Deep Implications

The ads for movie Deep Impact proclaim that "Oceans Rise, Cities Fall, Hope Survives." But if you’ve seen this hot new disaster film, you know that more than hope survives. The film shows that our post-Christian culture still retains a remnant of the biblical narrative. Deep Impact opens with astronomers discovering that a comet the size of Manhattan is hurtling toward Earth. The federal government hides the news while it prepares to deal with what they call an Extinction Level Event. At this point the film uses biblical language and imagery to tell its tale of hope. Astronauts are sent into space to destroy the comet with nuclear devices. The name of their ship? Messiah. In the event the mission fails, the government picks one million people to live in specially prepared caves called "the new Noah’s Ark." Midway through the film, the president of the United States tells the nation that Messiah’s mission has failed. He reminds the people that God answers prayer, although the answer is sometimes "no." And he recites Aaron’s blessing from the Old Testament: "May the Lord bless you and keep you, may He make the light of his countenance shine upon you and may He grant you peace." In the end, God does answer humanity’s prayer: The crew of the Messiah give their lives to save humanity from death. Whatever the producers of Deep Impact may have intended by their biblical imagery, they remind us that the biblical God, through His people, taught the world how to tell stories about hope. Theologian Robert Jensen writes in First Things that it’s because of Christianity that Westerners are able to tell stories that make sense of their lives and the world they inhabit. Outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition, ancient man’s stories bore little resemblance to everyday experience. Their stories were fantastic myths, filled with capricious gods and unrecognizable characters. These stories could not inspire hope, only dread. But the Christian story featured an "omnipotent author," Jensen says—a loving God who made the world for a purpose. What’s more, the characters in these stories were recognizable. The result was that even the modern world learned how to tell stories that make sense of our lives and the world we inhabit. But as the West lost its faith, it began to lose its story—the coherent narrative that made sense of our lives and our deaths. Instead, Jensen writes, man was left with absurd or bleak stories that inspired despair. Deep Impact is a reminder that our ties to the biblical God are not completely gone. Our culture still remembers elements of the story and how it gives us hope. Deep Impact is rated PG-13 for profanity and for the intensity of the subject matter, so I can’t recommend it. Whether we see the film or not, it offers us a wonderful chance to teach our neighbors that what meaning we still find in the world is dependent upon our Christian roots. The producers of Deep Impact probably didn't intend this, but their film offers a reminder that Christians have nothing to fear even if oceans do rise and cities do fall. The God of hope has already told us how the story will finish—and it’s a happy ending.


Chuck Colson


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