Thursday, April 2, 2009

Jesus Goes to the Movies - WALL-E

I love movies. I love junior highers. And I love Jesus. So once again, I'm talking about cultural discernment with the junior high students in a series called Jesus Goes to the Movies. Students are given a barrage of different messages every day from media and friends. It takes wisdom and discernment to figure out how to navigate through those messages and respond in a Godly way. We talked about if we're like a sponge (absorbing everything), a funnel (rejecting everything), or a strainer (filtering and evaluating everything through a Biblical framework). Sponges are fun, and funnels seem religious and pure, but strainers are the kind of people who take 1 Thessalonians 5 seriously: test everything; hold on to the good; avoid every kind of evil.

So what does WALL-E have to do with Jesus? For starters, the film paints a picture of a human race that has abandoned the earth due to accumulating too much stuff, allowing technology to replace interaction and relationships. Seven hundred years of this has led to people becoming self-absorbed as they live in space on the Axiom, isolated to their hovering chairs with numerous shiny screens, reduced to the equivalent of giant infants, baby fat and all. Yet the little robot WALL-E stirs things up and literally shakes people out of their comfortable seats, allowing them to look outside of themselves for the very first time. (The scene where the woman is surprised about the pool comes to mind). The two people WALL-E shakes up begin to realize that life is better lived in relationship with other people, not relationship with a screen.

The captain of the Axiom also starts begins a paradigm shift--you might even call it repentance--as he declares to the autopilot that he doesn't want to just survive; he wants to live. Life, as he sees it, doesn't consist of sitting around being comfortable and accumulating stuff. True life comes from having a relationship with their home on Earth by working hard to take care of it. This sounds a lot like Genesis: God blessed them and said to them: 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it (Gen 1:26). The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Gen 2:15, emphasis mine). Humanity was meant to fill and subdue and work and take care of the creation God had made and deemed "very good." Humanity was created with a direct relationship not only to God and to each other, but to the rest of creation. When sin entered the picture, it not only messed up our connection with God and with other people, but also our connection to the Earth. Romans puts it this way: The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself would be liberated from its bondage and decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Rom 8:19-21, emphasis mine).

Jesus is not only savior and Lord of people; he is savior and Lord of all creation.

So when the people on the Axiom begin to realize that real life is only worth living when they are truly at home and in relationship with one another, taking care of the earth they've been given responsibility over, things don't quite go as planned. The autopilot tries to prevent them from going home by sealing the container for the plant that will set off the command to send the Axiom speeding back to earth. WALL-E takes himself and literally stands in the gap between the container and the plant, his little robotic body crushed for the sake of the human race on board. Isaiah puts it this way: he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). The savior is crushed and killed for humanity, only to be miraculously resurrected as a reminder that true life is now possible and death has been defeated. We no longer have to live for purchasing meaningless stuff or trying to be as comfortable as possible with our newfound technologies. Instead, we are called to live in a new creation, a new kingdom that will require our greatest efforts and our deepest passions to be revealed, all stemming from a relationship with the Creator and the creation.

So here's the question: do you find your meaning and identity in your stuff or in your relationships? Is having the latest version of the iPod or the trendiest clothes or the biggest car or the nicest TV or sending 3000 text messages per month more important to you than making sure that everyone in the world has adequate food and water, recycling, or being outside in God's creation? Because taking care of the earth--recycling, climate change, hybrid cars, food and water usage, energy, oil, etc.--can't be reduced to political agendas or trendy "go green" fads. Taking care of the earth and one another is spiritual. Let's not become the people on the Axiom and require 700 years to have a wake-up call. Let's not find our meaning and joy in accumulating more stuff and striving for comfort. Let us instead pursue the Divine Creator and strive to live out the kingdom of God here on earth by taking seriously the command to "work [the garden] and take care of it."

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