By Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster
Insurance policies used to be filled with the phrase, “act of God” in referring to catastrophic events that the insurance company would not cover. It’s understandable. There were lots of catastrophes in the Bible attributed to God.
Even today when some natural disaster happens among the first questions might be “Why did God do this?”, or “How could God allow this to happen?” And then you throw in the Pat Robertsons of the world who like to use such disasters as a sign of punishment from God to the people they don’t like, and we have a maze of unanswerable questions or answers that reflect our culture’s penchant for blaming.
So along comes ‘San Andreas,’ another Hollywood epic California earthquake cataclysm that is surprisingly good. The science seems pretty sound. The storyline keeps you engaged in much more than the spectacular special effects, even in 3D.
Don’t let the fact the leading role is played by a former professional wrestler, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, keep you away from this film. He was quite good. Carla Gugino plays the estranged wife and their daughter, played by Alexandra Daddario, are both powerful women responding to crises both natural, human and familial. And all the talk of seismic shifts and tectonic plates is handled deftly and believably by Paul Giamatti.
There will be the inevitable comparison to ‘Earthquake’ made in 1974 with Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, Genevieve Bujold and their triangle of love in that story. Somehow what director Brad Peyton offers up in ‘San Andreas’ is more believable. What San Andreas doesn’t have in an all-star cast of Hollywood big names as in ‘Earthquake’ it makes up for in very realistic special effects. Even the 3D version didn’t pander to the audience wearing the magic glasses. There were few gratuitous scenes just for 3D consumption. It was a good movie enhanced by 3D.
Two things come to mind for the audience of faith. In the Hebrew scriptures the author of 1 Kings writes, “Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)
Something similar was said in the wake of the 2011 New Zealand earthquake that seriously damaged the Anglican cathedral in Christchurch. God is not in the earthquake, said a clergy member of the cathedral staff. God is in how we respond to this trying time.
The earth is God’s creation. It’s alive. It moves. Spits lava in places. Floods, tornados, and hurricanes are all part of it. How we choose to live with and in God’s creation, that’s our task.
Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, we both grew up in Southern California. They blog about films and faith atFaith Reels.