“2012” a theological disaster?

Theologians began predicting the end of the world long before Hollywood did, so it’s not surprising that “2012,” the latest disaster blockbuster, contains more than a few religious images and references. But does Roland Emmerich’s box-office hit also qualify as a theological disaster? Several faith-based reviewers are raising interesting questions about the movie’s religious implications.

A review by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was disappointed by the film’s “theological glibness . . . despite a plethora of religious imagery and references to faith and prayer.” ,”What’s genuinely disturbing about this disaster movie to end all disaster movies — even taken as a popcorn flick engineered solely to entertain — is the almost sadistic way (direct) Emmerich and his computer-generated special-effects wizards kill off billions of people.”

A review on Focus on the Family’s pluggedin.com is equally troubled by circus-style attentiveness to carnage, but appreciative of numerous Christian references: two characters singing the old Christian hymn “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” another character reciting the opening of the 23rd Psalm, and several faith-based nods to the prospect of life beyond this world. This reviewer also liked the emphasis on family bonds, and “the characters’ willingness to sacrifice themselves to save others.”

A review by Christianity Today wonders why Christians — and Catholics in particular — seemed to bear the brunt of Emmerich’s wrath: The movie shows both St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the towering Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio being destroyed, but no Islamic or Jewish sacred landmarks. A Tibetan monk is among the survivors, but “the only Christian clergy shown are the Catholic prelates who die at St. Peter’s . . . If Emmerich is going to specifically show the Vatican leadership going down with St. Peter’s, I want to see Catholic (and/or Orthodox) bishops among the survivors–somewhere on the planet.”