Just saw “Avatar.”  Lots of fun, great special effects, very imaginative  – sort of “Dances with Wolves” on LSD.  It seemed to me to carry a lot of messages: the military is bad; America is bad; capitalism is bad; technology is bad; in fact, modern civilization is bad; green is good; primitive is good.  Kind of simplistic, but there are some good points to be made there.  What came through most strongly to me was a promotion of the “New Paganism” – worshipping nature, Mother Earth and all that, as the ultimate good and ultimate power.

click for more info In the movie, the planet Pandora is a kind of physical divinity whose nerve system is the interlocking tree roots.  These all feed into the “brain” or soul-tree which is the head of it all, and which also seems to house the souls of all the people’s dead ancestors.  Because the people live in harmony with this planet/goddess, they prosper and are at peace.  

It is in many ways an attractive religion.  My first novel (soon to be published) will be *The Forest,* about a world where trees play an important spiritual role.  I think many people  sense, as I do, that we have forgotten the spiritual power of the natural world in a mad rush to re-legislate its laws through the application of science and our own reason  – and are finding that for all its promise, this path of scientism is destroying the planet.  Abandoning the unfeeling intellectualism of science and renewing a loving and harmonious relationship with the Earth, seeing it as “Mother,” can appear to be a solution.    

But I believe that worship of nature is really worship of self.  Everything in nature, including the planet itself, was created and is not inherently divine.  The Creator exists outside nature, in a separate reality inaccessible to us.  To worship a created thing, then, comes down to making a god in our own image, because it means projecting the human reason and will onto it. 

In a way, then, nature-worship and scientism are basically the same:  both are attempts to nullify or transcend God’s laws and replace Him with ourselves as lawgiver.  Since humans are flawed, such “religion” quickly begins to reflect the darker, as well as the better, side of our nature.  Such gods as Moloch, who demanded child sacrifice, attest to this – as well as the current dogma that the unborn may be sacrificed for the convenience of its mother.  That is why *The Forest* is very clear about the One, who rules from an abode beyond mortal reach.

 Only God is perfect love – perfect in mercy, perfect in justice.  The only way to a perfect society is to be in union with him as our head.  This is accomplished, not by us but by him, gradually as we accept his authority and his Spirit transforms us, in preparation for the fulfillment of his Kingdom on earth.

I think many, if not most, Christians think very little about the promise of a “new heavens and new earth” which he will create after the present world is destroyed, or destroys itself, by the many-hued folly of trying to replace God’s way with our own.  But the promise is that not only will a new heavens and new earth be created and we resurrected to inhabit it, but it will also be united to his “abode” in love so that God is “all in all.”  For me, this is ‘way preferable to Pandora.

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18 Responses to Avatar

  1. Jim says:

    Jake Sully, the main character, the ‘savior”, like BHO, is a created figure, an avatar. When either of these two is compared with Jesus, the other two fall so short. The created world in the movie falls so short of the Kingdom of God. I liked all that you say and I am looking forward to your book, “The Forest”, coming out this year. It will be true and reveal more about God than this movie, which was entertaining but lacked reality and depth. I would think that kids, who live in the virtual world, need more that hype and a fast moving movie. At some point then need to quiet down and think and consider the other. The special effects are not even good. I had more excitement riding a real horse and flying in a biplane. I feel very sad for our youth and hope that they come to their senses and realize some powerful adults are selling them short!

  2. Fr. Dillon says:

    Thanks for saving me the trouble of seeing the movie in order to be able to know what folks are talking about.
    The ongoing fantasy about the earth and nature is intellectually pathetic. Does anyone know how brutal, ruthless and cold nature really is? None of these folks has ever lived according to nature’s rules and would die of fright if they had to. If nature had any consciousness, we would be only annoying life forms to endure until our passing. Only God Almighty cares and offers us a restored cosmos and relationship with him. Our fantasies are not real … only God is; and our reality subsists only in Him.

  3. Kim says:

    Thank you for this commentary on Avatar, Susan. I have not seen it yet. I’m not sure that I will, because I had heard reviews that pointed out some of the same observations you had: capitalism, America, military, modern civilization, etc., are “bad”. I’m curious about the special effects, but I’m reluctant to pour more into Cameron’s treasury, now that I’ve heard about the message that he offers. (I go to so few movies in the first place.)

    What concerns me even more is that the naivete of so many will allow such propaganda to wash over them and soak in, without even comprehending that they’re being influenced towards rejection of certain ideals for which many have sacrificed greatly to preserve those ideals for the sake of future generations. It just seems to go hand in hand with the general mantra of our time: Worship the creation, and forget about the Creator.

