Why Christians Aren’t Up in Arms about Avatar

I suggested in my first post on James Cameron’s stunning 3D movie Avatar that some professing Christians might be missing the panentheistic religious overtones because they have begun to incorporate tenets of New Age spirituality with their church traditions so that what many call “Christianity” has become a mishmash of religious beliefs.

I’m going to hold to that belief, though I’ve qualified the statement here and in a comment to say “some” professing Christians. Not all gloss over the false religion in the movie for that reason, though some do, and perhaps more than we’d like to admit.

I’ve run into professing Christians who believe their dead relatives become angels who watch over them, for instance. How is this not akin to ancestor worship?

But that leads to a second reason I think Christians aren’t loudly declaring the false spiritual ideology of Avatar: we are tied to literalism. Please understand, I am rabid when it comes to believing the Bible literally. But the Bible is so much more than a list of rules and regulations. Yet a lot of people seem to want to make Scripture that and nothing more.

Consequently, if the Bible said, Thou shalt not adopt New Age beliefs, those folks would be all over Avatar.

Instead Scripture says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Deut. 5:7) and we are left to connect the dots: worshipping Nature and/or a theistic version of Nature is no different from worshipping any other false god. Therefore, Avatar is advocating a false religion, one that runs counter to Christianity.

Seemingly, some professing Christians are only willing to declare the black and whites, not realizing that even those require us to think.

A third reason I think Christians are giving the movie a pass is what Mike Duran said in his comment Monday:

the reason more Christians aren’t critical of Avatar is because it is so graphically stunning, so fantastical — dare I say, breath-taking.

I will say again, I left the theater so enthusiastic about the movie, I couldn’t stop talking about it (and now seemingly, I can’t stop writing about it! 😮 ) The visuals are astonishing.

***Spoiler Alert***

I loved the mountains in the sky with the waterfalls that evaporated into mist.

The imaginative world had texture. While much of it was borrowed from oceanic life, it felt fresh and new because it was put on land.

I even loved the love story. Not new, not unpredictable, but sweet. I loved the “I see you” line.

*** End Spoiler Alert ***

And there is the point: some Christians aren’t “seeing” the movie. They are seeing the external trappings, the artistry in which the movie is wrapped, even the trite story that serves as the vehicle, but what literature, all literature is about is saying something (it’s called theme).

Readers, then, must think it out and see if what the writer says in his story is true, or not.

Christian writers have denied this, and consequently want to deal only with the tinsel and lights and decorations and star while ignoring the Christmas tree underneath.

But there’s another reason, maybe two, and I’ve already written too much for one post (third day in a row—I think that’s what being away from blogging for two weeks has done to me! 😉 )

For further discussion, see “Why Christians Aren’t Up In Arms About Avatar, Part 2.”

9 Comments

  1. Eric Wilson is having a good discussion of this on his Facebook page – you might want to check it out.

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  2. Great post. Planning to see it tomorrow with my husband!

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  3. Good words.

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  4. Question: What would you have Christians do? What do you think an appropriate response should be, and what do we do about it?

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  5. Just to play a little devil’s advocate, haven’t we chastised overly legalistic Christians in the past for completely condemning the Star Wars movies and Harry Potter books? Maybe the appropriate response is, “Hey, the movie is fun, the effects are amazing, just don’t go looking for a realistic worldview.”

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  6. Enjoyed the movie; enjoyed your posts. I watched it for the entertainment value – the 3D visuals and plot. Even with a casual viewing, the overtones of pantheism, nature-hugging, anti-war sentiments, and universalism made their impression. Perhaps the Christian’s responsibility, as you alluded to, is to use the “teachable moments” to instruct/warn others of the spiritual implications.
    One interesting thing: When all was hopeless, Cameron had to implore a “god” that heard and answered a personal prayer for salvation. To me, that speaks volumns.

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  7. Great comment, Bob. You’ve said it beautifully—the movie gives us a great opportunity to dialogue about the beliefs espoused in the movie.

    Mark, I love people playing the advocate of a contrary opinion—opens up further discussion! In this case, I’d have to say, the worldview of Avatar is very realistic. It’s just wrong! False! Deceptive. Full of lies! In my Tuesday post I made the comparison with poison. While we may have poison in the house (culture), we would be foolish not to label it. We Christians ought not to be so foolish.

    Becky

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  8. Sam, Samantha, thanks for taking the time to give your feedback. (I’d be interested to hear what you think of it, Samantha).

    Jason, thanks for the heads up about the discussion over at Eric’s FB site. I left a comment, though the discussion had wound down by the time I got there.

    Rae, great question, and I think Bob answered it well.

    I’ll just add I don’t think we can or should try to avoid our culture. However, we should be thoughtful about it and use it to discuss Truth.

    In an earlier comment Jason mentioned Paul at Mars Hill, opening up a discussion about the Unknown God. Essentially he used the Greek culture to present Truth. We can do that too when we talk about Avatar. Not by forcing it to say something it doesn’t, but by looking at what it does say and pointing to the more perfect way.

    I’d say Christians ought to see the movie if possible, but I’d also say Christians should read up on panentheism and check out what non-Christians are saying about the movie. When we’re forearmed, then we might find occasion in the workplace or in the neighborhood to have a meaningful “Mars Hill” discussion.

    Becky

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  9. […] For more discussion on Avatar and Christianity see “Why Christians Aren’t Up In Arms About Avatar”. […]

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