I, like countless other movie goers, have gone and taken in James Cameron’s latest production. I suppose I have supported Mr. Cameron fairly well to date. I previously enjoyed Aliens 2, Terminators 1&2, Titanic, and The Abys. Avatar didn’t disappoint. If the story itself wasn’t new, the 3-D vision of an alien world (and one well worth preserving) is unforgettable.
As you usual, your blogging friend/colleague/preacher wants to focus on theology. I guess that’s not too much of a surprise. And Avatar like many movies has a theological message. Unlike the visuals, it has been less well received.
Avatar has strong parallels to Dances With Wolves, the first Hollywood production that took Native Americans seriously (and perhaps slightly balanced so many Westerns by making the Anglos instead of the Native Americans caricatures). The theology also parallels strongly with Native American spirituality. The earth is alive. It is full of spirits (animal, plant, human(oid), etc. The problem is the prevailing society forcing its way of life on others. This way of life has no respect for “Mother Earth”/”Pandora.”
The immediate backlash from Christian writers correctly notes that Avatar, and so many pantheistic stories ignore the fact that nature is a fairly brutal place and life left to nature is often harsh and even cruel. Nature in and of itself is not graceful. The Christian critics say we need to worship the Creator rather than creation. And I agree with that. But what the critics lose sight of that people of faith should respect and care for creation which we are amazingly lax at doing. We also historically have lived very much at odds with the faith we proclaim when encountering new people.
We need not worship trees, clean water and air, and wild life to respect and care for it. Some of our best conservationists haven’t been wild eyed liberals but staunch conservatives (if we are conserving anything, isn’t nature a good starting point?). No matter what the causes are of the increasing depopulation of animal and plant life and the increases in pollution, we all need to take a step back and look at how we are living. What world will we pass on to our children and grandchildren?
In Christ’s parable of the Talents, the only steward reprimanded is the one who buries his talent and returns it. I guess there was no need to say what the master would have thought of a servant who squandered the talents given him to manage (especially if the squandering one was the one with the ten talents).
We live in a changing world. People need jobs. People have basic needs. This takes energy and we need materials. With our current knowledge, there is no way to do all this in a squeaky clean way. We also have neighbors trying to get their society up to our standard of living. This also takes lots of energy and diminishing resources. Challenges are plenty. But, even with all the challenges, it is in all of our interests to figure out ways we can improve our little and amazing planet instead of wearing it out.
Avatar is not the place to go to find out about God. But if it makes people think about the way they live, and the impact we might inadvertently have on our neighbors, then I give Mr. Cameron a thumbs up for a visually stunning sermon.
All the best,