Movie Review: “The Birth of a Nation” Is a R-Rated Film Filled With Scripture

(PHOTO: FOX SEARCHLIGHT) Scene from "The Birth of a Nation" in theaters Friday, October 7, 2016.
(PHOTO: FOX SEARCHLIGHT)
Scene from “The Birth of a Nation” in theaters Friday, October 7, 2016.

R-rated films typically aren’t known for their spiritual themes, sermons and biblical references. There is the rare exception — “The Passion of the Christ” comes to mind — but in most cases R-rated movies carry content that most Christians simply would rather avoid.

This weekend, another exception — “The Birth of a Nation” (R) — hits theaters, telling the true story of Nat Turner, the slave/preacher who shared the Good News of Scripture to his fellow slaves and anyone who would listen, and who felt led by God in 1831 to lead a violent revolt against plantation owners in Virginia that led to his death.

Not since “The Passion” has an R-rated movie contained so much Christian content in a positive light. In fact, it’s not hyperbole to say that “The Birth of a Nation,” which was directed by and stars Nate Parker, includes more faith-based and biblical content than 90 percent of faith-based films, not to mention many Sunday morning sermons I’ve heard during my life.

This does not mean, though, that “The Birth of a Nation” is a film for everyone. It is very violent, contains some language and also has a very brief nude scene (details below).

But for Christians who don’t mind the content issues, Parker’s first film as a director is incredible, shedding light on someone many consider a hero of history while also raising moral questions that the slaves themselves were facing. It’s impossible to watch “The Birth of a Nation” without concluding that Christianity itself was essential to ending slavery, even if it took several more decades. All total, 60 white people died during the revolt, and about 200 black people were killed in retaliation.

So, is the movie family-friendly? Let’s take a look …

The good

The film begins with an on-screen quote from Thomas Jefferson about God judging America for slavery, and the spiritual content is prevalent throughout. Nat, as a boy, is taught to read by reading the Bible (the “best book ever written,” he is told). He then reads Scripture publicly in church. As an adult, he becomes a preacher, and we hear his sermons often. We also see him baptize someone (a white man).

In one critical scene, he engages in a heated debate with a white minister over whether Scripture supports slavery (for that, he receives lashes on the back). The other slaves begin to see him as someone chosen by God to free them, and he himself thinks he is doing a great deed in the line of David, Gideon, Joshua and Samson.

Turner’s violent rebellion was controversial at the time — even among slaves — and the film does a nice job in presenting the two sides and their moral arguments.

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SOURCE: The Christian Post
Michael Foust