Live Your Faith from The Perspective of the End

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Marc Rastoin, SJ

 Marc Rastoin, SJ / People / 20 December 2019


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The seriousness of the ecological crisis that the planet is experiencing stimulates the creativity of authors and screenwriters, and pushes our thinkers and philosophers to decisively address the issues it raises. There is nothing new about the prospect of a probable end of humanity at a more or less distant moment in time. It will be remembered that the danger associated with the atomic bomb aroused a deep collective fear, especially in the 1960s.

While this fear has not yet completely disappeared, it has nevertheless been replaced by the prospect of a much slower but also more certain end. Yet the anxieties that this perspective provokes do not have a lesser impact on the collective psyche. How can we continue to hope in the future of humanity? Is it reasonable to hope for decisive action by political leaders and for the practical effectiveness of a collective and global awareness of the changes needed? Will humanity be capable of a profound conversion of its ways of life? What role can the Christian faith play in the future? How can the hope that this faith has always brought, even in times of catastrophe and great desolation, be translated into the concrete life of those who profess it?

‘First Reformed – Creation at Risk’

We would like to give some elements of a response by considering a film and a book. The film is First Reformed – Creation at Risk and was released in the United States in 2017. The book is Le Mal qui vient (The Evil That is Coming) and was published in France in 2018. Even if their authors come from very different cultural and intellectual contexts, they still share common questions, in particular about the consequences of a birthrate in a world whose horizon seems to be becoming increasingly dark. In fact, a form of radical Malthusianism in ecological and ethical guises is spreading among Western urban youth, and those who believe there is a need to give a response that is both reasonable and evangelical.

Paul Schrader, the director of First Reformed – Creation at Risk, is well known in the United States for writing the script for Taxi Driver (1976). Although he is essentially a screenwriter, since 1978 he has also worked as a director. First Reformed – Creation at Risk is his 22nd film. Schrader is also known for having published in 1972 a work that was appreciated by film critics: Transcendental Style in Cinema: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer.

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