Monday, December 21, 2009


I hate reading the views of others before seeing a movie, yet I kind of fell into that with the new movie, Avatar. The views of the religious community especially many in the Christian community had few positive things to say about Avatar. Unfortunately, I have heard these complaints before, with ET and Star Wars. Many are being critical of this film for the same reasons, based on what someone said in a review. With a focus that seemed to be politically driven more than spiritually driven, or even worse, on their ‘spirit led’ views. I decided to see the movie, to see if once again, the religious community was jumping the gun, or if in fact the spirit in me, would convince me they were right or wrong. (Note on the previous sentence, I am being sarcastic because I think any of us can use this argument as if it gives us the excuse to not use logic or reason to support our views, but if those ‘led by the Spirit’ can use that as a end all to prove their point, I can digress there as well.) Now to try and do something that I have actually seen few ‘Christian’ reviews (outside of Hollywood Jesus) do; talk about the movie and the positive aspects of it.

First if you are just arriving back from the space shuttle, out of prison, from the dark pits of a jungle or some other place where you have been away from movie news, let me tell you a little about the new release Avatar. This film directed and written by James Cameron took right around 5 years to make. For Cameron this was a labor of love, and many think the initial costs of production will actually make it difficult for the movie to make profits. It is extremely sad if that is the case because, especially in the 3-D format which is the version of movie I saw, we see brilliance on screen. Not since Star Wars can I think of a movie that advanced the concept of imagery better than Avatar. I use the following word carefully, but I ‘marveled’ at the images portrayed on screen. Apparently Cameron oversaw every facet of the film and what happens visually in the blending of animation, CGI and live action has one forgetting and at times, even confused as to the images they are seeing, what is real and what is CGI is lost, we simply ‘marvel at what we are seeing on screen. The 3-D effects do a good job at placing us in the movie. On the point of 3-D, I have heard many say this is the best 3-D they have seen. I will say while it was good, it wasn’t the best I have seen. I appreciated the 3-D in 2009’s Disney’s A Christmas Carol much more. If reviewing a film based simply on visual, sound, editing, direction, and technical aspects, Avatar would be an easy 10 for me. Unfortunately there is more to a movie than just the visual and technical.

Avatar, rated Pg-13, has Jake a paraplegic war veteran going to the planet Pandora. Pandora has as its people the Na’vi. This humanoid race has their own culture deeply rooted in their planets history and religious beliefs. They are connected with nature, and ultimately with each other and their creator. We see early on that a way has been developed for the humans to take on the bodily form of the Na’vi. Jake has been chosen for this option. He is to learn the ways of the Na’vi and in the process assist the humans in developing the land to obtain its valuable resources. Jake begins to develop relationships with the Na’vi, especially the beautiful Neytiri who is responsible for his training. As their relationship develops, Jake not only starts to fall in love with Neytiri, he falls in love with the people and culture of the Na’vi. This doesn’t set well with those who have no respect for the people of Pandora, and Jake has to ultimately choose sides.

Unfortunately the main problem with Avatar is the story. We see a story we have seen many times before, albeit not always as well done as here. In the development of story we loose some of the quality as it is not very deep. The acting is credible, and at times, especially the grieving scenes are very moving, however, it takes too long to develop, and I found the first 30 - 45 minutes boring. The cast do a credible job, especially Sigourney Weaver who plays Dr. Grace Augustine. Her role may have more audience appeal than anything she has played in some time. One of the things each of the characters do through CGI and Live Action is deliver a wide range of emotion, and with virtually every character, we see class work.

One of the criticisms of Avatar is it promotes “New Age” beliefs, especially in the appreciation and care of the planet. Many forget about the Biblical mandate in Genesis to take care of the planet. There seems to be the belief that the earth, (some would say the parallel intended by Cameron with the planet Pandora) is to use as we want, the earth, to our benefit. Many Christians forget about their teachings that God created the earth with a purpose, it was all good, and it all works together. There is the mandate to care for the planet. The book of Romans specifically states that God has revealed and shown himself through nature. However, because some particular belief that we disagree with also uses those same concepts we want to throw out the baby with the bath water.