    Such a magnificent waste of creativity, art, talent, and technology to produce a movie that fails to glorify the Grand Designer.

  4. Lily says:

    Hi, Mama,

    Your commentary reminds me of that song we used to listen to when I was growing up (Carman?): ‘Keep your eyes on the Creator, man, and not on His creation.’ I still might go see the film, but I can’t say I am terribly keen on it.

    And thanks, too, for this blog! I haven’t been keeping up with it as much as I would like, but I do plan to! Lx

  5. Susan says:

    Thank you all for your comments. Whew! Some strong opinions out there.

    In looking for the reasons for the neo-pagan thing that is going on, I think maybe it’s like this: humankind and nature have had an adversarial relationship, I guess for pretty much all of human history, but it has really heated up in the last century, with humans appearing to gain the upper hand and bring nature under our thumb. However, as I said above, this turns out to be a dead end, as unintended consequences proliferate. It seems that “conquering” nature (controlling it and using it for our own ends) leads to our own suffering and demise, and the realization that nature might be more powerful. After all, for us to destroy nature is an act of suicide; but for nature to destroy us is not. One conclusion to be drawn from this might be to “recognize” nature’s superiority and begin to worship and placate it. A better solution would be to cut the adversarial attitude entirely, and worship our mutual Creator. This is the only non-suicidal way to make peace.

    I quite agree about the cruelty of nature. At the same time, the natural world abounds with beauty, grace, majesty, delicacy – and on and on. It also, if one pays attention, speaks constantly about God and God’s truth. It is an enormous source of spiritual understanding. These two truths – its evils and its virtues – tell me that nature is fallen, as we are, and groans in anticipation of its redemption, as we do. So the human longing for harmony in and with nature is a right thing, in my opinion, a sign of the sure hope we have for the “peaceable kingdom.”

  6. Karin Benning says:

    I enjoyed the movie for what it was. Mainly, I thought the special effects were miraculous, and I appreciate the talent that its creators were given by God to be able put it together. It reminded me of the existence of different civilizations as depicted in other sci fi stories like H.G. Wells’s TIME MACHINE. Conflict can lead to progress and understanding, it seemed to say to me. Science fiction explores the “what ifs”, and I find it very mind-expanding. I am not well-informed on Neo-paganism, but I do not think that one need necessarily “go there” with this film. For me, the most important thing is that after developing the wonders of scientific possibilities (messages from God?), man must play catch-up by cleaning-up the messes he leaves behind. In this case, the exploitation of other, more primitive, beings was abominable, and it was meant to be. Some day, we WILL live on other planets, I believe, and the challenge is to do it better than we have on this one. Will we make the same mistakes? Will we harm others as we do here, or will we learn from our mistakes before we go tromping around on the one-celled organisms that might be there first? So many sci fi stories deal with this theme. I find it fascinating to ruminate on. God allows for us to make mistakes, but he expects us to learn from them, and with each advancement in science and technology, we create a new list of problems. Progress isn’t evil. It is the result of creative, furture-thinking minds in my book. I think it is what man DOES with that progress that MAKES it evil. And stories like this one make us take a look at that. Thanks for listening. I was astounded by all the intelligent things said by everyone…

    Karin Benning

  7. Kim says:

    I just read an article about people having depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing Avatar, because they’re so infatuated with the utopia portrayed in the movie and have no hope for anything like that in their lives. See: http://www.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/01/11/avatar.movie.blues/index.html I guess the movie must be pretty convincing, eh? How very sad that people don’t have hope in something genuine, rather than a filmed fantasy!

  8. Karin Benning says:

    I don’t know how many times we should go back and forth on this topic (seems to be a hot one!), but I found the comments on the “suicide” blog very fascinating. They were all over the map. For me, a key to some of this depression is the isolation from reality and from people that can occur when one spends so (too) much time with technology and not enough time with people and productive activity. Gets back to good parenting by carefully monitoring how a child spends his time ? Once again, that theme emerges: techology of this sort is probably here to stay, but now we as part of the human race need to monitor it so it doesn’t lead to pain and destruction. I think everyone should read all the blogs submitted on the AVATAR suicide blog. I found them well-balanced, interesting, and enlightening. I would guess that the movie was meant to be motivational (help make this world better if you see it heading in the wrong direction), not hopeless. Even a small positive contribution can set off unimaginable ripples in the universe if one takes the time and does not give in to the feeling of being overwhelmed,
    I believe.

