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Theme:  All Gift1

 

 

Insights:   

The phenomenal success of James Cameron's Avatar has resulted in considerable commentary, both written and spoken, as to what the film is "really" all about.  It has been examined for economical, political, environmental and sociological messages.  This "glimpse" of Avatar is not concerned with those topics, but simply tries to answer one question.  What is it about Avatar that touches peoples' hearts?

 

 

Two Worlds

First the film needs to be seen as a contrast between two very different worlds.  The main plot revolves around the escalating clash between human beings from Earth and the indigenous people of Pandora.

 

Human Beings

Na'vi

Hierarchical

Tribal

Material

Spiritual

Organization

Organism

Propaganda

Propagation

Masks

Senses

Mercenary Warriors

Merciful Warriors

False / See exterior

True / See interior

Hell's Gate

Home Tree

Dragon Gun Ships

Hallelujah Mountains

Malevolent Domination

Benevolent Dominion

Each for themselves

Part of the people

Ugly / Colorless

Beauty / Color

Dying for Wealth

Life over Wealth

Technological Power

Prayer Power

Blind

Seeing

 

In examining this list, it is fairly easy to see why the audience is enamored with the Na'vi and why they see the human as corrupt and contemptible.  But there is more to the list than meets the eye.

 

The description of the Na'vi is not too unlike the Biblical description of human beings when they were originally created by God (Genesis 1 & 2).  God created humans as embodied spiritual beings who would live in intimate relationship with Him and each other2.  This intimate tribal community was to function more organically than organizationally.3  He gave them five external senses (taste, touch, hearing, sight, smell) to be connected to one internal sense, the heart enabling them to see into and to know intimately each other and the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). 

 

The original Eden was a Garden Temple (their Home Tree) from which humans were instructed to spread out, multiply and fill the earth with the glory of God (Genesis 1:26-28).4  They were created to exercise benevolent dominion over the Zoological and Botanical Kingdoms.  This role of being God's Vice Regents would require them to share His life and to be connected to Him in prayerful communion.  God gave them this incredible planet with all its beauty and wealth as a gift for them to enjoy.5

 

All of this was lost in "The Fall" (Genesis 3).  When Adam (humankind) made the choice to live independent of God, sin entered the world and death through sin (Romans 5:12).  The description of the human beings on Pandora is a good description of fallen mankind.

 

Living in hierarchical domination, the strong overpower and oppress the weak. Fallen humans driven by lust and greed live for material gain. Disconnected from God, they die spiritually; their faces becoming mask-like as their bodies are slowly corrupted by sin.  Never feeling at home after being expelled from Eden and the presence of God, they build towers of malevolent domination (Genesis 11:1-9).  Money is the idol god they worship and are willing to sacrifice their lives for becoming more mercenary than merciful.  Cities look like ugly prisons of poverty and injustice where power brokers rule from elite towers. Blinded by sin, they cannot see.

 

Avatar fans are so attracted to the movie because at some level (perhaps subconscious) there is a recognition, a remembering of Eden (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  "Imagery has the power to go deeper than mere words..Imagery goes beyond the intellect into the imagination informing the intellect and igniting the emotions".6  The imagery of life on Pandora goes deep into the imagination and is a reminder of things that once were, but now have been lost.



A Story

There is more than just a contrast between two worlds that excites the imagination.  There is a story.  The storyline of Avatar touches people deeply.  Why?  Because it is a mythic story.  Not mythic in the sense of being untrue, but mythic as transcendent and eternal.  "Myths are first of all stories - stories which confront us with something transcendent and eternal..a means by which the eternal expresses itself in time".7

 

Storyline:

     The hero, Jake Sully, receives his brother's life - "One life ends, another begins".

     He arrives on Pandora in weakness, a humble person with a gorgeous brain and a pure heart.

     He is stripped of his weapons, falls into the water and is immersed in a new life.

     A holy sign descends upon him, marking him out.

     His cup is empty.

     There is a time of acceptance.

     He becomes one with the people in a special ceremony.

     He is perceived to have betrayed those who believed in him.

     He is buried in ash when the tree falls and must overcome the Last Shadow.

     He returns to the people and they see who he truly is - "I see you".

     He gathers all the clans together, something only he could do with his powerful new name.

     Under his leadership, the enemy is defeated and the time of sorrow is over.

     Pandora is cleansed from the evil invaders.

This mythic story is a messianic narrative, following the pattern seen in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ.7

 

His storyline:

     The last Adam comes as the Son of God to restore what Adam lost (Romans 5:18-19).

     He emptied himself taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of a man ((Philippians 2:6-10).

     He was baptized (immersed) and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (Luke 3:21-22).

     There was a time of popularity.

     He was transfigured (an investiture) (Matthews 17:1-6).

     He was rejected and crucified on a cross (Galatians 3:13).

     Overcoming death (the last shadow), He rose victorious from the grave (Luke 24:36-39).

     He appeared to those who abandoned him, and they see Him for who He truly is (Acts 1:1-9).

     He gathers men from every tribe (Revelation 5:9-10).

     The earth shall be cleansed and renewed, and the time of sorrow will be over (Revelation 21:5-7).

 

"I See You"

Finally, Avatar touches people because it speaks to their deepest desire. Ever since the loss of Eden every human being has three core desires:

     A heart for a heart - a perfect soul mate

     An adventure or pilgrimage - looking for their lost home

     An inward purity - a new heart

 

Beauty, Intimacy, Adventure..Avatar has it all.

 

To not connect this story with God's Large Story of Redemption, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is sad for all those thirsty souls going to see the movie.  For it is His eyes that are the flame of fire that truly say, "I see you". (Revelation 1:14). 

 

 

 

Notes:

1.       Pandora means "All Gift".

2.       For an excellent Biblical perspective on humanity see The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard, Harper Collins

3.       Tribes are the designed grouping for human beings.

4.       For a very in depth discussion of Eden as the Garden Temple see The Temple and the Church's Mission by G.K. Beale, Inter Varsity Press.

5.       Eden means "delight".

6.       Discipleship on the Edge by Darrell Johnson, page 22, Regent College Publishing.

7.       Christ is Greek for Messiah.

8.       Rolland Hein, quoted in Waking the Dead  by John Eldredge.

 

 

 

 

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