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Chapman’s News & Ideas Freedom and the Message of the Exodus

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-EdgertonThe new film Exodus: Gods and Kings is getting mixed reviews based on cinematic quality, but also on content. Among the somewhat skeptical are Raymond Arroyo of EWTN Catholic television network and conservative commentator Glen Beck.

The high tech special effects spectacle is causing a number of people to go back to The Ten Commandments, the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille production on the same theme, starring Charlton Heston.

A colleague who screened The Ten Commandments at home this week had this startling realization: it’s about freedom.

“Essentially, the message of The Ten Commandments is that only when we follow God can we find freedom. And by ‘freedom,’ I mean many important dimensions of freedom: Freedom to worship. Freedom to think. Freedom to learn. Freedom to dissent. Freedom to live without fear of slavery or other forms terror. Freedom to fulfill your dreams and Freedom to prosper. The Ten Commandments is one, long, unstoppable argument for freedom.

“The film’s message isn’t just the importance of freedom, but the root of freedom, that freedom comes from God. God created us all, and gave all of us inalienable rights that no man can take away. Because God created us, every man and woman has dignity and deserves freedom. Man may defy God and enslave his fellow man, but he cannot take away the dignity God has given human beings nor the right to freedom human beings deserve.

“In the opening scene, Cecil B. DeMille tells us straight out that the film isn’t just a retelling of the biblical story, but is about ‘the birth of freedom.’ The story that follows is a bit heavy-handed, preachy, and unsubtle in delivering this message. Given the gravity of the topic, I’m OK with it.

“Indeed, I’m sure that when the film came out in 1956, moviegoers especially welcomed its message. America was struggling against Soviet-style communism—-a system that denied God’s existence, and, having denied the root of freedom, naturally proceeded to deny people freedom itself. The Ten Commandments reminded people that the fight for freedom was a fight for fundamental human rights that God had given us all. It reminded people that that if we abandon God, we abandon freedom and we abandon so much God has blessed us with. Everything humanity was meant for seemed at stake in the fight over communism.

“And here we are in 2014 finding ourselves in a similar fight. It may not be Soviet-style communism, but worldwide new systems are gaining power that look to re-enslave men and women by taking away their freedom. And the same freedoms are at stake: Freedom to worship. Freedom to think. Freedom to learn. Freedom to dissent. Freedom to live without fear of slavery or other forms terror. Freedom to fulfill your dreams and freedom to prosper. Freedom to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“In 2014, America still has much freedom, but we’re forgetting the roots of that freedom. Hollywood today would never allow a Cecil B. DeMille to boldly proclaim the message that God is the source of freedom. Would it?”