On Avatar, environmentalism and worldviews (Part 2)

<— Click here for Part 1 Click here for Part 3 —>
the Tree of Souls Eywa TGIF Thank God it's Friday Avatar Environmentalism Christian worldview

Seedlings from the Tree of Souls act as ‘magic markers’ showing the will of the mother goddess Eywa. It’s all so transparently New Age you’d have to be practically spiritually dead to miss it. Click image to link to the movie’s official webpage.

So, by now, you’ve probably watched Avatar? And yes, like me, the movie’s special effects and visual eye candy blew your mind away didn’t it? Anyone can see 15 Oscar nominations coming from a mile away.

My wife and I went on a ‘date night’ last Saturday after I had heard a review by Pastor Neil Oosthuizen at TGIF that Friday. Bottom line, he was resoundingly positive about the film and its central messages and encouraged the audience to go and watch it. One major theme that he cited was environmentalism and the movie portrays the subject in the following ways (in no particular order and certainly not exhaustive):

  1. No longer can the greens on your plate be considered dumb veggies. The trees on Pandora form a massive interconnected network like the synapses of a huge brain. There’s intelligence out there folks.
  2. You better start taking out funeral policies on your pets. On Pandora, if you kill Fido, be expecting to give it the same loving farewell you would your mother or father.
  3. Sit, Ubu, Sit. Good dog. No longer are you teaching tricks like roll over or play dead, now you uplink to animals directly like an interactive Wii device.
  4. Not only is the fauna intelligent but it’s also deeply spiritual. At the centre of the story is a special tree called the Tree of Souls.
  5. The bad guys have chain saws and the good guys live in hammocks. Say no more.
  6. We’re part of the environment so it’s natural that when we die we just return back to the environment.
Hometree TGIF Thank God it's Friday Avatar Environmentalism Christian worldview

The environmentalist’s answer to townhouse living is very very very big trees. Click image to link to the movie’s official webpage.

Well it all fits together quite well and I found the story captivating. I really enjoyed the way it gelled different storylines from many other sources together. In the review on Friday and again while watching the film on Saturday a question continually gnawed at the back of my head, “How did the concepts, ‘the environment’ or ‘connectedness’ or ‘real love’ stack up to the way that the Bible presents them?” Well, on environmentalism the Bible portrays some interesting differences:

  1. Propensity for intellect in the movie is equated to ‘being’. The Bible however elevates man above the rest of the created universe. In him alone God rests His image. Listen to Genesis 1,
    26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

    Want to hear the verse in context? Genesis 1 – 7
    What is this about?

  2. Um, no comment.
  3. God views men and beast as distinct. Listen to the covenant He made with man in Genesis 9,
    1 …”Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 “The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as {I gave} the green plant.

    Want to hear the verse in context? Genesis 8 – 15
    What is this about?

  4. Pious plants. There’s a clip in the movie when the Na’vi race are sitting in a pagan chant around this sacred tree and it’s communing with them. Now God does wish us to worship folks, but appropriately. It’s not His intention that we get caught up with creation but rather with the creator,
    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

    Want to hear the verse in context? Romans 1
    What is this about?

  5. I also like the idea of trees and I’d love to have a hammock. The Bible exhorts us to be good stewards of the earth and all that’s in it,
    28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

    Want to hear the verse in context? Genesis 1 – 7
    What is this about?

  6. There’s no way that we’re going to become ‘one’ with the environment according to God’s Word of Truth. What the future holds for us is being raised, judged and eternity to follow; some in heaven; more in hell,
    46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Is the point made? If not watch this space for the next two installments. Basically Avatar presents a completely different worldview to that which the Bible propositions as the truth. So what? Good question and I’m trying to decide where this series is going. Where do I stand on things like entertainment? My indecision aside, what I do know is this, many of the questions that our world has on their minds right now are shaped by the themes and concepts found in this movie and other media. Be prepared to give a defense for the hope that you have in Him because the questions are out there.

<— Click here for Part 1 Click here for Part 3 —>

Interested in other movie reviews like Angels and Demons? Find them in the sidebar under Topics \ Reviews \ Movies.


Friday’s false start (Part 1)

Click here for Part 2 —>
TGIF Thank God it's Friday Avatar

Went and listened to TGIF this morning. Click image to enlarge.

This morning I awoke, showered, shaved, gave my wife a tender goodbye kiss on the cheek and hit the road just early enough to watch the sun stretch it’s long golden rays out over God’s beautiful creation. My destination was the Hyde Park Shopping Centre and when I arrived I sought out the Seattle Coffee Company. It was really busy so I patiently stood in a queue, collected a half and half and took a seat near the back of an assembly of people. You see, a group called TGIF, which had been pitched to me as a casual get-together of Christian thinkers who like to converse and debate, meet every Friday morning between 6:15 and 7:30, and I had joined them, keen to hear and see what they were all about.

Well the topic of the day was the movie Avatar. Neil Oosthuizen (a Methodist Minister, I think) guided his audience through a few movie clips, gave a sweeping synopsis and presented the major themes. He enthusiastically gave the show two thumbs up. I’ve not seen the movie yet (although tomorrow evening is date night :)) because between work and church and kids and wife and Bible studies and chess… (not necessarily in that order) I’m left with about 10 minutes to myself… which I usually use for sleep.

TGIF Thank God it's Friday Avatar

The key themes were positioned as ‘real love’, environmentalism and ‘connectedness’. Click image to enlarge.

The following three points were touted as highlights of the show: [editor: In a gentle rebuke it was pointed out that the headings below weren’t the headings used on the morning, they’re my tongue-in-cheek paraphrases. For the sake of accuracy the morning’s highlights were Love, Connectedness and The Environment.]

‘Real love’ wins through: Not in a Walt Disney ‘boy meets girl’ gushy kind of way but rather the hero, who starts out in a ‘negative place’, goes through a ‘life journey’ and then has a ‘reality check’, finally discovers a ‘love worth dying for’.

The environment matters dude: Nature is beautiful and machines and capitalism are evil. Never, Ever, EVER, murder another tree as long as you live!

We’re all psychedelically connected man: The whole cosmos is reaching out and touching itself. The word ‘connected’ might have been used 300 times during the presentation so I suspect it was the arching theme in the movie? “I see you” and, “have you squeezed my tail today?” were tendered as really good examples of this bubbly bundle of love.

So, what did I think of the morning? An utter waste of time. To think I set the alarm for 5:00 am! It was a bit of psycho babble, mixed in with some “Hollywood is amazing” and capped off with a hat tip to ‘Eastern Religiosity’. I was exceptionally disappointed. 50 people in a room with a pastor in the front does not a Christian gathering make. No tangible connection was made to the bible, neither was there any sign of discerned analysis of the world view depicted in the film.

I was dying to ask the question, “How did the concepts, ‘the environment’ or ‘connectedness’ or ‘real love’ stack up to the way that the Bible presents them?” So much for thinking, conversing and debating, no sooner had I stuck up my hand than the group was adjourned, dispersed and I was left with only my lament.

If it wasn’t for a guy from CESA (I have a really high regard for the Church of England in South Africa), who asked a stellar question which was poorly answered and then chatted to me after, I’d never go back, but judging from his response, and that he’s been attending for over a decade, I will give it one more try. Maybe next week’ll be better?

Click here for Part 2 —>

Did I miss the boat? Plenty of people had encouraged me to attend. Why do you think my experience was so awful?