This weekend Carly and I went to see The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington. Eli is filled with bloody fight scenes, engaging cinematography, and intense mystery. I won’t tell you too much; I don’t want to be a spoiler. But here’s a quick premise.
In post-apocalyptic, wasteland America, Washington plays Eli, a sunglass-wearing, nomadic warrior who has a good heart but isn’t afraid to finish a fight. He’s been walking across the country for the past 30 years, since the ‘last war.’ The war caused a rip in the ozone layer, bringing about a bright flash from the sun which incinerated most of the world. There are no more amenities or grocery stores or booming metropolises. Clean water is hard to find and bartering everyday items is the new currency.
Eli travels with nothing more than a backpack, a water canteen, a machete, a sawed-off shot gun, and a thick leather-bound Bible. Gary Oldman co-stars as Carnegie, a power hungry man who covets Eli’s book, the only one that survived the “flash”. Washington is on a mission to find the place where it will be read, respected, and treasured.
What I want to comment on is the role the Bible plays in this film. I don’t know what the directors mean to do, but the Bible is the central focus — more so than Washington’s character, in my opinion. How gutsy of the directors to make a movie where the Bible is the only book wanted and needed in America! This movie made me want to read my Bible more and know it better. It won’t take long the viewer long to find out that most of the people Eli’s age died in the war or passed soon thereafter. Since the Bible he owns is the only one left, most of these young people have never heard of God or learned how to pray. Imagine a world where no one knows John 3:16. Imagine a world where no one takes the Lord’s name in vain because they haven’t even heard his name. This is Eli’s world. Everyone is in survival mode, and murdering for a cup of water or a battery is all in a day’s business. Society has fallen apart. Chaos has taken over, and there will be no restoration until God’s word has been spread. What a concept.
Carnegie wants Eli’s Book, not for spiritual growth, but to control the people of the towns he is rebuilding across the country. His plan is to use it for selfish gain and prosperity. Viewing the movie through theological lenses, Carnegie plays the role of a greedy prosperity pastor. Just like Carnegie, pastors who espouse the prosperity gospel peddle God’s word for selfish gain. They don’t want the Bible to be read, respected, and treasured in order to taste and see the glory of Jesus Christ. They want to use and manipulate the Bible for their sinful desires.
Whether it’s money or power or possessions or fame, the desire for anything other than Jesus will only lead to destruction. The Book of Eli beautifully paints this reality. Whether the directors meant to or not.