I think another point of criticism that parallels the film to ‘New Age’ concepts is rooted in prejudice and sexism. Don’t get me wrong, but I really believe this. Avatar refers to the creator as ‘she’ as opposed to ‘he.’ For many this is likely rooted in their issue with ‘Mother Earth.’ There seems to be an unwillingness or guilt association that relates anything feminine to the nature of God. Many Christians either don’t know, or forget, that there are also references to God that relate him to a loving and caring mother, a feminine attribute. There is also the refusal to accept others who are different, and anything that seems to want to draw people together, through their spirits is based not only on racial prejudice, but religious bigotry. I think that the alien concept is one some may have issue with, but while the body may be different, their spirits are intertwined, all created by God, and all individuals God is willing to listen to in prayer, when that prayer is sincere, (another visual illustration portrayed in this ‘evil’ ‘dangerous’ movie.) Strong words I know, but even though this may not be a conscious response by many, I believe that for some it is, and for others, a subconscious reality.

There are ample aspects that are more than a little unique in Avatar. Avatar has been released the week prior to Christmas. Christmas is a time of year where many celebrate the birth of Jesus. In Avatar we actually see some of those concepts focused on, I believe in a very appropriate, allegorical way. We see Jake as one who takes on the form of the Na’vi. He becomes one of them so they will better understand him, and he better understands and relate to them. We see this developed in a beautiful way. He falls in love with the people and while they are quick at times to have him killed or not accept him he still offers a love built out of relationship. Jake is willing to ultimately offer up his life if need be to provide salvation to the people he has come to love. There is even the teaching of the need for individuals to be “born twice”. Through the second birth the individual receiving the second birth can experience eternal life. Then there is the ultimate need that the people of Pandora have to submit to and follow Jake unconditionally to not only experience literal freedom, but spiritual freedom. Freedom that even in death, eternity is obtainable. I wonder if these concepts presented in the film sound familiar to any who have been so critical for the movie being so much against the message of Jesus.

For the religious people of the world, especially Christians, if using the above concepts you may be confused. In theological concepts (the study of God) we call this incarnation. The concept of incarnation is something not only taught in various religious communities, as described in the movie, it is specifically taught in the Bible, it is an attribute specific to the person of Jesus Christ. Yet I am confused, I am confused because it seems as if so many people who state they are followers of their religious beliefs, are so quick to point to the ‘new age’ concepts of the movie as opposed to see the illustrations that can point towards spiritual beliefs. I have seen two particular reviews from Christian review web sites that are more focused on the political aspects than they are the spiritual aspects addressed in the film. Not a one brings out the spiritual parallels mentioned here, at least that I have seen.

I have to wonder are people, especially some Christians, so much like the humans in the film that they forget about the message of incarnation, to people who are different, to people who not only desires love and understanding, but desire to offer that love and understanding back to their creator. It is through the incarnational aspects we see presented in Avatar that we can learn and see messages of how missions, whether to other countries, or our own communities can have the opportunity for success. Enough on that ramble though, I suspect the conversation will continue, and each of us, will be led by God’s Spirit to come to the right decision. I just wonder though, when making such direct commentary, when there are those that disagree, how do we know which one has really heard from God on their conclusions?

I know some people go to movies to just enjoy the movie, I am fine with that, but I love going to see if there is spiritual commentary in the film. The reality is, like it or not, these types of associations do not happen by chance. One don’t have to look far to see these associations in Avatar, heck, all they have to do is stay awake and watch the movie. Avatar is loaded with ample opportunity to discuss faith, the protection of the planet, and so much more. Whether you care about the rainforest, a parallel in the film, or you care about the desire to know God, or even the ability to love those who are different, this film has it all. It is done in an incredibly beautiful way visually and conceptually. While the story is old, Cameron does justice to the story. It isn’t perfect but it is still very good and one I think fulfilled my expectations. I wouldn’t say it is the best movie of the season, but it is one well worth watching.

On a scale of 1 – 10, for the potential of infinity, (eternity) the movie suggests, minus the two words of Second Birth, I give it a very deserving and entertaining 8.

To see the following, just click on the video, if the video don't appear, click on the link:

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Wichita, the Church in Wichita Kansas where Mike is the pastor.

Click Here to Go to The Virtual Pew Daily Verse and Read The Bible in a Year Passages

Click here for booking information to have Pastor Mike come speak or perform, from speaking to music or magic, something for all groups.

You can also Help The Virtual Pew by shopping on our web site or at Amazon, click here to shop at Amazon and help The Virtual Pew, it won't cost you anything extra, but we get a small percentage of the purchase.

Click to visit with Pastor Mike regarding any of your needs. He will respond to each request personally, and if need be refer you to one of our other pastors.

