On the Church and Society
June 29, 2007
Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood..." --Genesis 6:11-14
Is God not too crazy about families living in suburban homes and riding around in SUVs?
Well, we know that some in Christian circles - the "What Would Jesus Drive?" crowd - have it in for SUVs. Maybe an offshoot could be a "Where Would Jesus Live?" movement targeting the evils of detached single-family dwellings with nice yards.
Who knew such things irritated our Lord? I know I am sinner, but I did not realize that living in my house and driving a Chevy Blazer were to be listed among my sinful acts.
Anti-SUV and anti-suburbia Christians will appreciate the new film "Evan Almighty."
The movie stars Steve Carell as Evan Baxter, who moves on from being a TV anchorman to a seat in Congress. At times, "Evan Almighty" can be funny. It also is generally respectful of faith in God.
For example, Evan's children pray, so he follows suit, awkwardly asking God for help to carry out his campaign promise to change the world.
As it turns out, God (played by Morgan Freeman) wants Evan to build an ark. God is persistent in getting the reluctant Evan onboard. Along the way, there are tidbits that Christians will appreciate.
Evan asks God: "Do I know you?" God responds: "Not as well as I'd like."
Evan's alarm clock goes off each morning at 6:14, and that same number pops up elsewhere. The reference is to Genesis 6:14. For good measure, the "Go-4-Wood" company keeps delivering wood to his home, along with tools from "Alpha and Omega Hardware." Like Noah, Evan has a wife and three sons.
Most important, the message of God acting in our lives out of love is clear, as is the message that God wants us to be kind to others.
A slap at corrupt politicians is thrown in as well, which can be appreciated by many of us.
So, what's not to like? The underlying message unmistakably is that God is not pleased with new suburban homes and SUVs. He shows Evan a stretch of wilderness. Evan wants to know where this is. God reveals that it is where Evan now lives. The vision of the wilderness is transformed into a development of completed and under-construction homes. The message is that God loves the untouched wilderness, and the homes soil his creation.
Once Evan completes the ark, a nearby dam breaks, and washes away these suburban homes and the light trucks in their driveways.
"Evan Almighty" is a movie for those wishing to nudge aside the Good News, at least a bit, in order to push today's environmentalism onto the Lord's agenda. Signaling the green shift at Christianity Today, online reviewer Carolyn Arends positively gushed over the film, proclaiming it ideal for the entire family, and noting that "one of the movie's strengths is the connection it makes between obedience to the Creator and care for his creation. (How did those two concepts ever get divided along party lines?)" Well, in Christian circles, it is not a matter of party division. Indeed, Christianity is not about parties or policy proclamations on suburban homes or SUVs.
More striking was a review at National Review Online by Rebecca Cusey. She wrote: "Although the movie has a hint of environmentalism, involving a story line about development of park lands, it is not the main thrust of the story. Global warming, carbon footprints, and recycling are not the moral. Instead, God at one point shows Evan the valley as He made it, reminiscing fondly about sculpting the mountains and aligning them to maximize the sunshine. He is Creator, in charge over creation." Cusey gets it right on God as the creator, but rather astoundingly misses the moral of "Evan Almighty."
It apparently is beyond the comprehension of the filmmakers - not to mention countless environmentalists and perhaps the aforementioned reviewers - that God might consider families living in homes just as or even more beautiful than a wilderness. God made us in his image, and that most certainly includes as creators as well.
Interestingly, Cusey and Arends both touched the idea that "Evan Almighty" glosses over the harder issues of sin and judgment, as dealt with in the real Noah story. But they miss the filmmaker's points about mankind and the environment. In the Bible, God was washing away corruption and sin. As homes are overwhelmed by the floodwaters and an SUV floats by under water in "Evan Almighty," the parallel is clear. Homes carved out of trees in a valley, with SUVs parked out front, are the equivalent of the corruption and violence spoken of in Genesis.
Though some Christians might like this environmentalist bent, it is not Christian. It is a twisting of the faith that plants seeds of division, and fosters distraction from the true Christian mission of spreading the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Raymond J. Keating, also a columnist with Newsday, is the editor and publisher of the "On the Church & Society Report." This column is from the latest issue of the "On the Church & Society Report," which also features "Road to Rome," "Christian Dangers in Iraq," "President Bush's Stem Cell Veto," "Sacrifice and the Fantastic Four," "Surfing Penguins," and a news roundup on partial-birth abortion, Episcopalians, Anglicans and Lutherans. To receive a free four-issue trial of "On the Church & Society Report," send an e-mail request to ChurchandSociety@aol.com.