JP wrote about Avatar yesterday. I also saw Avatar. I loved it.
I’ve been reading blogs lately, however, by evangelicals whom I respect and appreciate that show a level of repulsion for the philosophical and political agenda of the movie that I think could be looked at a bit differently. Many of my friends who are as conservative theologically and politically as I am have suggested that the movie is unhealthy to watch and some have begun labeling it as a "communist" movie or a "pagan" movie.
[I’m going to go down a rabbit trail here] What IS the deal with guys like James Cameron, anyway? Perhaps this analogy might help us understand people like this:
These people (think James Cameron, most academics, M.I.T.-types, etc.) are like a bodybuilder who decides to become the best right arm curler in the world. He focuses almost 100% of his energy lifting dumbbells with his right arm, spending some cursory time here and there on the right pectoral, forearm, and tricep areas to avoid injury and avoid tedium. He ends up with a massive right arm capable of curling monster dumbbells. He becomes a star in the right-armed dumbbell world. Since he’s so disciplined at training he begins to offer unsolicited advice on cardio workouts to synchronized Olympic divers. Asinine? Yup. Much like brilliant people who lack the humility to realize they should stick to the one area they know a little about? Yup. They lose focus on the big picture. They spend less time being well-rounded individuals socially and intellectually. Somehow, though, we are expected to listen to them pontificate because they are famous or accomplished in a particular area. By the way, the fact that this phenomena usually results in liberalism should be a warning about liberalism in itself. And I know many academics that "get it" and are very well-rounded so I’m painting with a broad brush here but you know there’s some truth to this… There is, huh?
Anyway, back to Avatar.
James Cameron did a genius job with the CGI, casting, creating 3D technology that will blow your mind, and it even has a decent storyline for a Sci-Fi action movie. The movie is, quite frankly, one of the most fantastic cinema works since the original Star Wars.
So we have two choices:
Correctly point out the philosophical and political foolishness in the movie and encourage the miniscule number of people who care enough to join us in avoiding the movie. The net result is that the one group of people with the discernment to handle watching the movie and use what they see to relate to nonbelievers will avoid the movie and everyone will see it and wonder why we’re so out of touch and weird.
Correctly point out that James Cameron’s worldview is vastly different than a Biblical worldview, work on becoming "Insiders" to those that hold similar world-views as Mr. Cameron, and use the movie as a great way to broach the subject with our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family who – without the Holy Spirit – increasingly are turning public policy, government, and the environment into their faith-outlet.
I loved the movie. Watching it also gave me some talking points to consider with my hyper-environmental friends. What is different about the planet Pandora, physically, and the creatures and ecosystems there dreamed up by Cameron that makes his example not analogous to our current situation in the real world? I think there are plenty.
If there were such a world discovered with humanoid creatures, how would our Biblical worldview fit into that reality? Just because some blue people in a movie worship the earth, is that supposed to teach us what we should too? What is the difference between creation worship and creation stewardship? A Hollywood director and screenwriter is THE expert on ecological stewardship? Seriously?
These are questions that can lead to productive conversations about Jesus and the God-story. Should you see the movie? If you can with a clear conscience keeping in mind Galatians 5, I say go for it! If not, pray for the Church that it would embrace, like it did in times past, the arts. Until the arts are embraced by the church to relevantly communicate the Gospel, I’m hopeful we learn to use the arts as they are to reciprocate Truth to a world that communicates its spiritual emptiness increasingly through media, art, and celebrity-worship.
Colossians 2:8-23 tells me two things:
I must not let anyone deceive me through philosophy, empty deceit, or the traditions of men.
I must not let anyone, including well-meaning Christ-followers, entangle me in legalism or judgement if I am seeking Him with a clear conscience and relevantly sharing Christ with others.
It’s all about loving God and loving our neighbors. Is there really no way to use movies like Avatar to do both those things? Maybe not. But I figured I’d throw a different perspective out there for discussion.