Because life is a series of edits

The Perfect Person to Play God?

In Thought on July 19, 2006 at 11:20 am

The website, Contact Music, posted this little story quoting a British tabloid that movie star Samuel L. Jackson will “voice God” in a new audio recording of the Bible. Apparently Jackson has already finished recording a CD set of the New Testament (to be released in September ’06), and a box set of the Old Testament is due out in ’07. What was interesting to me was this comment from a source working on the project: “Scores of other black actors, musicians, and athletes will also figure, but Samuel was deemed to be the perfect person to play God.”

Now I know the source was probably speaking purely in audio production terms, but it got me thinking as to why one might think of Samuel L. as “the perfect person to play God?” Granted, Sam’s got a distinct voice and is usually liked in most of what he does (though I could have done without his stiff performance in Star Wars 1-3), but doesn’t the quote seem to imply Sam brings something more than just vocal ability to the role? In other words, why didn’t the source say, “Samuel was deemed to have the perfect voice to play God?”

It seems to me a good illustration of how much we’ve reduced God to being on our same anthropological level. Our view of God (or is it our view of ourselves?) is really messed up, so much so that we often confuse the two. But why? Though Psalm 8 does record God making man “a little lower than the heavenly beings,” our idea should be that this gap is at least as significant as the one between you and an ant, if not much, much greater.

Theologically speaking, our presuming to be equal partners with God resonates with our American egalitarian tendencies, seemingly elevating our role and importance in the universe and putting us on more of a level playing field with the God who created it. This, we reason, is good for both parties, as it conceivably helps our spiritual self-esteem while painting God as more approachable and personal than perhaps otherwise thought.

Anthropologically speaking, this view of equality appeals to humanity’s need to feel wanted, not to mention our American values of charting our own course and being able to make up for previous mistakes (i.e. the Fall) by working our way back to some position of influence. But biblically and traditionally speaking, our culture holds a higher view of man and a lower view of God than it can or should, at least when compared to the past 5,000 years of Christian orthodoxy and teaching on our human nature.

We may indeed be in partnership with God – and it may have been at his initiation and invitation – but we are not equal with him, as we stand in debt to his perfection and holiness because of our sin and need for redemption. While God freely provided such redemption in the saving work of Christ, this redemption does not restore us to a level equal with God, but rather only to that of our initial humanity in Adam, who, even as a “perfect” partner with God, was still quite subject to him in the Garden.

That said, I imagine Samuel L. Jackson playing God will sound good (I just wish the word “sucka” was in the Old Testament, because no one says it like Samuel L.)…just as Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of God was amusing in Bruce Almighty…just as Alanis Morissette’s silent (and more feminine) interpretation of God was “interesting” in Dogma.

But let’s not confuse a person with the Person. Nobody’s that good of an actor.

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  1. great thoughts and insights but i tink you miss the real reason why samuel jackson is perfect to play God. he is from chattanooga tennessee, the hub of civilization and the birthplace of all things good and glorious.

  2. Why is Samuel Jackson the perfect person to play God? Pulp Fiction.

  3. You know, Mark, I’ve never made it through that movie. I just didn’t get it or something. I love Samuel L. (and I generally like Travolta), but nothing clicked for me on that one. So, your argument is lost on me. Sorry.

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