Last month I wrote about some interesting comments made by Exodus: Gods and Kings star Christian Bale (below), who plays Moses in the film. At the time, Bale had said of Moses that he was “likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life.”
In recent interviews, Bale has been expounding on those thoughts. In an interview with Nightline, he noted that Moses was
… absolutely seen as a freedom fighter for the Hebrews, but a terrorist in terms of the Egyptian empire.
It’s a valid point, as terror was quite literally the tactic the Abrahamic faiths attribute to Moses’ (and God’s) campaign of pestilences, death, and catastrophe; but, as the story goes, it was a campaign of terror to free an enslaved people. So, as is often the case, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, contingent on perspective; atrocities that in principle are deplored, but in practice can be excused, provided they benefit the side doing the excusing. Or, in this case, are not merely excused, but written into and revered in religious text as examples of the triumphs of God.
It wasn’t the only time Bale would invoke the terrorist analogy, either. During the same interview, he wondered
What would happen to Moses if he arrived today? Drones would be sent out after him, right?
In an interview with The Australian, Bale referenced some of the crueler and more troubling aspects of the Moses story and how they would be handled nowadays. Interviewer Michael Bodey wrote:
He [Bale] describes Moses’s slaughter of 3000 of his own people, some by pouring down their throats the melted gold from the golden calf, as “sadistic in the extreme”. Then he killed prisoners of war but kept virgin girls so they could be used by his soldiers, Bale continues.
“Right, I’m putting him in the International Criminal Court straight away, right?” he notes. “If he hasn’t been taken out by drone strikes immediately.”
This is very similar to the message director Ridley Scott gave Bodey, saying,
In today’s world, he [Moses]’d be pursued by missiles and jets and creamed. Or not. He was very clever, a very good leader.
Bale also acknowledged that the story is regarded by most scholars as fiction or symbolism, and that his interpretation would likely be different was he religious.
… if I had been religious I would be putting a slant on it [the Moses story] instead of just seeing it at face value.
It will be interesting, I think, to see what a “face value” telling looks like, and how the religious community reacts if the religious slant is as limited as Scott and Bale seem to indicate.