I don’t recall any docu/reality show in recent history that has thrown me into a must watch binge fest as National Geographic’s series Life Below Zero. Honestly, I can’t think of anything more fitting for the channel or the National Geographic brand.
Remember the days of opening up the National Geographic magazines, looking at fantastic photography of God’s creation. Everything from animals, to humans. The magazine was fascinating because it brought you to parts of the world, most people would never see. I remember when National Geographic Specials meant something. I was allowed to stat up and watch them, because my parents we’re allowed to stay up and watch them as a child as well.
Life Below Zero, a Docu/Reality style television series on National Geographic is everything NG is and was. Fantastic videography, use of GoPro’s and story telling really makes this show incredible. National Geographic nails it.
From under the ice shots of ice fishing, to beautiful time lapses of the Alaskan sky at night. The artwork of the camera crew really goes to show the beauty that is this barren wilderness.
Imagine living alone, 350 miles from your nearest neighbor. Hunting anything that moves, with one purpose, to find food to survive. Constantly fighting just to stay warm and feed your family. Always on the lookout for starving predators, who just want a tasty meal like yourself.
Sounds like something you would find in Africa, or in the midst of the jungles of South America? But no, it’s within the United States. In the most remote locations in Alaska.
Past the arctic circle wealth is based on how much caribou meat you have. Food is currency. No parts of an animal goes to waste.
These arctic circle citizens fascinate me like no other. Take Sue Aikens, who lives in Kavik, AK, About as far north as humanly possible. She lives all by herself at a hunting/wildlife camp that she owns. Her days are filled with hunting for food, alone. Killing predators, alone and removing snow off the buildings to prevent cave ins, over and over again.
350 miles from the closest human. 500 miles from the closet hospital. Her address is nothing more than a GPS point. A landing strip provides her only way on or off the property, and provides her with routine shipments of fuel, milk, food but only when she pays $600 an hour for a rental plane.
The main point of the series is Freedom. Here are some paraphrases of some memorable lines from the show:
“I wake up when I want, sleep when I’m tired, and do what I want to do”
“I don’t have anyone tell me when I can hunt, when I can get wood, or tell me to get insurance. If I get sick, I get sick, if I break something I fix it. I take care of things myself, I’ll never move to the lower 48 again.”
“If Quality of life is measured in the amount of free time one has, I have a great quality of life.”
To be honest, its hard not to see this stuff and pack my bags, by a gun, and move on out there. I wouldn’t mind the hermit lifestyle at all. It wouldn’t be that bad, even Sue Aikens, who lives at the end of the Earth has internet access via satellite (so much for things getting worse huh?).
With all the tyranny of living in the lower 48, with Obamacare, with needing insurance for your car. An ever increasing cost of living, and lack of available jobs. Who wouldn’t want to just run away from it all and hunt bears and caribou all your life?
But then I thought of something, with all the luxuries of life given to those who work hard in the middle of nowhere, the copious amounts of free time, the lack of need for financial wealth, they are missing one thing that makes moving there an impossibility.
A local body of believers. Church fellowship. A Covenant.
A Church cannot function with one member. There needs to be a plurality of elders, a Presbytery for oversight, deacons, families and children. When the closest neighbor is hundreds of miles away, there is no hope of a Church being planted down the road. There is an impossibility of communion, baptisms, discipline, and all the other benefits of Covenant.
This is not to say that one should not share the Gospel with these people or that we should abandon them to the wilderness. Or even that Christian’s shouldn’t pursue rural ministry. The great commission requires sharing the Gospel to the farthest most remote areas on earth.
However, this quote comes to mind “If you don’t have a good church in your area, move.”
The Bible says it’s not good for man to be alone and it means it. This is more than just a statement of man’s need for wife. It’s speaking of the need for fellowship, for community, for Church, for Covenant. For friendships and gatherings. Even if it’s just to watch a ball game with other believers from time to time.
If the point of Life Below Zero is to demonstrate how humanity lives in the most inhospitable areas of the planet, it fails to show that life cannot and they should not live in such solitary conditions.
These people are removed from Covenant. That’s far worse than living in -40 degree weather, or constantly hunting starving bears. They have no pastor. They have no elders. No faith community. No preaching of the Word, communion or corporate worship.
and that’s the real danger of living Life Below Zero.
The sad thing is that this lack of Covenant is not just in the midst of vast wilderness. At least when your town is population one, and your it there is an excuse for lack of community. But sadly, there is a tremendous lack of Covenant community within our own cities. Sure, there are Churches where they have the preaching of the Word, sound doctrine, communion, and baptism but many of these Churches, just like Kavik Alaska lack community.
Covenant is not about simply meeting once on Sunday and saying hello to those people who sort of look familiar, but the name escapes you, week after week. It’s about being a part of something. About helping others out. Knowing each other, praying together, and living life and furthering the Kingdom together. It’s about an intimate community, like we see pictured in Acts where the body sold their possessions and gave to those who had need.
Churches who lack intimacy, are nothing more than cold, barren inhospitable wildernesses. Even if they got their theological jot’s and tittles right. This is why community groups are so vital to the Covenant. They turn a prayer request in the bulletin into a face with laughter, and personality. Knowing an individual, produces more passionate prayers for an individual. It produces a more dedicated Church, and even makes Church discipline more painful, as it should be.
So what’s the temperature of your church? Is it warm an inviting? Or could it be used as a story arc for Life Below Zero?