Don’t Look Up focuses on two astronomers who recently discovered a comet on a direct course with the planet. Despite this discovery, they are consistently ignored, belittled, and thought to be delusional for warning about the danger. The government, the media, and the wealthy are seen as incompetent and filled with people who prioritize money and power over the fate of the planet. People are depicted as caring more about which celebrity got divorced, what the latest social media trend is, and how to gain affluence, than about a cataclysmic hazard.
The film clearly has an agenda, and in many ways is biased in how it presents climate change. There are also several innuendos towards various conservative individuals and ideas. People and groups with more traditional values sometimes appear to be unbelievably naive and selfish. This is an unfortunate and unnecessary caricature portrayed in the movie, and only takes away from its primary message and storyline. Still, even ignoring this bias, the movie does reveal a frightening depiction of how people, without a proper worldview, can disregard possible dangers and dismiss other humans and their well-being. One of the fundamental underlying issues depicted in the story is a severe lack of care for the planet. The health of creation is sacrificed for personal gain and the future of the environment is ignored for wealth and popularity.
What can Christians learn from this movie as it relates to creation care? It brings up an often-overlooked-but-crucial topic in a biblical worldview: environmental stewardship. Should Christians care about the health of the planet? Can a Christian be an environmentalist, one who cares about the creation and its relationship with humanity? Thankfully, there is no impending comet en route to earth. However, there are pressing environmental issues and ways in which believers can respond in methods that reflect Jesus and show love toward the earth and others.
A Crisis of Allegiance
Most Christians do genuinely care for the environment. If asked if we should just ignore the problems facing creation—whether it is excessive deforestation, abusive treatment of animals, or wasteful uses of resources—the answer would likely be a resounding no. But it is also true that Christians have sometimes been hesitant or even resistant to a “pro-environmental” movement, in large part due to the politicization of the topic. There is a fear that if one advocates for and works toward healthy stewardship of the earth, then he or she is automatically part of a distinct political party. Sandra Richter explains that “somehow environmental advocacy has been pigeonholed into a particular political profile and has become guilty by association.”1 In an effort to distance themselves from political movements with which they disagree, too many Christians have overreacted and lost the important doctrine of environmental stewardship, of supervising and caring for the environment as God’s representatives.
Allegiance for believers is first and foremost to God, who has revealed himself in the person of Jesus and in the pages of Scripture. Richter says, “Christians are first the citizens of heaven, and therefore our alliances and our value system are not defined by American politics. Rather, our value system (aka ‘holiness’) is defined by the Holy One. And as citizens of his kingdom, ultimately there is only one set of politics the Christ follower should be concerned about.”2 If our allegiance to God aligns with more aspects of one party than another, then that will influence the party we tend to support. But often the way of Jesus requires a different posture, a unique perspective, and radically upside-down behavior. And this revolutionary Kingdom-behavior has profound implications for the creation.
Christianity and Creation Care
Thinking well about stewarding the creation does not start with a political party or individual. Instead, for a follower of Jesus, it starts with having a biblical worldview. Creation and stewardship are front and center in the biblical narrative, the story opening with the creation of the entire universe (Genesis 1:1), a universe which God says is very good (Genesis 1:31). This tells us something important in the Christian paradigm: God is the creator of everything and it all belongs to him (Psalm 24:1). Anything we possess is therefore a gift from God. We often fail to live like we believe this is the truth, however.
After creation, God makes humans in his image and gives them what many Christians refer to as the creation mandate. God calls humans to rule over and care for creation, to be fruitful and multiply, to fill and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15). As image-bearers, human beings are the animate representation of God, the embodiment of his sovereignty, and his custodians over this amazing planet.3 Humans, therefore, have the privilege to responsibly manage God’s creation, to cultivate, create, and expand his rule. This mandate to steward is true prior to the fall of humans and continues afterwards. The psalmist says, “You have given [humans] dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under [their] feet” (Psalm 8:6)).
God’s care for creation is apparent throughout the entire biblical narrative. The nation of Israel was given numerous commands by God to help establish longevity for the land and sufficient resources for the poor. 4 There was a posture of rest in production along with a moderate consumption expected by God from his people. This allowed for enabling the land to survive and flourish, and for additional food to be grown and given to the needy. The specific context of Israel compared to our contemporary culture is different, of course, and in each situation this creation mandate will have its unique characteristics. Whatever the context with Israel, God expected his people to steward the creation and prioritize preservation, sustainability, and longevity.
This mandate to cultivate and care for creation holds true for Christians today and moving forwards. Steven Bouma-Prediger explains, “Care for the earth is integral to what it means to be a Christian—it is an important part of our piety, our spirituality, our collective way of being authentically Christian.”5 Unfortunately, environmental degradation often affects those on the margins first, and followers of Jesus are called to defend the marginalized (James 1:27). Contemporarily, this may mean encouraging sustainable land use, humane treatment of animals, composting food and recycling products, supporting proper working conditions for everyone, and considering the effect on the needy in all situations. This is all to fulfill Jesus’s commandment to sacrificially love others (Mark 12:31) and be a light to the world (Matthew 5:14-16).
This is one crucial way in which Christians can stand out compared to so many individuals in the movie Don’t Look Up. Instead of disregarding the danger to the world in pursuit of power, prosperity, and popularity, Christians can showcase the way of Jesus. This radical lifestyle demonstrates proper stewardship of the planet in obedience to God as a way to love others. Lives of compassion, simplicity, and material restraint are foreign far too often today, but allegiance to Jesus requires nothing less. Knowing that everything is created and owned by God, believers can lead the way in creation care by showing what responsible stewardship looks like to a broken and watching world.
*Please note this movie does include some sexual content and profanity.
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