Actor Joaquin Phoenix plays Jesus in a new movie revolving around the life of Mary Magdalene. In the movie, Phoenix took liberty with one of the miracles of Jesus.
In John 9, Jesus heals a man who had been born blind. In John 9:6, the process by which Jesus heals the man is described as follows: “he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud.”
Phoenix had issue with the Biblical account. In an interview with CNN, Phoenix said: “When I got there, I thought, ‘I’m not going to rub dirt in her eyes. Who…would do that?’ It doesn’t make any sense. That is a horrible introduction to seeing.”
So they changed the Biblical story. In the movie, Phoenix licks his thumb and rubs his finger across the blind woman’s (another change from the story) eyes.
I was struck by that story because it’s such a perfect illustration of how so much of the world views the Bible. If we don’t like something, we change it. Or we disregard it. Or we ignore it.
We change God’s story to make it fit how we want into our story.
In interviews, Phoenix talks of not being an especially religious person. But for people of faith, I think there’s a lesson. What do we do with the passages that challenge us? What do we do with the stories we don’t like?
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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.