"Behold the Earth" is a documentary that explores Americans' estrangement to the outdoors and encourages churches to be better stewards of the environment.
Released Oct. 2, the David Conover-directed movie features conversations with scientists E.O. Wilson, Cal DeWitt and Theo Colborn, along with Creation Care activists.
"Behold The Earth" uses scriptures to engage the scientists in the film who discuss everything from God's designed purpose for the Earth to weather trends and natural disasters.
The film, conceived and directed by Conover, was a 12-year endeavor that began with his desire to immerse his children in understanding humanity's relationship with nature.
Below is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with Conover where he shares what he discovered while on his 12-year endeavor to make "Behold the Earth."
CP: Can you tell us about "Behold the Earth" and why you wanted to share this message with Christians?
Conover: There are plenty of films about people's destructive impact in the outdoors. But before starting this film, I hadn't heard much about the Creation Care movement within Christianity, about the good work of people like Cal DeWitt, Ben Lowe, or Corina Newsome.
I hadn't appreciated their understanding of the word "behold" or the Bible's strong encouragement to be stewards, starting right there on Page 2 (Genesis 2:15): "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to till it and to keep it." I wanted to make a well-shot film with these people — and others like Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist E.O. Wilson — who notice and care about this amazing and beautiful Creation.
The film also contains forgotten tunes from the days of the Great Revival when people sang together outdoors in large groups, adapted for banjo and fiddle by the Grammy Award-winning musicians in the film. This music is joyful, sung with gratitude, and with a recognition of realities much larger than ourselves.
CP: Why is it important for science and religion to coexist?
Conover: The people I talked with in the film might answer this question in a variety of ways, but the commonalities are that religion and science are two of the most powerful realms of knowing and understanding our world in America today.
Our woods and waters and prairies are changing very fast. It's not the same environment any of us older than 50 grew up in. Ben Lowe, who's featured in the film, is the founder of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action and at age 30, he's a lot younger than I am. He puts it simply: When it comes to caring for Creation ... "I can't practice this virtue (as part of his religious life) without skill (what science is telling him about the climate)."
CP: As technology advances do you think it's hindering people from "beholding" the beauty of God's Creation?
Conover: Technology has a certain beauty to it, I admit. I make movies. But there's so much more enduring beauty slowly unfolding outdoors. Our movies and technology are just the "smoke and mirrors," so to speak. They depend on the real "fire" burning out there — the range of life and landscapes, and day and night, and autumn and spring that is the Creation.
Corina Newsome is a 26-year-old African-American in the film and an animal ambassador at the Nashville Zoo. She describes her beholding of Creation: "as I looked closer I didn't see less of God, I saw more of God." I read somewhere that an average person looks at his or her smartphone at least 80 times a day. That's 80 times each day that we're looking away from what's out there. I get very uneasy when I'm living too much in these screen rectangles, while the world is "happening" all around me.
CP: Some people don't believe in global warming but the scientists in the film talk about it extensively. Should people be concerned about it?
Conover: I am not a scientist. But Cal DeWitt is the professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin and a leader in the Creation Care movement. In the film, he says science and its findings are not "beliefs." He describes science as a very disciplined way of asking questions. Findings emerge slowly, scientific paper by paper. Each is criticized by many different people who don't know each other. Each is tested in the world. If any finding is shown to be inaccurate, a new question replaces the old one.
Over time, in this way, we have come to know how the activities of people are polluting the planet. The scientists in the film talk about this a great deal. They also talk about the 30 years of science behind the near-consensus showing how Earth's climate is changing. This is not opinion. It is extremely probable that the farmland, rivers, seashores, and cities where our great-grandparents grew up will have changed quite a bit by the time our great-great-grandchildren arrive.
The challenges of these changes will be much worse for the poor than for the rich. We're not doing a good job of tending and keeping the garden. We have to change how we live and work in these places and these changes will be very expensive. We should be concerned.
CP: How can we inspire the next generation and those that follow to take a greater interest in nature?
Conover: I think that the urgencies of environmental issues are already solidly on the life paths of many youth. They've grown up and seen these urgencies left, right and center.
But Christian youth don't hear their elders talking much about them in church. Ben Lowe's favorite subject in school was biology. Yet he told me that he never heard a sermon about why we should care about Creation. He feels church leadership could do more to speak to the issues on the minds of youth. Friends of his have left the church because it did not speak to the issues that God placed on their minds.
According to Cal DeWitt, Corina Newsome, and Ben, Christians should live according to Scripture and be caring stewards of Creation. Stewardship requires knowing how Creation works, so getting to know and care about the Creation is getting to know and care about God.
CP: In making the film, what did you discover in Scripture about Creation?
Conover: I am a conservationist and have often wondered why many Christians in America are not as engaged with issues of conservation as Christians seem to be in other parts of the world. I've also wondered why more scientists don't feel a moral obligation to act on the basis of their findings.
We need a broad and deep reset of our responsibilities to be stewards in America. That is starting to happen on many fronts. I think the reset requires that we revisit our oldest and most enduring words and music and values. The Bible is essential reading, for Christians and for non-believers alike, and making this film significantly deepened my appreciation for Scripture.
CP: What was something that you were surprised to learn about while working on "Behold the Earth"?
Conover: I never knew that thousands of people collected in the town of Hope, Maine, and other places in the Northeast on summer weekends in the 1800s to sing outdoors, as part of the Great Revival movements of the day. They sang from Psalm 104, "Behold the lilies of the field. Behold the birds of the air." They sang "Joy to the World" (written in the 1700s by Issac Watts, not as a Christmas song) — "Joy to the Earth, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ, While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains, Repeat the sounding joy! Repeat the sounding joy! Repeat . . . repeat . . . the sounding joy!"
Before making this film, I don't think I thought much about the word "behold." And if I had, I would probably have said to you that the word was archaic, irrelevant, and from another era. Today, few words feel more relevant to me, across all the roles of my life: as a filmmaker, as a parent, and as an American citizen. I encourage people to screen "Behold the Earth," in your church or school or family. The film can be found on iTunes or wherever you download your movies.
For more information visit Behold the Earth.com.