Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Message of "AVATAR"

Evangelical Christians are often "consuming the culture" without even questioning the message.

With "AVATAR," now the highest grossing movie of all time, some Christian leaders are taking a critical look at the actual message of the film.

Some movie goers are slamming the film as completely pantheistic, while others praise it for the Christian Gospel parallels.

A panel of evangelical leaders has given some excellent advice and insight on the message of "AVATAR" and expressed some concern regarding how Christians consume the culture.

And a successful Hollywood screenwriter and author gives some helpful suggestions regarding Christians and the media in our culture.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, JR., President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mark T. Coppenger, professor of Christian Apologetics, Russell D. Moore, dean of the SBTS' School of Theology and several others commented on "AVATAR" at a panel discussion last week.

Moore says the real danger with Hollywood films is not the blatantly negative or anti-Christian messages that are obvious, but the subtle ones that Christians do not even recognize in today's culture.

Moore says, "What concerns me is not so much the message, but the fact that most people aren't really getting or seeing the message."

"Keep in mind," he said, "this is the same guy (producer James Cameron) who had evangelical Christians standing up and applauding to scenes of fornication in "TITANIC". It's so subtle the way that it works through that you become emotionally connected before you realize what's going on."

Obviously the film has reached a very broad audience, creating $2 billion in worldwide gross revenue so far, setting an all time revenue record.

It taps into some kind of religious longing people have, and in a postmodern world where truth is relative, "AVATAR" has broad appeal.

Ted Cabal, a professor at SBTS said, "Even though its got a mixture of sci-fi where the religion can be explained in naturalist terms, it's still much appealing to the average, what I call, postmodern religionist who's not clear as to what he's after."

"It doesn't matter if it doesn't make a lot of sense," he says, "everything is God impersonally, but you can also pray to this God and so at the end, AWA (the deity in the film) answers prayer. So you're like, 'okay mix a little personal God in there for those Americans who like prayer."

The film contains reference points to the Christian Gospel, but recasts it as a completely different gospel, Mohler believes.

He said, "It includes a 'secular Eden' (Pandora); the reference that every person is 'born twice'---the second time is when you become part of your people forever; and its own metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption and consummation."

In a different, but related story, Andrew Klavan, a successful author and Hollywood screenwriter, has told the press that Christians need to pay close attention to the message from books, television programs and movies.

Klavan, who has worked with Clint Eastwood, Michael Douglas and other high pro-file actors, says that in most cases anyone who is patriotic or Christian are cast as a hypocrite, hater, or worse.

He encourages Christians to be very careful.

We can take at least two things from this.

First, be very discerning. Understand that most all books, TV shows and films have a message. That's the world we live in. Be sure the message is not contrary or damaging to your biblical worldview and that which you are teaching to your children.

Secondly, in the case of "AVATAR," it is apparent that millions of people are paying to see a story that touches on points that are important to them. Dr. Mohler believes this story helps Christians to define their "mission field" and perhaps can lead to opportunities to share the "story of stories"---the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Indeed.

Be discerning. Be active. Do not be silent.

God bless you and thank you for supporting this ministry.

____________
Gary Randall
President
Faith & Freedom

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4 comments:

  1. It is interesting that the Evangelical world has to debate the merits of Gospel parallelisms when even non-Believing friends of mine identify this movie as "green" "tribal"and "earther" propaganda. Once again you hit the mark in that Followers of Jesus have lost their concept of the definition of Holy and the ideas of the history relative to present in society.

    Not only that, it is interesting that this movie continues the demoralizing of America in general. Again, we have lost the intent of the U.S. Founders as to what our Constitutional Republic is and what patriotism is.

    The challenge for Followers of Jesus is to impact our culture according to the fundamentals of the Bible. Unfortunately, many leaders have subscribed to the Social Gospel instituted by Richard Ely. Not withstanding that, our Seminaries no longer include a historical liberal education along with Biblical training; the ability to see what the American Founders discussed on all these issues is lost to but a few.

