Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Is the Televison Series "AD" Worth Watching?



The following is my response to the critics of the TV series AD, based on the Book of ACTS of the Disciples.  I received many letters expressing concern that this series is doing the viewing audience a disservice.  Over the past few weeks, my critics were  concerned that the series concentrated on material that wasn’t in Scripture.  The storyline included a major emphasis on Pilate’s cruelty, a secret plot by Jewish leaders to kill Pilate, and the involvement of Pilate’s wife and Caiaphas’s wife in the minor storylines that led to Pilate’s cruelty. People who wrote me were rightly concerned that AD seemed to be a series about Roman harshness and the subplots that led to the harshness instead of the true story of the Acts of the Disciples. 


I hesitated to express my concern because I didn't want it to appear that Christians were ungrateful to the team of Roma Downey and Mark Burnett just because they weren't producing the series to our "standards."  I kept telling myself that we needed to allow for  "artistic freedom" even when that "freedom" confused the story.  Unfortunately, the "final straw" happened last week. 

When someone asked me if AD was a biblical or fictional account of the early church, I had difficulty answering. That's when I knew that I needed to say something.  A question of "is it true or fiction?" should be easy to answer when it comes to a story based on Scripture, but in this case it is not. AD is certainly based on biblical truth, but much extra-biblical fiction is so woven into the narrative that the story has become very confusing and the truth is getting lost. 


The episodes that I watched primarily focused on the cruelty of Pilate and the harshness of Roman rule. Yes, I was familiar with Roman cruelty, but AD was advertised as “The Story (of Christianity) Continues.” It is necessary to display  Roman cruelty in order to dramatize how this “new religion” survived and thrived during this time.  How did the church develop and grow in grace, beginning to understand and apply of the teaching of Christ?  It seems that the producers are featuring the non-biblical material in the forefront, overshadowing and confusing the truth of Scripture. 

This series is somewhat reminiscent of the recent films "Noah" and "Exodus." Yes, Noah built an ark and Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, but the producers used so much “artistic freedom” that the true stories got lost. Neither of those movies received support from the Christian community.  "Hollywood" couldn't understand why Christians were turned off by "biblical" stories, and the producers of AD are likewise disappointed that the ratings for AD aren't coming close to those of their previous series, "The Bible." Let me give another perspective.  

Believers want to see the TRUTH illustrated on the TV and theater screen, enabling them to answer nonbelievers when they ask, "Is that true or is it fiction?" How does one improve on a story line written by God? There are so many dynamic stories in the New Testament and throughout the whole Bible that they could produce hundreds of programs and movies if they focused on the TRUTH and limited their "artistic freedom" to simply moving the story along and connecting the dots. I don't want to sound ungrateful to Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, for I love and appreciate what they are trying to do, but this series isn’t what was promised.  If it is biblical, it shouldn't be difficult to separate the truth from the fiction.  


We recognize that with their money and "juice" they could have produced trash like "Two Broke Girls" or "Modern Family," but instead they are trying to introduce America to the history of the Christian Church and the struggles of Christ's disciples after His ascension. But when the viewers don't know know if they are watching truth or fiction, what's the point?  I just wish Downey and Burnett would have told the scriptwriters to focus on the text instead of simply being influenced by it.