Click to visit and join the new group The Virtual Pew, at MySpace. Become a part of a different kind of Christian group, check out the page for more information,all welcome, including those who are not followers of Jesus.

Click to visit the Virtual Pew Website and become a part of that ministry.

Click to subscribe to my blog

Click to visit and join our sister group at MySpace Hollywood Jesus.

Click to visit Mary Jane Furches' new MySpace Page

Now for those that do not know, make sure you check out the numerous articles and blogs by checking out the archives. If visiting The Virtual Pew or MySpace they are archived on the left hand side of the page. Scroll down to where you see newer or older listed under archives and then click there. There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free e-book pre edit version of The Keystone Kid at mike@thevirtualpew.comYou can visit and on the front page down on the left side you sill see our store. Your purchase provides needed funds to The Virtual Pew. If you do not see something to purchase you can click on the search engine, (do not put anything in the search box at this time). You will be taken to Amazon where you can search for anything you desire. Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word.Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
P.O. Box 17731
Wichita, KS 67217

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew

Donations to The Virtual Pew

The Virtual Pew

The Virtual Pew Blog

Personal Furches Web Site

Mary Jane Furches MySpace Page

Mike Furches MySpace Page

Mike Furches MySpace Blog

Hollywood Jesus

Reviews With Mike

The Virtual Pew Sermons

The Virtual Pew News

MySpace Hollywood Jesus Group

MySpace The Virtual Pew Group

The Virtual Pew Live Radio Web Page

To Subscribe to The Virtual Pew Live Feed

Monday, December 7, 2009

Prairie Giant, the Pastor Tommy Douglas Story, A Commentary on Health Care and More

Have you ever been to one of those discount stores and seen the discount movie bin, you know, the movies that are usually $5 or less? About a month ago I actually came across a bin with those types of movies at of all places a Christian book store. I saw a couple that looked interesting, one I had heard of, the original, In His Steps, and another, newer one from 2005 out of Canada I hadn’t heard of named Prairie Giant, the Pastor Tommy Douglas Story.

Truth is, while Tommy Douglas was named the greatest Canadian of all Time, I hadn’t heard much about him, there was name recognition and that was it, which is a shame as one who prides himself in the study of history and the influence of Christians on society I am embarrassed to say I knew little more. Tommy Douglas was also a Baptist minister and as some may appreciate, he was also Kiefer Sutherlands Grandfather. His accomplishments were many, and during the debate currently taking place in America regarding Health Care, his story, the obstacles and the things that drove him are relevant for a new generation, for a different nation.

Prairie Giant covers more than a 50 year period in the life of Tommy Douglas, from his first pastors’ position in Saskatchewan to his years in the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. This three hour movie covers a great deal of history, and provides ample background to draw one into the life of Douglas. We see the deep love between his wife and him, as well as the challenges of standing up against the political powers of the time, the powers that represented the wealthy, the money, and the capitalistic powers that be. The thing that drove Douglas, even from the early years, was clearly the message and teachings of Jesus Christ. Douglas was an outspoken opponent and servant of the poor, from all walks of life. His experience in the pulpit and the ability to communicate with others would be a driving force to help in his long term success in the Canadian Parliament.

Douglas, while a pastor in Saskatchewan was forced to see the challenges placed on the poor. From the unimaginable working conditions placed on local miners, to the lack of food for the poor, and the need for health care. Many of the things I found challenging while watching this captivating mini-series from Canada was the arguments that were used some 50 years ago. Without getting into a debate on the policies currently under consideration in America, I found it mesmerizing that the arguments I hear now related to Universal Health Care, are the exact same arguments I saw presented in the movie. What is different though is the perspective of the one fighting for the rights of the poor, and ultimately universal health care in the movie has as a part of his conviction, conviction based on deeply held religious beliefs specific to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I can’t help but think some about the driving force behind much of the theology of many Christians in America. I have to wonder, is that theology based on politically held beliefs of political parties, or are those beliefs rooted and founded in the teachings of Jesus Christ. One can normally tell the difference when we start hearing things about founders, when in fact that information is not accurate or founded, or when we hear about capitalistic ideas as opposed to Biblical teachings. I am confident, if a belief is held deeply on the teachings of Jesus, then it seems that should be supported with the teachings of Jesus from Scripture. Yet to find excuse and reason to not use Biblical supports, or to even try to counter those Biblical supports without Biblical proof seems to me to indicate a belief in a system not based on Jesus teachings, but on political perspectives. Don’t get me wrong, if this is your foundation, fine, I have no qualm about that, but if your foundation is Jesus, remember this, “No servant is able to serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (riches, or anything in which you trust and on which you rely).” (Luke 16:13 Amplified) Tommy Douglas had to face this challenge from within his own denomination, it was clear to him that he had to follow the teachings of Jesus, specifically from the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 25:31-46 where we are told of the importance of serving the ‘least of these.”

