"The change is not in itself, but in them"


“Look out at that ocean, that sky, the fish, the birds, wild and wicked out in the chaos. Is there a god that can deliver us from the chaos of nature?”
--Reverend Carlton in the film Glory at Sea

This is an appropriate question to ask on a day when the Army Corps of Engineers opens a floodway that will displace at least 2,500 people, devastate thousands of acres of farmland, and destroy hundreds of homes and businesses in order to avoid the same tragedy in more populated areas like Baton Rouge (my home) and New Orleans.

Morganza Floodway (under normal conditions)

Morganza Floodway (1973)

Glory at Sea, according to its creators, is a 30-minute film about "a group of mourners and a man spat from the depths of Hades [who] build a boat from the debris of New Orleans to rescue their lost loved ones trapped beneath the sea."

Glory At Sea! from Court 13 on Vimeo.

From my perspective, Glory at Sea is a film about religion. It is about living in a broken world, seeking order in chaos, and finding meaning in suffering. It is about a people in exile, a people lost at sea, a people without a home. Recently, students in my “Religion in Louisiana” course watched the film and wrote an essay relating its themes to several other books about life in Louisiana and the Mississippi River Delta, including Brenda Marie Osbey's collection of poems All Saints, Tennessee Williams’ play Vieux Carré, and William Alexander Percy’s autobiography Lanterns on the Levee. They hated me for it. But they also got it.

What we’re watching along the Mississippi River is indeed about the chaos of nature, but it’s the kind that comes when we engineer nature in order to delivery us from chaos. William Alexander Percy knew a little something about the Mississippi River when he wrote, “The gods on their thrones are shaken and changed, but it abides, aloof and unappeasable, with no heart except for its own task, under the unbroken and immense arch of the lighted sky where the sun, too, goes a lonely journey. As a thing used by men it has changed: the change is not in itself, but in them.”