The Day the Earth Stood Still is a Sci Fi classic. It certainly is a product of its time with all the camp and cheese one might expect from 1950s sci fi. Once you get past dated elements, it has some deeper ideas and messages packed into it. Are we the masters of this planet, or do we answer to someone else? What if, for just a moment, everything stopped? In the movie it comes in the form of powerful aliens shutting off the world’s electricity for an hour. I’ve had this movie going through my head a lot this week. With everything shutting down due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it feels as though for the first time in recent memory, the world is standing still. As we all wait in our homes for life to return to normal, let’s take a look at what we as Christians can draw from this Cold War classic and our current situation. Are there lessons from the Day the Earth Stood Still and the Coronavirus?
We Are Not the Final Authority
The movie ends with a warning to all of humanity. If they do not stop their nuclear aggression and live in peace with each other, it will mean their total obliteration. Apologies for spoiling a 70-year-old movie. Humanity had to learn the hard way that they are not the final authority. A higher power is watching, and is not pleased with the direction humanity is going in. Today, watching everything shut down can make us feel powerless. Everyone of us is at the mercy of a force of nature. While not a pleasant feeling, it can be good to be reminded of this occasionally. Not to say that this virus is necessarily God’s punishment for humanity. As we think about worldwide politics or climate change, we need to remember that someone greater than us will be the deciding factor. We are called to honor and obey him, but we are not promised peace and control.
We are Easily Frightened
A recurring theme throughout the movie is what people do when they are afraid. The 1950s were a unique time. We had just overcome the largest wars the world had ever seen. Technology and the economy were both booming. Things were stable. All of that can collapse in an instant. Face them with a mysterious alien, or no electricity, and civilization falls into fear and panic in a day. Are we any different? For all our supposed progress and evolution, we still fall into the same habits. When the Coronavirus hit, how long did it take for our selfish human nature to take over? Before things had even progressed to a quarantine, people were panic buying random supplies. One person freaks out, buys a bunch of things they don’t need, which then freaks everyone else out, leading to a bigger and bigger group spiraling out of control.
No matter how much time passes, we cannot hide our sinful nature. We wear a mask of social progress, but once you throw even the slightest weight on us we crumble in fear.
Who Do We Turn To?
As I write this, I feel like a Batman villain, talking about how fragile humans are and how quickly we resort to animal instincts. Instead, I simply want to point us in the right direction. For all the good storytelling found in the movie, its solution is still insufficient. The alien Klaatu tells humanity to be better at the end of a gun. If history and scripture have taught me anything, it’s not to put our hope in humanity improving. We’ve had a lot of time to improve, and not much to show for it. Instead, we need to turn to the one who is the final authority. We need to trust in the one who never frightened. We turn to the God who holds the world in his hands and decides if it stands still or not.
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