Douglas was a part of a denomination that told him he could not be involved politically and at the same time preach the gospel. He was clear, and to the point as to how he disagreed with them. This was the driving force that caused him to step down as a pastor and take on the political world he lived in, not however without the support of many within his denomination, his church, and those in the community he had shown a willingness to love by serving them. It was a call that lasted for over 50 years. The leadership within some in the religious community wanted his focus to be on sin, but one scene in the movie eloquently illustrates, that Douglas believed that when we refuse to stand up to the oppression of the poor, from a Biblical perspective we are allowing sin, in fact, to not stand up against the oppression of the poor, is in fact, sin.

Douglas was a man who knew the “common” man and woman and never lost sight of his calling. While many fight for the idea, he distinguished the importance of standing beside of, and fighting for the people. While he was a man who was deeply committed to his faith, he was also a man who understood the difficulties of real life because he lived real life. One scene in the movie has the young pastor, who in fact was a boxing champion; tell one of the young men in the movie that he should forget the rules of the ring in standing up to a bully. At the point when a bully is being a bully, he has already lost all respect for rules. This type of real relationship, with real people was what drove their love and appreciation for Douglas, but his standing by their side also drove and inspired him. He had seen people die for their convictions, whether a poor person without health care, or a union worker who had been beaten by union forces encouraged by the government to stand against those striking workers. Douglas you could say got his hands dirty, he wasn’t a Monday morning quarterback, he knew the convictions of his heart, and did what was needed to see changes take place for the people he believed all Christians were called to serve.

There will be many who will disagree with the positions taken by Tommy Douglas, but no matter what your position, one has to respect his dedication to the things he believed. He believed in them enough to dedicate and give his life. I am also amazed though at the reality that many will often say that those of faith, Christians in fact, have never really contributed to the cause and needs of the “common” man and woman. Yet, we know, it was Christians involved in the overthrow of slavery, who fought to protect and help many during the civil rights movement, and who fought for women’s suffrage among many things. Through the life of Tommy Douglas, we can see it was Christians who fought to establish rights not just for Canadians but North Americans on many fronts, not just Universal Health Care, but unemployment benefits, quality education for all, farmer benefits and much more. I believe the true measure of a Christian has to be measured in part by how important it is to place the teachings of Jesus in a place of precedence over every thing else, including political persuasion. As a measure of desire to follow those teachings has to involve what we do for the poor, or least of these.

I would encourage looking for this DVD, it is well worth the purchase, certainly worth the $5 I paid for it. The only major disappointment I had was that none of the special features advertised on the DVD were actually on the DVD I purchased. Thankfully there are many things related to the real Tommy Douglas available on YouTube and other web sources. I have found a new historical character to appreciate and learn more about. Despite your political views this is a fascinating historical viewing you can watch and contemplate, especially if a person of faith. If you are undecided about things like Health Care, I think this movie may be more educational than many realize, and more dangerous than others would want. One thing is certain, Prairie Giant, the Pastor Tommy Douglas Story is a story and DVD that could have the Tommy Douglas preaching beyond the grave, for that, I can’t help but believe that he and his decedents would be proud.

The following are clips from the movie and other appropriate aspects of Tommy Douglas. Just click on the video, if the video don't appear, click on the link:

The following video may be one of the best political speeches for the masses I have ever heard. This animated film, with a voice over of the real Tommy Douglas is introduced by Douglas' grandson, Kiefer Sutherland.

The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me, there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.

Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid

You can also order the book at all major retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and so forth. It is available via e-book for .99 Cents or if having a way to download, can download the full audiobook at and simply going to Mike Furches / The Keystone Kid. The audio version of the book is available for a free download.!store
Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Church where Mike is Pastor

The Keystone Kid/Virtual Pew Message Boards

Click to subscribe to my blog

There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at You can visit

Hopefully, you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
1249 N. St. Francis
Wichita Kansas, 67214

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew

Donations to The Virtual Pew

The Virtual Pew Blog

Personal Furches Web Site

Hollywood Jesus

Reviews With Mike

The Virtual Pew Sermons

The Virtual Pew News