Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? (1 Cor 14:8 KJV)

And he only sees what his eyes allow him. He doesn't see with his soul. (from the song "Horizons" by MICAH)
A few weeks ago while my parents were visiting, I went with my mom to see Avatar. Recently, I've been listening to some reviews/conversations about the film, especially from Russell Moore [HERE], from the Reformed Forum [HERE], and from a panel discussion at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary [HERE].

For the few out there that haven't seen the film: I wouldn't necessarily suggest you see it, despite the stunning 3D special effects, and I would especially caution parents to take the PG-13 rating seriously, as the movie raises complex issues involving fornication and idolatry, which less mature viewers will not be prepared to address.

The consensus about the movie is that the action/effects are great, but the story-line is weak/cliched. The consensus is correct in these regards, but in this post I would like to address two particular weaknesses of the story-line that I haven't heard explored in much detail.

First, the metaphors in the film are very much confused. [This is something that my mom and I discussed at length.] James Cameron [the writer/director of the film] wants to make a story like Dances With Wolves, and throughout the film there are obvious parallels to the abuse of Native Americans by the U.S. military. But Cameron also wants the film to be relevant to issues in the news today, and so he tries to create a parallel between the actions of the military force on Pandora and the actions of the U.S. military in fighting against terrorist forces in the Middle East. This creates confusion, because it is easy for viewers to sympathize with the alien race if they are analogous to the Sioux or the Cherokee, but do we really want to equate Native Americans with al-Qaeda? Cameron may answer that the aliens are not supposed to represent the 9/11 terrorists, but Middle Eastern people in general, but since terms like "terrorist" and "shock-and awe" are specifically used in the film, Cameron would be better served in his analogy concerning current events if there was a terroristic group within the alien culture, and then he could address more complex issues of just war and collateral damage to the non-combatants. But such complexities run counter to the simple action film Cameron wishes to make (in order to ensure maximum box-office receipts) and, more importantly, it would contradict the myth of the "noble savage," which Cameron wishes to perpetuate. (In other words, if there were terrorists in the primitive alien culture Cameron invented, then it would not be as effective an attack against the doctrine of Original Sin.)

Second, the spirituality in this film is even more confused than the societal metaphors. Cameron wants to give the alien people a mystical religion, but then he decides to explain this religion in entirely naturalistic terms. (I blame The Phantom Menace, which explained the Force, which seemed to be a mystical reality in the original Star Wars movies, as being a function of- basically- germs.) In other words, Cameron- selling his movie to an audience that is, by and large, non-atheist- wants to have his religion and his atheism too. Such a religion, which posits a goddess that is really no more personal than the Internet, will never satisfy the longings of the human heart, which yearns for something more than that which can be seen.



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