Rev. Austin Miles, a chaplain in Northern California is a writer and historian. He is the author of Santa's Surprising Origins, a story that received worldwide circulation and resulted in him being cast in the 2004 Hallmark Christmas Movie titled, Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus. He played the mall Santa who magically received the gift of sign language.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Religion • Pastor Reacts to “The Bible” TV Series

The critics began gathering and sharpening their pencils when it was announced that a new TV mini-series titled, “The Bible” would debut on The History Channel.

The moment the first installment was aired, howling was heard in the night as the watchmen on the wall screamed that they made Satan look just like Obama! it was a deliberate tactic by golly. The liberals began accusing the conservatives of engineering this twist to make a point that Obama is evil.

It was the liberals who put the details in the devil, not the conservatives. The sand in the vaseline is that Mark Burnett, the producer of the series, is a democrat.  While that issue continued to swirl, the theologians came forth to set the world straight about ‘theological errors’ in the series that they had a duty to correct.

There is a high ego among (some) Christian ministers, especially theologians who want the world to see them as very learned men who are excellent in religious matters. This can cause confusion to those hearing the Bible stories for the first time, are listening, and who then may be persuaded to walk away and say, “forget it.” These critics seemingly have no idea of the harm they are causing.

The faithful are especially prone to a gnawing necessity to fire the canon cannons at any film project regarding the Bible, or, any Christian leader that is in the spotlight, or even a book like The Harbinger while frantically searching for anything and everything possibly wrong that they can publicly correct. This unproductive effort, in a perverse way, serves to verify their own existence as a person of worth.

The producer’s wife, Roma Downey, who played the angel, Monica, in the TV series, “Touched by an Angel,” became familiar with this affliction of the prominent as the pharisees proclaimed that there was no real salvation message and not enough of Jesus in the series—a series which had a huge impact upon viewers precisely because it was not preaching to the audience but was filled with touching stories that couldn’t help but encourage people to come closer to God.

“The Bible” is produced thoughtfully, on purpose, and with a lavish production, nothing cheap or hurried, but the real thing. A hungry world seeking some kind of answer to the chaos enveloping everyone, responded with 13.3 million viewers for the opening episode, an all time record for an original series on a cable television channel. It then climbed to 14 million.  It wasn’t just a fluke. Those viewers were consistent for the entire series, catching the attention of Hollywood that is slowly beginning to realize the huge audiences they can attract with decent films about God. This series has even surpassed American Idol in viewer numbers.

At times, shortcuts are taken to keep the story moving smoothly from one event to the other at a brisk pace, which necessitated some re-writing and elimination of certain words or phrases found in the Bible. Some incidents are somewhat altered to make the story flow, but as is stated in the opening credits, even though some alterations were necessary they still have kept the production “in the spirit of the book.” That they did.

As a result, this mini-series has already introduced a wide audience to The Holy Scriptures that may not have been reached any other way.  The re-runs will add many more. And this will prompt many for the first time to examine the Bible and as they open it, will remember the stories they saw portrayed, and pay extra attention to what they read.

Roma Downey, a fine actress, played Mary, the mother of Jesus, with such feeling that she drove this writer to tears. For her role, there was some subtle work on her nose that changed her appearance effectively for the portrayal. Yes, some of the violence was difficult to take, but that was what life was like during that primitive time.

Something did slip by.  When the loaves and fishes were multiplying, one actor exhibited such joy that he started to make a sign of the cross. The camera cut away just in time (the sign of the cross came into being AFTER the crucifixion). And this writer would not see Daniel in fear as he was put in the lion’s den. I believe he would have been prayerfully confident, especially considering the victorious outcome.  But these are minor things. The overall picture, stimulating a new awareness of God, is what really counts and that was spectacularly achieved.

The series goes beyond the crucifixion to see the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and John in Patmos writing the God inspired words of The Revelation. It is an effective overview of the entire Bible that holds the interest of all. That is what good structure and editing can do. It is compelling high drama.

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey did a superb job in creating, writing producing, and filming this series. It touched the world and no doubt will start a new trend in movies. Already, Michael Landon, Jr. is preparing a biblical series titled: Jesus of Nazareth. More will follow. The huge success of this mini-series indicates that the heart of the world has spoken.

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“The Bible” TV Series an Astounding Success

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