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Noah Poster

Links: Part One, Part Two

Let’s start by briefly outlining the film’s plot:

  1. Noah (Russell Crowe) learns through a dream vision that the Creator is going to destroy the world with water.
  2. He discerns that while the flood cannot be escaped, it “can be survived;” so he and his family get to work on building an ark to save “the innocents” — that is, the animals…who, in the words of young Ila, still “do as they did in the garden (of Eden).”
  3. Noah eventually realizes that the same evil that is in the Sons of Cain, who have spoiled the earth, is dormant in him and his family as well; from this, he deduces that his family’s mission is to save what is left of creation and then die out so that God can begin anew…without humanity.

Let’s stop here for a moment.  Keeping in mind that Noah and his family are kept alive after the Flood, to give not only the world but also humanity a new beginning, we nevertheless do sense an echo of some modern environmentalist modes of thought.  There are those who say that in order to avert impending environmental crises, we must of necessity limit the growth of the human population (via contraception, for example), and in some cases even snuff it out (via abortion, for example).

Whatever the case, the bottom line of this kind of thinking is that mankind is the enemy of creation; and if this enemy doesn’t need to be destroyed, it must at least be crippled.

NaamehIronically, it is the woman of the family who argues against this impulse in “Noah.”  Noah’s wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), urges her husband to see that in spite of the corruption that is undeniably present, there is good to be found in humanity.

I call this ironic because the aforementioned environmentalist approach is often associated with the feminine, while the more pro-human approach is associated with the dominating, conquering masculine principle.  “Noah” reverses the situation entirely, giving the family patriarch the “man-must-die-so-nature-can-survive” initiative.

noah8As counter-intuitive as this might appear, it makes sense; in fact, it’s not really counter-intuitive.  A mother loves her children, and the lives of her children, like no one else can.  A mother’s heart, more than any other, will see the good in her children and fuel zeal for their preservation and flourishing.

Pope BenedictPope Emeritus Benedict XVI often spoke of a “human ecology,” noting that an imbalance in the environment always conduces to the harm of humankind (we can see that, for instance, in that way that certain pollutants affect the health of children with asthma).  And, as we observed in part two, humankind’s failure to flourish negatively impacts the rest of creation.  So it’s not an either-or scenario — it is simply a matter of knowing where things stand in the order of creation.

In a sense, Noah’s first impulse (as depicted in Darren Aronofsky’s film) was right: Man must die if things are to be made right.  But this is not a death of annihilation, nor even primarily of the natural death we all must face.  Rather, as I have argued elsewhere, we must learn to deny the satisfaction of our selfish desires and learn to live for God and neighbor…and, in that context, to be good stewards of the world God has given us.

Christ Crucified by Velazquez

Indeed, our model for this way of living must be no less that Jesus Christ Himself, after the pattern of His complete self-offering on the cross.  And that leads us naturally into our next, and final, topic in reflecting on “Noah.”  Stay tuned.

All “Noah” images obtained through a Google image search; images of Pope Benedict XVI and Christ crucified from Wikipedia

 

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Noah2014Poster

Note: If you are interested in reading part one, click here

In his great book — which I have referenced before, and which I highly encourage people to read — “Love is Stronger Than Death,” Peter Kreeft makes the following observation about modern man’s scientific/technological dream:

The (immortality) Pill will be the fulfillment of one of our deepest and darkest dreams, the Oedipus complex.  Now we will be able to kill our father (God), and marry our mother (earth).  For without death, and with an earthly technological paradise (. . .) (w)e can now return with our phallic power of technology into our birth canal.”

Neither I nor Kreeft are suggesting that modern technology is bad.  But our technological pride and idolatry of “progress” has led to a certain rape of nature.

Original Sin

What we tend to forget, however, is that this is merely one manifestation of a phenomenon that has been going on since the beginning of human history.  When the first human beings defied God and thus fell from grace, they brought a curse upon the earth.

The harmony in which (our first parents) had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”.  (CCC 400 — bold added)

The Bible is very clear that humankind has dominion over the earth.  But this is not, was never, and never will be a dominion of selfish use.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:

Animals (. . .) plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.

Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.

God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image.

(CCC 2415-2417 — bold added)

Ray WinstoneDarren Aronofsky, co-writer/director of “Noah,” gives us a key example of the opposite impulse — the one given rise to by the Fall of Adam and Eve — in Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone).  At one point, we see him grabbing a live animal and biting off its head; he defends his action by saying that God put mankind at the top of creation, and therefore all other creatures on this earth serve man.

The implication is that as masters, we can do whatever we want with the rest of creation, no matter the cost to it.

Noah_Steward

But again, this is not the Divine directive.  The true nature of man’s dominion over the earth is more clearly reflected in the lives of Noah (Russell Crowe) and his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly).  Their family takes on the role of stewards, or caretakers, of God’s creation.  They use only what they need, and they devote themselves to tending the earth and its creatures as they would the Garden of Eden.

Why am I talking about all of this?  Believe it or not, it’s not because today is Earth Day.  The timing of this post is fitting, but purely coincidental (at least as far as my intentions go; I can’t say that God did not, in His providence, have something to do with it).  Many Christians took issue with “Noah,” labeling it vegan propaganda and a mistreatment of God’s Word by imposing modern environmentalist ideas onto it.

I hope, however, that I have demonstrated the film’s portrayal of concern for creation to be, in fact, perfectly Biblical and authentically Christian.

If not…

Jrrt_lotr_cover_design …take a look at J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”…

Chronicles of Narnia…or at C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia.”

Tolkien and Lewis were both deeply Christian and very much immersed in the Biblical worldview.  They saw the connection we have been exploring very clearly, and it comes across powerfully in their work.

Let’s end with a bottom line that goes back to the Kreeft quote: Sin is about making ourselves God; when we make ourselves God, we become selfish and domineering; when we become selfish and domineering, our fellow human beings and the world entrusted to our care suffer.

I do have a little bit more to say about this subject in relation to the movie “Noah.”  But in the interest of a certain kind of “stewardship” over my readers’ eyes and patience, I’ll wait ’till next time.

All “Noah” images other than film poster obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia

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