I was 13 years old in 1975 when the movie Jaws first came out. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I invited about eleven kids from the neighborhood, without my mom’s permission of course, to go with us to see the movie. My mom and older brother Gary had to drive separate cars to accommodate my newly arrived posse, which included my younger brother Tim, my favorite cousin Jody Lefevers, and the eleven neighbor kids.
In the movie Jaws, a new England town is terrorized by a 25 foot great white shark. For a pack of early and pre-teen kids crammed in the Paramount Theater in Bristol, Tennessee this was both an exciting and terrifying experience.
I remember sitting next to my cousin Jody, who was 11 at the time. He was holding a giant size bucket of popcorn that we were nervously munching down on together as we watched each scene of shark carnage unfold.
There was a scene where a couple of divers were looking for a man who was a recent victim of the shark. They discovered his sunken boat and as they explored the heavily damaged vessel the man’s decapitated head pops up in the face of one of the divers. The audience went berzerk! My cousin jumps to his feet and throws our large bucket of popcorn in the air. It was a total rush of fun and terror!
That summer millions of people chose not to venture into the sea. People stayed on the shore line, but were often unwilling to get into the shallow parts of the ocean. Many were afraid to even swim in lakes. I would not swim in our backyard pool by myself. Shark mania and anxiety had swept the country and it was totally frenzied by irrational fear.
From that moment on people around the world became hyper afraid of sharks and 100’s of millions of sharks have been slaughtered ever since then. I heard years later that Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws, deeply regretted the impact that his book and the movie had on how people viewed sharks and the carnage that followed. Some species have been diminished by as much as 90%. The Chinese and Japanese have been the worst in the slaughter. They are killing millions each year just to get shark fins for soup. The great white shark and many other species of shark became endangered in part because of the anxiety that was created by that fun and terrifying movie Jaws.
Since there has been a ban on hunting great white sharks for many years their numbers are recovering. They were once a threatened species, but they are now seen as recovering to levels of abundance. Their numbers have increased 40% on the East Coast alone because of the increase in the seal population and conservation protection and efforts.
Recently, a great white shark was discovered that measured over 20 feet! They named her “Deep Blue.” She is only 5 feet shorter than the shark in Jaws and is estimated to be at least 50 years old and very pregnant. I have put a couple of links below so you can check her out. What a magnificent creature she is. She is truly glorious! You got to take a couple of minutes and check her out.
You might be asking, “Jeff, this is supposed to be a peace blog. Why are earth are you writing about a great white shark that is dangerous and could easily gobble you up while you bodyboarding and consume two surfers and and a swimmer to boot?” The answer is quiet simple:
So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water…. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21).
Creation matters to God. “Deep Blue” the 20 foot great white shark matters to God. What happens to the shark populations of the world will deeply impact our own well being. You cannot have a healthy ocean without a healthy shark population. “Deep Blue” and the growth of the great white shark population are an indication that we are doing something right in conservation. She is 50 years old and pregnant. Great white’s are flourishing and not endangered. The ocean is becoming safer for “Deep Blue” and her kind in many parts of the world.
A key facet of the biblical view of shalom (my good friend Dr. Rick Love says shalom is peacemaking on steroids) is environmental shalom or peace. All through the Old Testament it is clear that God takes care of creation and wants us to do this also. He loves the sea and all that is in it. He declared creation good and sent Israel into captivity for 70 years because they worshipped idols, and violated His commands concerning economic shalom for the poor and environmental shalom because they would not let the land rest or have regular sabbaths. If we overfish our seas and wipe out our sharks for their fins or for unnecessary sport then what type of exile will it take for us to reset and heal the wound we have caused the earth?
I believe the good news of Jesus is not only good for our souls, but it is good news for our planet. “Peace on earth” means peace with God, peace with ourselves, peace with our environment, peace with each other and peace with creation. Jesus came to reconcile all creation and people to God (Colossians 1:19-20). Now that good news!
You keep swimming “Deep Blue.” If I see you while I am bodyboarding I will get out of your way. Rejoice you mighty sea monster because you and I have a God who deeply loves us.
In the end there are more people eating sharks than sharks eating people. There are only a handful of fatal shark attacks a year, but humanity kills millions of sharks each year. Are those who reject God’s shalom by overfishing our waters and decimating the shark populations the real monsters of the deep?