12/30/2014 02:45 pm ET Updated Feb 28, 2015

Why Religious People Should Pay Attention to 'The Interview' Debacle

I've wondered whether Seth Rogan, as Aaron Rapoport, made a jab at the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, precisely to see how the world would react. They had to know that it was somewhat risky to depict the assassination of a standing leader, even though it is "just a comedy." And it was risky because it offends North Koreans, in general, and by depicting such an event one could argue that it puts the idea in people's minds.

What I have heard from others, since I have not yet seen it myself, is that the movie is "freshmanic" in its level of humor, and the viewer is not being brainwashed into trying to assassinate Kim Jong-un. It is through and through a comedy and the concern regarding the political implications was blown out of proportion.

Here is why I think "religious" people should be paying attention, though. The Interview is just one movie that will most likely pass out of our collective cultural consciousness within a couple of years. But sacred texts, and I deal primarily with the Biblical ones, are read regularly: weekly, sometimes daily, in groups and by individuals. The ideas contained in these writings, though not typically being projected onto a 50-foot screen, do take hold in the psyche and shape the world view of the people who read them. They do inform how people behave, on a regular basis.

If North Korea can somewhat understandably raise a flag concerning what people might do after viewing The Interview, why are people not more concerned about the ideas put forth within the biblical stories?

I would say this even if Exodus: Gods and Kings had not just been released. But this example helps to prove my point.

The issue of the white- or blackness of the actors chosen for the movie has been well-raised already, and the trailer alone makes it clear there was serious creative license employed in making this "free the oppressed!" story something epic enough to make it a Hollywood blockbuster. The part relevant to my point is that the movie is banned in Egypt and Morocco because of historical inaccuracies and its allegedly Zionist perspective.

I am not surprised or offended by historical inaccuracies, since the Bible is not a history book. It is a book full of stories that define a group of people and shape their newly formed monotheistic belief system. On the charge of Zionist elements, we should expect it, since that is what we find in much of the first testament of the Bible. Exodus is banned in Egypt, in part, to avoid hurting feelings. But the hurt feelings would come from elements that are found in the Bible.

It is perhaps appropriate to note that there was a similar backlash for Jews in the third century BCE who were trying to immigrate to Egypt. The way Egyptians are portrayed and demolished by the God of the Jews in the story of Exodus apparently just did not sit well with Egyptians, then as now. Can you blame them?

The implications of the story of Exodus, whether as it is found in the Bible or on the big screen, are important for international relations today. But please keep in mind that there are plenty of other biblical stories and commands that tell people to think in terms of "us and them." This does not play well in the sandbox of life. There are many stories that take violence or threatening people into submission for granted (which I discuss further in my forthcoming book, Permission Granted: Take the Bible into Your Own Hands). I would like to think that we are in touch with why this approach to relationships does not work well, in general, whether it is between humans or human-to-God relations. But this mindset or world view is found throughout the Bible, and thus people reading it are being taught to think that way.

There is a reason to want to be clear that The Interview is just for comic relief. But the stories within the Bible are taken quite seriously, by millions of people. I think it is time, especially for people who read it regularly, to openly discuss the violent and enemy-creating elements of the biblical tradition.