    The dialogue would be served well if we base our social and cultural concerns on a rubric that uses historical Biblical teaching and writings of the intent of the Founding Fathers of America.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I haven't seen the movie and don't
    plan on it. I don't really know what it's about. I thought I saw something on TV about it. If it's what I think it is, it's something about some kind of large, powerful robot kind of things that stomp around and such.

    In the 80's we called those kind of things "transformers". There were toys that could be manipulated and changed from something like a car to a robot.

    I put the word "transform" into my electronic pocket concordance and three verses from II Cor came up. It's about Satan and his messengers, the things Satan does.

    The world often takes something that is light and copies it in some form or fashion to seem to be as light in order to draw a crowd for selling tickets to a movie, or to sell a book or whatever, but it isn't light.

    Things are often twisted. Another sign of the times I suppose. It must be because God is about to do something.

    ReplyDelete
  3. AVATAR

    The film Avatar has finally been released this month after being in development since 1994. I have not seen it yet, but I have read about it and discussed it with several people who have. This prose-poem tries to encapsulate some of my initial thoughts on this blockbuster, its initial reception and some of its meaning.

    James Cameron, who wrote, produced and directed the film, stated in an interview that an avatar is: “an incarnation of one of the Hindu gods taking a flesh form." In this film, though, avatar has more to do with human technology in the future being capable of injecting a human's intelligence into a remotely located body, a biological body. "It's not an avatar in the sense of just existing as ones and zeroes in cyberspace,” said Cameron; “it's actually a physical body." The great student of myth, Joseph Campbell(1), should have been at the premier in London on 10 December 2009. I wonder what he would have said.

    Composer James Horner scored the film, his third collaboration with Cameron after Aliens and Titanic. A field guide of 224 pages for the film's fictional setting of the planet of Pandora was released by Harper Entertainment just five weeks ago. The guide was entitled Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora. With an estimated $310 million to produce and $150 million for marketing, the film has already generated positive reviews from film critics. Roger Ebert, one of the more prestigious of film critics, wrote: “An extraordinary film: Avatar is not simply sensational entertainment, although it is that. It's a technical breakthrough."-Ron Price with thanks to Wikipedia, 30 December 2009.

    Like viewing Star Wars back in ’77
    some said/an obvious script with an
    earnestness & corniness/part of what
    makes it absorbing/said another/Gives
    you a world, a place/worth visiting/eh?
    Alive with action and a soundtrack that
    pops with robust sci-fi shoot-'em-ups...

    A mild critique of American militarism
    and industrialism.....yes the military are
    pure evil........the Pandoran tribespeople
    are nature-loving, eco-harmonious, wise
    Braveheart smurf warriors. Received....
    nominations for the Critics' Choice Awards
    of the Broadcast Film Critics Association &
    on and on go the recommendations for the..
    best this and that and everything else. What
    do you think of all this Joseph Campbell???
    You said we all have to work our own myth(1)
    in our pentapolar, multicultural-dimensional
    world with endless phantoms of our wrongly
    informed imagination, with our tangled fears,
    our pundits of error, ill-equipped to interpret
    the social commotion tearing our world apart
    and at play on planetizing-globalizing Earth.(2)

    (1)Google Joseph Campbell for some contemporary insights into the individualized myth we all have to work out in our postmodern world.
    (2)The Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, has been presented as an avatar in India beginning, arguably, in the 1960s. With only 1000 Baha’is in India in 1960 to more than 2 million by the year 2010. Baha’u’llah has been associated with the kalkin avatar who, according to a major Hindu holy text, will appear at the end of the kali yuga, one of the four main stages of history, for the purpose of reestablishing an era of righteousness. There are many examples of what one might call a quasi-cross-cultural messianistic approach to Bahá'í teaching in India.

