What you may not know about new Purim film

It is one of today’s inter-religious oddities that evangelical Christians number among the staunchest friends of Israel and, professedly, of the Jews. But do they really, really mean it?

We cannot claim to know what is in anyone’s heart. But we are free to judge others by their actions.

In this week’s j. is an advertisement for a new film, “One Night With the King,” a lavish retelling of the Purim story. All your favorites are there: Queen Esther, Mordechai and, of course, wicked Haman. The film opens in 900 theaters nationwide this weekend, including several here in the Bay Area.

What Jewish moviegoers may not know is that the film’s writers and producers are evangelical Christians. In fact, executive producer Matthew Crouch is the son of Paul and Jan Crouch, co-founders of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. TBN is perhaps the world’s most widely seen evangelical television network, and often grants airtime to “messianic Jews” and other missionaries aiming to convert Jews to Christianity.

How that impacted this account of the Megillah is not clear. Not having seen the film, we cannot say whether it, like last year’s Christian-produced “Chronicles of Narnia,” contains any subtle Christian references.

One thing we do know. Some Jewish leaders, like Anti-Defamation League Director Abe Foxman and L.A.-based Rabbi Harvey Fields, saw the film and enjoyed it. If the film can pass muster with them, Jews probably have nothing to fear from it.

But considering the marketing campaign has been geared largely towards churchgoers, it is safe to assume filmmakers felt “One Night With the King” would appeal mostly to the same audience that made Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” a hit. That is, a Christian audience.

We see nothing wrong with this, nor do we think Jews should avoid the film. As with any work of art, the only way to assess it is to experience it.

Many in the Jewish community welcome the friendship of evangelicals. Those Christians speak up for Israel at every turn. They have helped lead the reversal of decades — even centuries — of entrenched anti-Semitism within Protestant and Catholic society.

No matter how you slice it, that is a good thing.

Still, Jews must remain on guard. Films with such a pedigree merit some scrutiny, even if all appears benign.

So before you plunk down your money to see “One Night with the King,” remember who made it and who will pocket the money. Then, if you like, settle in with a bag of popcorn and enjoy the show.