Please get it right

Did you happen to see Russell Crowe’s “biblically inspired epic” entitled Noah? The movie had so many rewrites that the final version left most people scratching their heads. Scott Franklin, who produced the film, said, “Noah is a very short section of the Bible with a lot of gaps, so we definitely had to take some creative expression in it. But I think we stayed very true to the story and didn’t really deviate from the Bible, despite the six-armed angels.”

Really? Leave it to Hollywood to produce movies with the generic disclaimer: based on a true story. Evidently that gives you license to push your own agenda at the expense of the truth. Everybody loves a good story, but it seems in vogue to take the Bible as a source and then disregard it.

Louis Zamperini died at 97 this past July. This amazing man survived. He survived the reckless years as a youth on the streets of Los Angeles. He survived the crash of his B-24 bomber while on a rescue mission. He survived 47 days at sea in a life raft before being captured by the Japanese. He survived the torture and degradation inflicted by his Japanese captors. He survived the anger, the bitterness, and the determination to return to Japan and hunt down his tormentors. He survived posttraumatic stress disorder and heavy drinking. He survived the impending doom of a wrecked marriage due to his fits of rage fueled by his alcohol binges and horrible memories.

His wife Cynthia was desperate to help her husband. A young evangelist was in Los Angeles for a series of services. She had gone, hoping for encouragement and fortitude while she listened to Billy Graham preach. She asked Louie to go with her, but he refused. She didn’t give up, either. She finally convinced him to go with her.

His life changed that night. He found Christ. The drinking stopped; the rage dissipated. He still wanted to return to Japan, but not for revenge. He wanted to find the Japanese soldiers and officers who had cause so much pain for him and too many others so that he could offer his forgiveness.

Books, movies, documentaries … all were written or planned, but the story could not gain enough traction. Then Laura Hillenbrand, the author of the best-seller Seabiscuit, found an old clipping about the famous racehorse. On the back of that newspaper there was a story about young phenom who had run in the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany, Louie Zamperini. A phone call started a relationship that became another best-seller, Unbroken. With the resulting success, the movie rights were snapped up by Angeline Jolie. The film was finished in time for Zamperini to see it, albeit twenty minutes at a time.

The story of Louis Zamperini is a tale of unbelievable courage. It is a story of triumphant faith. Please, Hollywood, get it right.

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About Mark Wilbanks

Dr. Wilbanks became Wieuca’s fifth senior pastor in February of 2012. Mark’s father, Oliver Wilbanks, served as Associate Pastor here from 1966 to 1982. Wieuca had a tremendous influence in shaping Mark’s call to ministry during his teenage and young adult years. A graduate of both Southern and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminaries, Mark has served churches in Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia. He pastored Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for 17 years and Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida for ten years. He and his wife, Kim, were married in 1979 and have two sons, Andy and Jordan. Andy is married to Lindsay and they have a son, Cade, a daughter, Ruthie, and welcomed their third child, Samuel, in October.

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