50 Years Too Late

I came to value Creation Care 50 years too late.

When Fledge Fiamingo started Son Safaris I got involved, frankly, because of Fledge, rather than out of any great zeal for God’s creation. I am indebted to Son Safaris for drawing me into a deeper appreciation of creation and my place in it. That motivated me to try to understand and obey God’s mandate in Genesis 1:28(NIV):

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Rhino getting a GPS Collar

God created humans in His image as his representatives on earth to “rule over” the rest of creation. Rule implies lordship but not exploitation. As God’s representatives, we must rule His subjects, as He does: for their own good.

We have the right to use the world’s resources but have no right to abuse what God has created. This Biblical principle has made me ask why we humans behave in ways that are harmful to ourselves and to the environment.  Understanding why we engage in such aberrant behavior toward God’s creation is key to helping us change our behavior.

Do we practice behaviors harmful to the environment because we aren’t aware of the negative impact our actions have?  If so, then education and increased public awareness should stop our harmful behavior. How has that worked out? Not very well. We’ve pumped massive amounts of environmental facts into our school curicula, TV shows, movies, and social media without seeing proportionate behavioral changes.

So, what will it take to get us to change from creation destruction to creation care? Facts alone are not enough. They must be effectively paired with our individual values, motivations and convictions to effect the desired behavioral changes.

Faith based environment groups are critical to this process since more than 80% of all humans identify as persons of Faith. Faith influences not just our beliefs, but our understanding of the world and our preferences toward it. Our faith reinforces our behavior or provides the motivation to change it. Our faith provides a moral framework for both our individual behavior and our social interactions.

I am a faith-based person, but I am not a Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist. I am a Christian. So going forward I will speak not just as a faith based person but specifically as a Christian.

Christian Creation Care groups can be a powerful tool for producing a more sustainable world. How? By leading by example. Sociological studies show that when Christians set specific goals based on their faith, they monitor themselves and are more disciplined in meeting them than non faith based people. Balancing meeting human needs with protecting natural resources is the key to a sustainable future . Achieving this balance will require a massive shift in attitude and behavior. I believe earth scientists and activists need what Christian and other faith based groups bring to the table in order to accomplish attitudinal and behavioral changes at the scale required.

Christian groups like Son Safaris and environmental groups like the Welgevonden Research Camp can cooperate because they both hold a similar view of how humanity fits in the context of the larger world. Both groups see humans as part of and yet separate from the rest of the environment. Both Christian and environmental groups agree that we humans are biological components of our world and therefore the well-being of our ecosystem is directly affected by our behavor. Both groups believe that when we ignore our connection to the Creation we end up destroying both ourselves and the Earth. 

I believe the common ground between Christians and conservationists is the belief that sustainability begins with letting go of our own self-importance and awakening to our kinship with all of creation. 

Christians value nature, as seen in the Biblical concepts of stewardship of creation and compassion for all life. This common ground is what allows us to work with environmental groups and wildlife reserves. Together we are stronger than we are apart. Together we not only motivate but validate earth friendly behavioral,

Being part of Son Safaris for more than 10 years has taught me that Christians and conservationists are not at odds with one another. On the contrary, we each make the other more aware that we are all in this together—with the same goal: to stop the abuse of God’s creation.

I came to value Creation Care 50 years too late. What about you?

Raiders of the Ark: A Review of “Noah”

Let me get this off my chest – “Noah” is a blockbuster film which is in no way the straightforward biblical epic that its trailers would suggest. I am not referring so much to what is added to the story (which is a lot!) as to significant things left out of it. Like these two biggies:
Gone is a loving God who gives clear and direct revelation in order to save the human race; in His place is a distant, petty, and silent Creator.
Gone is a prophet who preaches repentance in a desperate attempt to save humanity; in his place is an environmentalist who wouldn’t hurt a fly but considers killing babies out of a belief that the human race doesn’t deserve to continue.

It seemed to me that at almost every turn, “Noah” took whatever the Bible account said and did the opposite.

“But what did you expect?” some may counter, “after all it is a theatrical release big budget movie.” Fair enough. Theology aside, “Noah” fails as entertainment due largely to its preachiness about the environment. While much of the acting is superb the film’s tone is all over the place. It simply can’t decide what it wants to be. Early on the film plays like a mythological fantasy a-la Lord of the Rings, with fallen angel rock monsters, snake-dogs, and wizard-like magic dominating the scene. It gradually morphs into an action film, then morphs again into disaster epic, before settling on psychological thriller by having the character of Noah become more Jack Nicholson in The Shining than righteous prophet . Some films skillfully straddle the line between genres. This isn’t one of them.

There were things I liked about “Noah”. It had striking visuals and the sets, wardrobe design, and cast are impressive. I was very impressed with the full size ark used as a set.

Theology aside “Noah” committed the cardinal sin of failing to make me care about its characters. Let me explain. Noah is a complex protagonist and his moral dilemmas were well-defined, but I couldn’t connect with him. It’s not Russell Crowe’s fault; he’s a phenomenal actor, one of my favorites, and he is a true profession who delivers exactly what the script calls for (I think I just identified my connection problem). To me the supporting characters are underwritten, underdeveloped, and mostly one-dimensional. Much of the dialogue is melodramatic and heavy-handed (the kind that often elicits unintentional laughter). I can sum up all of the antagonist Tubel-Cain’s dialogue in three phrases: “Kill monsters, kill Noah, take Ark”. The story is just too dark and disturbing for the few worthwhile moments to leave a lasting impression or for scenes of real impact to shine through.

The biblical story of Noah is a story of redemption, of the remnant being saved from destruction, as it is about the wrath of God. The film “Noah” does finally arrive at a redemptive message: mercy and love are as important as justice, and the human race deserves a second chance. Those are beautiful principles, ones worth crafting a story around.

But “Noah” got there too little, too late to redeem itself.