  9. Susan says:

    This is shocking to me. One friend was rhapsodizing about the movie and the world it presented, but I woud never have imagined anyone reacting as intensely to it as described in the article. Especially since the imaginary world was far from utopian in my book – it was filled with horrible monsters, and the people were not all that peaceful. They had quite a warrior class and mentality when they got going on it. However, the earth people were presented as rapacious and destructive. I guess it feeds into people’s fears about global warming, etc. There seems to be a deep guilt in people, and without God, no way of resolving it.

  10. Susan says:

    I just found Karin’s second post, and appreciate its down-to-earth practicality. It points up, as some of the comments in the listed article do, the very real dangers involved in living in, for and through technology. The antidote as expressed in our comments, in a nutshell, seems to be “turn off the TV/computer/video games/etc. and get thyself to church!”

  11. Karin Benning says:

    Yes, one cannot help but realize the pain that exists in our world. And by going to church, we can connect in positive ways to make changes. (In fellowship with others, too, to increase effectiveness.) Then it doesn’t feel so hopeless. Love how you pull our thoughts together, Susan. A real talent.
    Thanks. KB

  12. Kim says:

    On the one hand, technology can put and keep us in touch with those who are far away from us (telephone, e-mail, Facebook, texting, etc.), so, in that sense, it can knit us together in a way. Yet, it seems that overall, technology seems to isolate us and perhaps foster a limited, boundaried manner of communication. We can offer up only that part of ourselves that we want other to see or share, and reserve the rest. Maybe we’re less vulnerable communicating in those ways. What would it be like to suddenly find ourselves only able to communicate with the person next to us…no phone, no computer, no TV, no cars, no planes, etc.?

    Life would slow down. It might look, taste, feel more real. Perhaps life would not rush by so quickly!

    How in the world would I ever be able to write, if I could no longer type? Writing longhand again…..AAHHH!!!!

    Perhaps we’d really see people and become more compassionate and in tune with others. Maybe we’d give God more of our time, thoughts, hearts!

  13. Jim says:

    Quiet down and God will find you!

  14. Karin Benning says:

    I love what Kim said about “time”. I get nostalgic sometimes for the feeling of the nineteen-fifties. (Yes, I’m REALLY old) Things were much slower then—particularly childhood. I look forward to Susan’s story about fifth grade to see if it incorporates any of the thinking of that time. It took TIME to dial a rotary phone. Now that I have a six-year-old granddaughter, I fear for her in reference to the evils of the Internet. In a way, this technology will make her more vulnerable because children can be inappropriately open in their on-line communications, and their lives can be ruined in many ways. And to Kim’s point about “boundaried” communication (love that word!), I do think texting and twittering are very shallow, and work against the development of beautiful language and endearing relationships, as she said. In many cases, the twitterer now is more interested in getting a huge following rather than in saying anything particularly profound. On the other hand, perhaps there is a place for texting because it sends (sometimes) important information fast. (Witness the recent bad guys at NVC, and the ability of the administration to let the whole campus know quickly that they were there.) You know, this opens a door to another “catch-up and clean-up” result of technological development. doesn’t it? Now that we do have all these forms of communication, perhaps someday, (in the public school?) the appropriateness of each one in each setting must be comprehended, or one is set up for failure. Also, the appropriateness of opening up to others we barely know and its consequences must be understood. For instance, “U R right 4 me” may go over okay in a modern-day valentine), but not when sending off a resume to a potential employer. Of course, the “sweetie” receiving this valentine, may not think there is much depth of feeling there, either, (or an anonymous he/she may read TOO much into it) as Kim said. Anyone want to sign up for my class in “Modern Communication—How, When, and Where to Use It”? Ha Ha. Okay, Jim, I’ll TRY to slow down!

    This has been fun. I am learning a lot.

  15. Kim says:

    Oh, Karin, now that is a fabulous idea! “Modern Communication-How, When, and Where to Use It”? That would, at the very least, be a semester course in high school AND college. And old people like me would have to go to night school to be brought up to speed on the new forms of communicating.

    Unfortunately, for our grandchildren, it may be that someone will have to first introduce them to the NEED to properly communicate.

    I, too, look forward to Susan’s story about fifth grade also. I have such fond(and painful and hilarious) recollections of that year of my life.

  16. Susan says:

    Kim and Karin, thank you both for your interest in the new book! I have completed it, in the sense of having written to the end, but now have to let it “rest” awhile before going back in to revise. It was a lot of fun for me to write, and I learned some things along the way.

    By the way, the discussion of technology is now its own thread, so further comments along that line would best be attached to it.

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