Brian Webb is the newest staff member of Care of Creation, and serves as the Director of Climate Caretakers, a global campaign dedicated to mobilizing Christians to pray and act on climate change. He also works as the Sustainability Coordinator at Houghton College in western NY where he lives with his wife and three kids. This post first appeared on the Climate Caretaker’s website.
I recently had the opportunity to pre-screen a wonderful, new movie coming out in select theaters on September 4. “Chloe and Theo” is a beautiful film with an inspiringly simple message that couldn’t be more relevant for our consumer-driven culture.Theo, a thoroughly unassuming Inuk man from a remote Arctic village, is sent by his people to the “elders of the south” in order to share about the devastating impact that his people face from a changing climate. While aimlessly wandering the streets of New York, Theo gets taken in by a fiery homeless woman named Chloe (played by Dakota Johnson) who becomes captivated by the innocence and purpose of his quest. Together with a small, eclectic group of friends they set out to find an audience for his message.
“Chloe and Theo” paints a beautiful picture of friendship and redemption, but the power of the film lies in its rebuke of a modern throwaway culture that champions convenience and comfort over justice and relationship. This film goes directly to the root of the climate crisis by highlighting how consumerism, greed, and shortsightedness have destroyed our ability to understand our connection to the natural world.
“Your leaders don’t have the power to change anything,” Theo tells one of his friends. “What can your leaders do about your nature, when it is so corrupted that you live each day based on consuming, devouring, and wasting?”
This critique cuts to the heart of nearly all modern environmental and humanitarian problems. Sin. In this respect Theo seems to echo Jesus’ excoriation of the elders in Matthew 23, “but you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness.” Could it be that our pursuit of more has blinded us to our own spiritual apathy and discontentment? Has our selfishness made it impossible to achieve justice for our neighbors? Does our ambition overwhelm us with problems so distracting that we have forgotten who we are, and whose we are?
In the meantime, we continue to be oblivious to the real world impacts of our decisions. Our actions do have consequences, and those results are not always fair and just for all, including for the real-life Theo Ikummaqs, whose story inspired the film.
Theo reminds us; “we have a responsibility to look after what we’ve been given. But far too often wehave been taking and not giving back.”
Ultimately, Theo’s message gets out in an unexpected manner with a bittersweet picture of redemption at the end. The viewer, however, is left to grapple with uncertainty. How will we respond? Will Theo’s people be saved? What will we do with the world we’ve been given?