Brian Thomas Swimme on the set of Journey of the Universe, a documentary film that will screen for the first time in Canada on June 15 in Toronto.

A Christian journey into our universe

By  Luc Rinaldi, Catholic Register Special
  • June 8, 2011

TORONTO - Science and religion were never at war for the creators of Journey of the Universe, a film that will hit its first Canadian audience June 15.

The documentary film, co-written by religious historian Mary Evelyn Tucker and evolutionary philosopher Brian Thomas Swimme, is rooted in the work and ideas of cosmologist and Passionist Father Thomas Berry. It tells the story of the universe over 14 billion years, Tucker explains, integrating “the best discoveries of modern science with human history, art, philosophy and religion.”

“Where do we come from and why are we here? This film tries to address these questions,” said Tucker, who will accompany her film at its Canadian premiere, hosted by the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology at the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.

Journey of the Universe opens with Swimme, the film’s host and narrator, on the Greek island of Samos. As Swimme travels the island, he guides the audience through time and space — using vivid footage of the natural world and beyond — from the beginning of the universe until now.

“We hope that the film will inspire a responsiveness to the beauty and complexity of life along with a sense of responsibility for its continuity,” said Tucker, who is also co-director of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. “We hope to evoke wonder and awe that will inspire action toward creating a future that is flourishing for all of life.”

It’s the same reaction that Dennis O’Hara, director of the Elliot Allen Institute, hopes to see in the audience at the Canadian premiere.

“If people are awakening to the glorious splendour of God’s creation, to the profound relationship we have to this universe story... if that happens to some degree, I will be thrilled,” he said.

The institute’s mission — to explore the relationship between theology and ecology — is similar to that of the film. O’Hara hopes Journey of the Universe is able to reveal to its audience what he describes as “the ecological mess that we’re in now.”

“Nobody believes that we live in a pre-Copernican universe... where the sun revolves around the Earth and we’re the centre of everything,” he said. “But we still live as if we did.”

O’Hara said Christians have a responsibility to avoid this “pre-Copernican” mindset and approach ecology in a way that aligns with their beliefs. To be in right relationship with God, he said, is to be in right relationship with all God’s creation.

“Science itself isn’t going to prompt people to reform… You have to speak to people’s deeper systems,” said O’Hara. “If Christians can’t talk about conversion, who can?”

The interest in the Canadian premiere, however, shows there’s no shortage of Christians — and others — ready to discuss conversion. The film has attracted a larger and more diverse crowd than O’Hara expected.

Tucker and her husband, John Grim, also a contributor to the film, will introduce the movie on June 15, setting it within a larger body of work that includes a Journey of the Universe book and 13-part educational DVD series. A Q-and-A period will follow the screening.

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