Not much is known about the new film “Mother!” Director Darren Aronofsky has remained silent about many of the details, but he has released a disturbing poem that twists the Lord’s Prayer.
“Our mother who art underfoot, hallowed be thy names, thy seasons come, thy will be done, within us as around us, thank you for our daily bread, our water, our air, and our lives and so much beauty; lead us not into selfish craving and the destructions that are the hungers of the glutted, but deliver us from wonton consumption of thy vast but finite bounty, for thine is the only sphere of life we know, and the power and the glory, forever and ever, amen.”
— darren aronofsky (@DarrenAronofsky) August 30, 2017
This parallels but subverts the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9-13: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
This is no mere verse of scripture. For Christians, the Lord’s Prayer is God’s definitive instruction in how believers are to pray. Millions of Christians memorize the prayer, and Roman Catholics use it as penance for sins. Most churches pray the Lord’s Prayer once per service.
The poem from the “Mother!” movie recasts mother nature in the role of God, redefining various things. The transcendence of God — whose will is done in heaven — is contrasted with the immanence of nature, whose seasons are “around us.” Sin is defined only in terms of “selfish craving,” the “hungers of the glutted,” and “wanton consumption.”
The biggest problem with the prayer comes at the end, when the poem gives mother earth “the power and the glory, forever and ever.” Make no mistake, this is nature worship.
“Mother” is a horror film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Jennifer Lawrence (whom Aronofsky is dating) and Javier Bardem. Lawrence and Bardem play a married couple living alone in a remote mansion, until they are mysteriously joined by another couple (Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris), who annoy Lawrence and bring some sort of evil.
If the “Mother’s Prayer” is a dark, cultish expression of the villains, it might be acceptable from a Christian standpoint. In a Wednesday interview with HuffPost, however, Aronofsky suggested that the “Judeo-Christian stuff” is more of a setting to portray more environmental ideas.
“There’s the Judeo-Christian stuff, but that was really more of a structural thing,” Aronofsky said. “For me, it was about telling the story of Mother Nature and giving the audience this subjective experience of what it was like to be the giver of life.”
In the movie, the director said he attempted to “reduce this global experience we’re all having on this planet and turn it into a single home. Because throwing out a piece of trash in the streets of Manhattan — you just would never do that in your home. That’s a think you learn in kindergarten. But once it’s in your own home, you can relate to it.”
While Christians are called to be good stewards of the environment, it is important never to elevate “Mother Nature” to the level of “Father God.” This poem explicitly does that, and it is a dangerous subversion not only of the natural order of things, but also of the right priorities of human beings, from a Christian perspective.
According to Genesis, the earth is actually in rebellion against human beings, who were told to subdue it and to obey God. If humans elevate earth to the level of God, they are flipping the universe on its head.
Furthermore, nature is not all roses. In every beautiful environment there are unique dangers — wildfire and flooding in the mountains, hurricanes by the beaches, jaguars in the jungle, and the ever-present threats of hunger and disease. Only in a technologically advanced society could humans look back on nature with nostalgia.
For the ancestors, nature was about survival, from one day to the next, and they could not separate the beauty of the trees from the predators who stalked among them.
Nature is a fine thing to enjoy, but a foolish thing to worship. Recycling is a good ethic, but it’s not a spiritual exercise.
Even if “Mother!” involves idolizing nature, it might encourage more Americans to see where the ideas for the movie came from. Aronofsky has said he took inspiration from Genesis and Revelation. Matthew was clearly involved as well. Perhaps Americans would be well-served in returning to those ancient texts. God willing, they may find more Spirit there than in the most beautiful landscape.
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