The Riot and the Dance | A Documentary Review

by Austin Shenk


The relationship between Good Friday, COVID-19, and Easter

“We are extremely wet inside.”

The simple, innocent opening statement by Dr. Gordon Wilson in “The Riot and the Dance | Water” caused me to weep myself to sleep. The documentary told me that the death of a father gets harder with time. It said that anything can release a bunch of pent up emotions. I didn’t expect such a trigger from a nature documentary with the subtitle, “A cinematic celebration of creation.” If I had spent a little more time contemplating the unique title, I would have had a better warning.

Dr. Gordon Wilson, a marine biologist and college professor, has a contagious passion and an amazing teaching ability. A passion for educating everyone about our amazing Creator by showing off His marvelous creation. An ability for explaining these marvels in a clear, compelling, and connected manner. This combination makes his products so immensely valuable and eye opening. His foundational biology textbook for high school or undergraduate students, and both documentaries, Earth and Water, all bear the same eye-catching title. With those simple titles, Dr. Wilson reveals both his passion and skill.

The Riot speaks of all the brokenness in our world. Good Friday, the day we remember the intense sufferings of our Savior on our behalf, is a time for deep reflection on the depravity of our race. COVID-19 is a reminder of the curse of sin and the greed, sickness, and death that goes along with it. The soul wrenching experience of watching your father’s earthly body dry up, as his “incredible wetness” poured out of all his pores, and his only replenishment was through a sponge to his cracking lips, is more than any son should have to bear. The soul wrenching experience of your Heavenly Father turning His back on you, as your earthly body is enduring excruciating pain, and your only refreshment is a sponge of vinegar to your cracking lips, is more than any Son should have to bear. Yet, God Almighty willing endured the full wrath of the Riot, so we can enjoy the Dance.

The Dance speaks of all the beauty in our world. The physical outpouring of the Triune creative power in every nook and cranny of our world. Even the places that are yet to be discovered. For millennia, God has been sustaining life in the deepest, darkest expenses of water and space. The unimaginable Holy suspense He must feel as He carefully directs each explorer to the next God-exalting discovery. The suspense with which He longed for my Daddy to be rid of his failing earthly tabernacle and be clothed with immortality. The suspense with which He longed for the early morning of the third day when He could defy death and bring His Son from the measly confines of an earthly grave. All three kinds of suspense demonstrate to the awe-struck world the intensity with which He longs for us to join Him in the Dance.

What difference does the Dance make in our daily lives if the Riot is so real? If God incarnate could not avoid the Riot, but insisted on enduring every anguishing moment, how much more must we embrace the brokenness of this sinful world. God has placed us, where we too, may contract COVID-19 or suffer in other ways, yet He has not left us comfortless. He was present in the valley of the shadow of death as I said goodbye to my earthly father. He’s present in each day that He grants us to live. Because He conquered death, we can face the Riot with a Dance.

Mr. Todd Hawbaker, our high school English teacher used his poetic skills to reflect deeply on this matter. With his permission I share it here. May his words inspire you to live the Riot and the Dance.

#red
Come share with Me.
Come share with Me the pain,
The shame.
Of being human.
If you’re not too hardened,
Too pompous.
If you haven’t isolated yourself.
With your agenda.
With your pursuit of happiness.
Come be with Me.
Be with me in the pain,
The shame.

I came to share. To share with you,
In the pain, in the shame.
Of being human.
I drank deep of sorrow.
Dwell with evil.
Baptized into death.
Temptation.
I came to be with you.
To be with you in the pain,
The shame.

But you turned inward, wrapped in your own pain.
And I am left alone.

Oh the audacity!
Holiness scarred by pain,
By shame.
Holiness wrapping in flesh.
Holiness imparted to human flesh.

Homework

  1. Watch “The Riot and the Dance.” Both “Earth” and “Water” are streaming here for FREE until April 30, 2020. If you only watch one movie this year. This is worth it.
  2. Keep your Eyes of Wonder open. As educators, our responsibility is to help our students to find the Dance among the Riot. If Dr. Wilson’s classroom resources can be of assistance to you, check them out here.
  3. Don’t waste a good Riot. Our students aren’t keeping as close an eye on us while they are stuck at home, but they are soaking up everything they can hear about COVID-19. Be a voice that points them to our suffering Savior who didn’t avoid the Riot.
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CONTRIBUTOR: Austin Shenk

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