In the Christian church, this is Holy week – a final countdown to the most important time in the Christian calendar. Growing up, Charlton Heston brought me The Ten Commandments every Easter – ironic given that it’s not the story that Christians are actually celebrating. But it was tradition.
But this year, despite the statistics that say Christianity is diminishing around the world while Muslims numbers are increasing exponentially, there seem to be more television Bible productions for the Easter season than ever before. Thanks to the unprecedented success of Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s hit series The Bible two years ago, this Easter weekend we have AD: The Bible Continues and The Dovekeepers. The National Geographic Channel is showing Killing Jesus, while CNN is Finding Jesus and The Smithsonian is studying The Siege of Masada.
Of course, you might be rolling your eyes at this point. If you don’t go to church or don’t know the stories, why bother? Who wants to watch these 3000 year old fairy tales?
And yet, every day, viewers tune in to watch men and women with superpowers risk it all to be heroes. Arrow and The Flash are accepted viewing despite their complete lack of reality. Zombies are popular killer beasts or, more recently, crime fighters. And Avengers keep making popular blockbuster movies.
So why not watch stories of a man who risked his life to defy tradition, government and a powerful church and spread his message all over a country? All without the help of social media, I might add. In three years, he used some pretty awesome superpowers to heal the sick and then died for his beliefs in spectacular fashion. If it happened today, it would be an Oscar-winning film with Meryl Streep and George Clooney somehow involved in the production.
Then there’s the story of redemption. We all love the bad guy who is redeemed and goes on to save the world. That’s why Spike, not Angel, was the true hero in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
And who was a bigger badass than Paul, the Apostle, who once travelled the country killing Christians only to become Christianity’s greatest teacher?
Even if you don’t believe in all the miracles, the basic stories themselves are historically proven. The siege at Masada happened. Three men were crucified before a crowd at Golgotha. Christians were persecuted for decades afterward. Why wouldn’t you want to know this history?
Furthermore, these TV productions are a fascinating look at the social structure during this period of time.
No, you don’t have to be “born again” to enjoy the variety of Easter specials on television. Obviously, portions of the stories are fictionalized to flesh out the characters and give viewers a greater understanding of the context. But the backbone is historically accurate. And it makes for an exciting drama about good and evil, political power versus higher power.
Just like today’s superheroes. But without the secret identity.