Leveraging the marketing possibilities of Easter, television executives unleash a host of bad biblical films around the second week of April which provide a quick study in the decline of Christian culture and, occasionally, real entertainment.

Consider the Feast of the Annunciation. This scene from the Gospel of Luke in which an angel reveals to Mary that she is pregnant with the Son of God was a popular subject for Renaissance and Baroque artists.

Even as late as the nineteenth century, the Feast showed up in the work of a number of Pre-Raphaelite painters. But the scene is botched in most biblical remakes. In the Jesus of Nazareth miniseries, Mary talks to an invisible angel somewhere outside her window and in the recent The Nativity Story a bearded angel with a striking resemblance to the adult Jesus gives a bored Mary the good news.

Proponents of biblical films can point to the success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ. But Gibson’s film is the exception compared to the awful King of Kings and the epic flop The Greatest Story Ever Told where a dour Jesus roams around the American Southwest running into the likes of Jamie Farr, Pat Boone and John Wayne. More recent efforts underscore that the Bible does not adapt as well to the screen as it does to other art forms. One of the worst recent efforts was Noah’s Ark where Jon Voight saves all the drowning animals and F. Murray Abraham plays leader to a bunch of pirates.

Christianity has always been given strong exposure in the arts, but when the art is little more that a cloying attempt to rehash biblical narratives, one wonders about our respect for the narrative in the first place.