Thinking through EarthBound

Posted on June 23, 2010 by juliereishus

I graduated from college about six weeks ago, and was thrilled to be done with papers, exams, projects, and school in general. But I’m a learner, so honestly you can’t keep me away from that stuff for long. I just finished watching the DVD series EarthBound. It’s an educational series about creation care, put together to help Christian communities learn about God’s call to care for creation, and figure out their role in doing so. The series is broken up into six different episodes: Created/Called, Here/There, Domination/Dominion, Me/We, Now/Forever, and Enough/Too Much. Each one is a little less than a half hour long, and explores the title topic from three angles. First, each episode raises a problematic issue in the Christian and Western traditions, then explores parts of the Christian tradition that can right these issues and deepen our understanding, and last it shows people and organizations that are doing awesome things to live out God’s call to creation care.

The DVD has a definite educational focus. It was created by a team of institutions and programs in and around the ELCA like Gustavus Adolphus College, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and the Augsburg Center for Faith and Learning. You can hear from some of the best biblical scholars, theologians, pastors, teachers, and lay persons across the Lutheran Church, which to me is pretty cool. I imagine the highly academic, “talking head” nature of the series has potential to bore some people (I wouldn’t choose this for a Friday night movie night). But since the series’ ultimate purpose is to be an educational tool, it does an excellent job of engaging watchers as learners with the capacity to really grapple with and understand the theological basis of our call to relate to the whole of creation.

I won’t shy away from labeling myself as a complete nerd; while watching I filled five pages of a notebook with my notes, and occasionally pulled out lecture outlines from my sophomore year Intro to Theology class in college to make connections, remind myself of some terms and concepts, flag my questions, and try to be a critical learner. There is a lot of compelling information packed into the 157 minutes of video, but for the purpose of this blog I’ll pull out a few ideas that got me excited.

The “Here/There” episode emphasized that salvation is not limited to life after death; God does not want to snatch us off this earth. God and the world are bound up together. It urges us to immerse ourselves in creation as a deliberative faith practice – one that I know I, and many others, find incredibly life-giving. I liked what the “Me/We” episode brought up about the radical individualism that goes along with what it traditionally means to be American. Recently I’ve been learning more and more that there is no such thing as a Christian. One cannot be a Christian by oneself, and the Christian community is not made up of individuals who can say, “My choices are mine alone and don’t affect others.” I was reminded watching “Now/Forever” that God’s timing and our timing are vastly different. Thinking short-term is exhausting! Rather than thinking we are in control of everything, we can trust in God and acknowledge that the vitality of the rest of the world is not ultimately up to us.

I could keep going but want to keep this a quick read, so if you’re interested, you can borrow the DVD from ELCA World Hunger and look for a film discussion guide coming soon in the Books and Media discussion group on the Table. As always, comment with your thoughts because I’d love to have a conversation!

Julie Reishus

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