Don’t Look Up

During the 2021 holiday season, Netflix released an original film titled, “Don’t Look Up.” The title solicited my attention for several weeks before I made the decision to sit down and watch. The movie is a blend of science-fiction and hyperbolic satire. The plot revolves around a group of astronauts who make a horrifying discovery. They notice a planet-killing asteroid headed for Earth’s orbit and trajectory. After checking and rechecking their findings, they grow more convinced that the planet is in fatal danger. 

They leverage all of the influence they can gather to get an audience with government leadership only to be brushed off as fanatical, offshoot scientists driven by political motives. The president, played by Meryl Streep, shows overwhelming indifference to the warning. She cites the number of warnings they get of planet-threatening occurrences that never materialize. She has heard the warnings, with such frequency, that she refuses to even look up. 

As the comedy unfolds, the scientists create a media blitz on national news to issue the warning on every conceivable platform. And although they communicate with urgency, pathos, and passion, their cries fall on the deaf ears of a culture obsessed with social media, tabloid romance, fashion trends, and cultural irrelevances. 

The president essentially looks to discredit the proclamations of the scientists. She begins by supplementing their messaging around a laxity campaign titled, “Don’t Look Up.” 

With skillful sophistry the wicked leader aims society’s attention, away from urgent matters of consequence, toward self-loving, self-involved, self-centered objectives. Even with the meteor in plain sight, the satire reaches its zenith as the world’s attention is so glued to cellphones, tablets and screens, that earth’s inhabitants refuse the simple posture of looking up to take cover from impending doom. 

Some of the content of the movie is far from appropriate, yet the prophetic and societal motifs in this comedy stun the spiritual senses. What was most jarring is that secular movie producers were able to recognize our indifference to issues that should cause major alarm. The overarching motif is our refusal to just look up. 

The issue is our refusal to pay attention. We are a people who refuse to even be aware. Ignorance is solace and not knowing brings comfort. 

I believe some societal issues occurring with such numbing frequency lead us to refuse to take the time to look up. The constancy of certain pathologies has nursed us into a daze, while a lukewarm elixir of personal comfort drives us into a coma-like sleep. 

The question is, do we even take the time to look up any more?

Did the latest mass shooting cause you to look up or did you just continue the social media scrolling? Do the reports of global warming, the proof of an eroding ozone layer, or melting polar ice caps cause you to look up? Did the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi cause you to look up? Did the bloody war in Ukraine cause you to look up? Did the shortage of baby formula cause you to look up? Did the soaring prices of gas cause you to look up? Did the unstoppable forest fires in the Western United States even cause us to look up? Does the continual rise of human trafficking cause us to look up?

My prayer is that the satanic spell of indifference might be broken over the lives of God’s people. We are called to be stewards of our environment. God’s command to Adam and his descendants is to dress and manage the earth. 

We are to have sensitivity to all human suffering. We are called to respond to the cries of mothers whose children are gunned down in school. We are called to show compassion for the war atrocities on Ukrainian refugees, or to the basic need for water in the Southern parts of Mississippi. 

There is a reason for the lack of action. The cause is not just selfishness. It’s a distraction. Our attention is so buried in our lives, so buried in the scroll, so captivated by our favorite teams, foods, or reality shows that we refuse to look up. 

The call is not just for radical action. Today’s call is for awareness. Conscience cannot be pricked, irritated, or moved outside of awareness. The call is to be aware of circumstances that don’t affect us directly. There is never a shortage of suffering, inequity, brokenness, discrimination, poverty, racism, patriarchy, or pain. All we have to do is look up.

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Debleaire Snell is the Speaker/Director of Breath of Life, and the senior pastor of the Oakwood University Seventh-day Adventist Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

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All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.


This article is part of our 2022 November/December Issue
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