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Jonah: Biblical Stage Production Heads to the Movies

Jonah On Stage movie
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Movie Event Info
 

ONE NIGHT ONLY:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

GET TICKETS:

Find out where JONAH: On Stage! is showing and get your tickets on www.fathomevents.com today!

Rusty Wright - Contributing Writer

COMMENTARY

So, if there is a God, and he punishes evildoers, whom would you especially like him to judge? And if he gave that person(s) a second chance – to follow him – would you be pleased or disappointed?

Maybe you can identify with Jonah – the biblical prophet and subject of a new movie – whom God told to offer his hated enemies the opportunity to repent (see Jonah 1-4). Our hero ran the other way, spent three days and nights in a fish's belly, and became angry when his foes turned heavenward. Go figure.

Ancient Stories, Modern Relevance

Biblical stories, of course, have informed western literature and culture for ages. Mark Burnett's and Roma Downey's highly acclaimed 2013 TV series, The Bible, helped demonstrate the Good Book's relevance for modern society, acquainting or re-acquainting 100 million viewers worldwide with many of these timeless tales.

JONAH: On Stage! offers a similar opportunity, but in a different format. It's a highly successful musical and stage play that now brings its music, humor, excitement, angst and irony to the big screen. And I'm somewhat surprised to say, it works.

I had heard of Sight & Sound Theatres' successful live productions of Bible stories in their first-rate venues in Pennsylvania and Missouri. But, those were in-person affairs -- with all the advantages of face-to-face communication, group dynamics, and three-dimensional sizzle. How could that translate to film well -- even if it was taped before a live audience?

Moving Depictions

In the movie, camera angles and close-ups capture facial expressions, glances, words and body movements that are often lost at performances (especially for those theatergoers stuck in the back). Most moving to me were depictions of Ninevites realizing their flaws, sincerely and humbly asking God for forgiveness and mercy, and rejoicing when it came. 

Ninevites lived in Nineveh – a city near modern Mosul, Iraq – part of despised Assyria. Assyrian military campaigns featured brutality and gore: beheadings, slaughter, mutilation, and more.    

Responding to Jonah, Nineveh's king decreed that his people should "pray earnestly to God … turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence" in hopes of divine forbearance (Jonah 3:6-9). It was quite touching to see this play out in the film, a reminder that even the most reprobate among us can find forgiveness.

Do Nineveh's excesses remind you of anyone today?

My Own Ninevites

I confess that ISIS and the like are my own Ninevites. My sister had a 9:00 AM appointment at the World Trade Center on September 12, 2001. I've often thought that if her appointment had been a day earlier – or Osama's attack a day later – I could have been walking the streets of Manhattan with her picture. 

Once, in the distressing days after 9/11, bin Laden's image appeared on my television screen when I was watching alone, I shouted "I hate you!" at the screen. The spontaneous reaction was visceral. I knew I was supposed to love my enemies, but emotions and rage were trumping wisdom and spirituality.

When I think of al Qaeda's ideological cousins such as ISIS, I sometimes wish they were squashed like the cockroaches I frequently smashed growing up in the tropics. They deserve it. 

Adjusting?

If they desired, would the biblical God accept them? Without a doubt. Would I be happy? I like to think I would be. In reality, I acknowledge it could take some adjusting.

Similar perhaps to the adjusting Jonah faced when Nineveh repented. This film interprets the story in a way that everyone wins.

As Forrest Gump might have said, God shows up…in a denouement that helps the characters learn and experience what they should and lets the audience reflect on profound applications to their own lives. And isn't that what good art should do?

JONAH: On Stage! the movie is showing in over 700 theaters across the US on May 2. It’s well worth seeing. Though not rated by MPAA, it is family friendly.

Guest Name / Person Interviewed or Featured in Article or Video: 
Rusty Wright
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