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Hollywood Isn't a Bible School': Amid 'Noah' Furor, Media Expert Warns Christians Against Labeling Tinseltown 'the Enemy


"Missionaries have discovered that you don’t change minds by criticism, boycotts, or threats."

Image source: Paramount Pictures

Media producer and consultant Phil Cooke has a unique perspective -- he's a Christian who works in Hollywood. So unlike many of the faithful who are openly shunning Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming film "Noah," he believes there are numerous reasons why people of faith should actually embrace the biblical epic

It's no secret that a plethora of theological debate has surrounded the movie so far, with Paramount Pictures -- in an effort to stem contention -- agreeing to add an "explanatory message" to its marketing materials to warn audiences that the movie is not a word-for-word retelling of the famous story.

Cooke, who has no official relationship with the "Noah" production but who has spoken out openly on the subject, told TheBlaze there are valid reasons for people of faith to express concern over theological themes, but that some of the criticism has been unfair.

"I have no quarrel with anyone who is concerned about what I would call extra-biblical, or doctrinal issues in the movie," Cooke said in an email. "I have a Ph.D. in theology, so I get that completely. My biggest problem is the number of people who have negatively reviewed this and other films on blogs and other platforms without ever seeing it."

Cooke said that it's problematic to take a stance against something critics haven't yet viewed -- and that such actions and proclamations add to the reasons why secular culture continues to marginalize Christianity. He also offered advice for believers when it comes to confronting Tinseltown.

"Christians have to stop looking at Hollywood as the enemy, and start reaching out," he said. "Missionaries have discovered that you don’t change minds by criticism, boycotts or threats. You change minds by developing a relationship and a sense of trust. You work from the inside."

And when it comes to approaching Bible-themed films in general, Cooke reminded Christians that no Christian-themed film has ever truly been 100 percent accurate to the holy book.

"Hollywood isn’t a Bible school, so if our expectation is that movies they produce will be 100 percent accurate we simply have the wrong expectations," he said. "But in this case, Paramount Pictures is spending $200-$300 million dollars to tell the Noah story to the world. Noah will be water cooler conversation for the next three or four months, and it will be part of a national conversation."

Rather than ignore this conversation or shun it, Cooke recommended that believers use the opportunity to speak with friends, family and acquaintances about their faith. Missing this chance would be a mistake, he added.

Cooke also said that Hollywood isn't as hostile to Christianity as some believe. Rather than hostility, he said, most people are simply "ignorant of Christianity." As an example, he described the surprise that major news organizations expressed when the History Channel's "The Bible" series broke records last year, and reporters who called him in shock that so many Americans wanted to see a TV show about the Bible.

Rather than expressing hostility, he said, these journalists were genuinely confused.

Image source: Paramount Pictures Image source: Paramount Pictures

"I reminded them that Hollywood and the TV networks have spent years trying to reach various special interest groups like feminists, environmentalist or the gay community," Cooke said. "I simply shared that as Pew Research reports, there are more than 91 million evangelical Christians in the United States -- which makes us the largest 'special interest' group of all."

He said that there's a major shift underway and that Hollywood is finally understanding that faith sells. Rather than complain, he believes Christians should embrace the evolution.

Cooke, who is a board member of the National Religious Broadcasters, recently spoke on a panel at the NRB International Christian Media Convention, reflecting this same sentiments to the Christian audience in attendance, as TheBlaze previously reported.

While he has no official involvement in "Noah" and has not been paid or contracted by Paramount to share his views, he has passionately defended the notion that Christians can embrace the film, recently sharing 10 specific reasons on his blog.

The “explanatory message” Paramount added to marketing materials -- one that was recommended by National Religious Broadcasters -- reads: “The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”

This language can be found on the film’s official website. "Noah" heads to theaters March 28.

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