Film Review: An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

On Tuesday afternoon I went to see the new documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, which is nothing more than the film version of Al Gore's now-famous lecture on global warming. The timing of this film could not be better. With the 2008 election approaching fast, conservatives will no doubt peg this film as Gore's final attempt to rejuvenate support for a potential presidential bid. Whether or not this is true—and I suspect that it is not, based on Gore's own testimonies—has no bearing on the film itself. In the final analysis, the documentary is not about Al Gore but about humanity and the world in which we currently live. An Inconvenient Truth is about us.

As a documentary that brings to life a lecture by a person most people consider to be "boring," An Inconvenient Truth is surprisingly gripping. For the average American who would prefer to be bombarded by CGI and explosions, the latest Pirates film is preferable. But for the responsible person who wishes to learn, to be provoked, to think, to ponder, and to discuss, one cannot do much better than this film. Gore's documentary will make one think in ways that rarely happen at the cinemas these days. And for those who believe that we must be stewards of the earth, I can safely say that An Inconvenient Truth is the most important film of the year.

Gore is not boring; he is convicting. His lecture is not impersonal information which has no direct bearing on our lives. Global warming as he presents it has everything to do with how we live in this world. The "inconvenient truth" is the truth about us: that we are causing radical damage to this planet, and the consequences could be apocalyptic. This is no scare tactic, not like the rhetoric we heard from President Bush when he was trying to convince us that our very well-being depended upon ousting Saddam Hussein from Iraq. Nor is this just some "liberal" ideology in a friendly package and projected on the big screen to corrupt our minds. No, the "inconvenient truth" about global warming is precisely that, a truth which we would rather not hear because it would demand a change in the way we live. The message about global warming is no longer speculation; it is fact, and we characterize it as fiction only to avoid the hard reality of altering our destructive habits. As Gore himself states repeatedly, global warming is not a political but a moral issue. The question is no longer what is true or false, but rather what is right and what is wrong.

An Inconvenient Truth is a movie that all Christians should see. I do not hesitate to state openly that this film resonates deeply with the gospel. The message of the church is that our lives are not our own; this world and its creatures are not ours to manipulate and exploit. We belong to God, and our loyalty is to the Creator of heaven and earth. Out of this arises God's call for us to live obedient lives in which we love others as ourselves. God has ordained a moral framework in which actions have consequences and choices have ramifications. But we are not the master of those consequences; God is always the Lord over us. The gospel proclaims God's abundant and overflowing grace, but at the same we hear the call to discipleship. We are called to follow the way of the cross, to die to ourselves and become "slaves to righteousness." God beckons us to follow the via crucis, but God promises in the end life everlasting.

What does this have to do with global warming? Global warming is, as the film's poster declares, a "global warning." We have exploited and marred this planet for our selfish gain, and we will reap the consequences. If the gospel and the call to discipleship cannot compel us, then perhaps science and the possibility of disaster will—though that is not likely. Al Gore may not realize it, but he is one of the few people functioning as one of our modern-day prophets. Hebrew prophets like Amos and Jeremiah were harbingers of the "day of the LORD," the impending judgment that awaits us. I do not wish to ignore the fact that Jesus Christ has taken this judgment upon himself, but we must never let the Yes of the gospel silence the No of God's judgment. And it is this No which I believe the church needs to hear today with greater clarity than ever before—a No against our flagrant rejection of stewardship and responsible living in community. Not a No apart from the Yes, but a No within the Yes. A No that declares the via crucis with greater force and prophetic power, but also a Yes that declares the resurrection of the dead and the life to come. Al Gore, however, should not be the leader of this prophetic voice; the church should be the loudest proclaimer, the most visible voice decrying the way the First World lives. Global warming, like all environmental issues, has its ground in the doctrine of creation, and thus it is most properly a concern for the church.

We are living in a very difficult time. Our world is heading toward an unknown future, and many people may die (and perhaps have died) as a result of what we have done to this planet. But even if that does not happen, we must let the "inconvenient truth" become a truth that we embrace and take seriously. The church already has the command of God declaring that our lives must be ordered by the call to discipleship. Now science declares that the world is suffering from our exploitation of its resources, and we must act now or face an inconvenient future.


Kevin said…
Dave, I'm glad we saw the movie. Great post. My suggestion to everyone is not to dismiss this. As Christians we should be embarrassed by how silent we have been towards this issue.
To all the bloggers out there who care about the environment, go ahead and blog your two cents. Maybe the change in the church will happen from the grassroots. Also, pray for conviction on what we can change in our own personal lives.
byron smith said…
Thanks for the review: we're still waiting for this film to come out in Australia, being the one developed nation whose government trails the White House in environmental sensitivity.