    This approach has included: (a) emphasizing the figures of Buddha and Krishna as past Manifestations of God or avatars; (b) making references to Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, (c) the substitution of Sanskrit-based terminology for Arabic and Persian where possible; for example, Bhagavan Baha for Bahá'u'lláh, (d) the incorporation in both song and literature of Hindu holy spots, hero-figures and poetic images and (e) using heavily Sanskritized-Hindi translations of Baha'i scriptures and prayers.

    Ron Price
    30 December 2009

    ReplyDelete
  4. AVATAR

    The film Avatar has finally been released this month after being in development since 1994. I have not seen it yet, but I have read about it and discussed it with several people who have. This prose-poem tries to encapsulate some of my initial thoughts on this blockbuster, its initial reception and some of its meaning.

    James Cameron, who wrote, produced and directed the film, stated in an interview that an avatar is: “an incarnation of one of the Hindu gods taking a flesh form." In this film, though, avatar has more to do with human technology in the future being capable of injecting a human's intelligence into a remotely located body, a biological body. "It's not an avatar in the sense of just existing as ones and zeroes in cyberspace,” said Cameron; “it's actually a physical body." The great student of myth, Joseph Campbell(1), should have been at the premier in London on 10 December 2009. I wonder what he would have said.

    Composer James Horner scored the film, his third collaboration with Cameron after Aliens and Titanic. A field guide of 224 pages for the film's fictional setting of the planet of Pandora was released by Harper Entertainment just five weeks ago. The guide was entitled Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora. With an estimated $310 million to produce and $150 million for marketing, the film has already generated positive reviews from film critics. Roger Ebert, one of the more prestigious of film critics, wrote: “An extraordinary film: Avatar is not simply sensational entertainment, although it is that. It's a technical breakthrough."-Ron Price with thanks to Wikipedia, 30 December 2009.

    Like viewing Star Wars back in ’77
    some said/an obvious script with an
    earnestness & corniness/part of what
    makes it absorbing/said another/Gives
    you a world, a place/worth visiting/eh?
    Alive with action and a soundtrack that
    pops with robust sci-fi shoot-'em-ups...

    A mild critique of American militarism
    and industrialism.....yes the military are
    pure evil........the Pandoran tribespeople
    are nature-loving, eco-harmonious, wise
    Braveheart smurf warriors. Received....
    nominations for the Critics' Choice Awards
    of the Broadcast Film Critics Association &
    on and on go the recommendations for the..
    best this and that and everything else. What
    do you think of all this Joseph Campbell???
    You said we all have to work our own myth(1)
    in our pentapolar, multicultural-dimensional
    world with endless phantoms of our wrongly
    informed imagination, with our tangled fears,
    our pundits of error, ill-equipped to interpret
    the social commotion tearing our world apart
    and at play on planetizing-globalizing Earth.(2)

    (1)Google Joseph Campbell for some contemporary insights into the individualized myth we all have to work out in our postmodern world.
    (2)The Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, has been presented as an avatar in India beginning, arguably, in the 1960s. With only 1000 Baha’is in India in 1960 to more than 2 million by the year 2010. Baha’u’llah has been associated with the kalkin avatar who, according to a major Hindu holy text, will appear at the end of the kali yuga, one of the four main stages of history, for the purpose of reestablishing an era of righteousness. There are many examples of what one might call a quasi-cross-cultural messianistic approach to Bahá'í teaching in India.

    This approach has included: (a) emphasizing the figures of Buddha and Krishna as past Manifestations of God or avatars; (b) making references to Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, (c) the substitution of Sanskrit-based terminology for Arabic and Persian where possible; for example, Bhagavan Baha for Bahá'u'lláh, (d) the incorporation in both song and literature of Hindu holy spots, hero-figures and poetic images and (e) using heavily Sanskritized-Hindi translations of Baha'i scriptures and prayers.

    Ron Price
    30 December 2009

    ReplyDelete

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