confront environmental threats to the Earth, she said.

But some critics of “Noah” accuse Aronofsky of too much imagination, with his grand embellishments of the story — including lumbering stone giants and Noah’s adoption of a seemingly barren girl. They also charge him, as talk show host Glenn Beck did in March, with “rabid environmentalism.”

As Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, put it: “The insertion of the extremist environmental agenda is a problem.” 

But Jack Jenkins of CAP’s Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative said that the film is akin to a midrash, a Jewish story that often builds upon a biblical tale to try and make sense of it.

“There is a wealth of midrash around Noah,” he said. “It seems like in the film that you both pulled from midrash for different components of the story, but that the movie itself is also a kind of midrash,” he told Aronofsky and Ari Handel, the film’s executive producer and co-writer.

“We wanted to be in that tradition for sure,” said Handel, who, like Aronofsky, is Jewish but not religious. “In my tradition, we’ve done nothing out of the ordinary. We’ve done something that people have been doing for thousands of years.”

The panel also included Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, and Danielle Baussan, managing director of energy policy at CAP. Baussan said environmental activism is a natural cause for people of faith already working to alleviate poverty.

It’s “common knowledge in the climate community that the poor are going to be the first and worse hit by climate change,” said Baussan. Environmentalists can join their scientific knowledge to faith communities’ outreach to the poor, and together fight against and prepare for climate change.

Brune said he hopes that more people will feel the “personal stewardship and responsibility” that Aronofsky advocates.

“Clearly we want people to eat organic food when they can or to drive less or to have good personal environmental habits. More important than that is to be involved  … as people who help to shape the rules of society,” he said.

Aronofsky said the Bible showed him two different ways for man to relate to nature in its two different tellings of the creation story. The first, he said, speaks of man’s dominion over the Earth, and the second of stewardship. “Clearly, we have dominion over the planet,” he said.

“But the question of stewardship is a real question,” he continued. Where has man been a good steward? “It’s hard to find examples of that.”

KRE/AMB END MARKOE

9 Comments

  1. Environmentalism has no ‘god’ and can be practiced without one without it being a matter of religion.
    Supernatural nonsense only ruins its effectiveness.

  2. My faith is not in religion per se. Religion or evolution are not, to me, something you place your faith in. My faith in God, to me, is a spiritual experience that has sustain me in times of doubt and fear as well as the good times. To me religion can drive a fragile person away from an ill informed view of God. Belief is not in accepting particular view of religion.
    Evolution is, to me, not something you necessary believe in for it is ever changing and building in knowledge and discovery. In other words my faith is is in an awaking experience and life long study seeking an even greater truth, and my accepting of evolution is also learning and experiencing the truth I find in it.
    The Bible has much information which teaches the need for protecting the environment. To me, the discussion on Noah seems to back up what I believe. Sure you don’t have to be religious to be for the environment, it does help to not see yourself as the highest authority on how you live and chose to live in the future.

    • If it makes you feel any better, Evolution is not something which is believed or requires faith. It just is.

      It is accepted for what it is. A scientific theory which is considered true to the best of our current knowledge and evidence in support. Whether you believe in it or have faith in it is immaterial to it being accepted. It speaks for itself and is supported rationally. Denying it would be an act of foolishness because it would entail ignoring rational and objective evidence available.

      As Pope John Paul II said, “truth cannot displace truth”. The truth of what we observe in the universe through scientific discovery cannot be supplanted by articles of religious faith. Science does not address the truths of articles of religious faith either.

  3. The message of the story of Noah was not environmentalism, it had nothing to do with the environment, in fact it mentions that people had multiplied abundantly, with hints at a very good environment. The flood happened because the majority of mankind had turned to barbarism, they had turned against each other and against God. Aronofsky took the story of Noah and twisted in order to fit his views and make it by his standards more “entertaining.” What’s the point of adapting a biblical story if you twist it’s important lesson.

  4. A waste of my money and time… Next time you want to make a religious film why don’t you contact me… People are hungry for Religious films… Not this nonsense… I would be willing to bet that more than 75% of the people that watch this film would want a refund (me too)… By the way Mel Gibson got it right with the passion of the Christ… Do you want to make some money? Call me!

  5. Clearly this movie was for Hollywood based on your movie i see you haven’t read Genesis for 1all Noah children had wives second you made it seem like GOD more concerned about animals and the environment and not about human life. Please stop letting Hollywood destort the minds of people with there half truth!

  1. […] Director Darren Aronofsky says he is not religious, and that his Russell Crowe blockbuster movie “Noah” is the “least-biblical biblical film ever made.” But the strong environmental message of his film — which makes Noah a hero as a God-inspired steward of the earth — firmly roots itself in Scripture, Aronofsky told an audience of religious environmentalists on Wednesday (April 23). [Read more] […]

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