Monday, December 21, 2009

Avatar

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRdxXPV9GNQ


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9 comments:

Todd said...

I hate reading reviews that take a hodgepodge of spiritual beliefs and attempt to fabricate a Christian allegory. I've read several of them. I believe Avatar fails miserably at portraying even a minute illustration of Christianity or Jesus.

At first, I was not going to see this movie. However, after receiving counsel from others and spending time with God, I felt that it was important to see, both to understand the spiritual message that director James Cameron portrays and to enjoy the 3-D CG animation.

I give the cinematography and CG animation a 10. It was absolutely brilliant! However, any attempt to bring the thought of Christ or Christianity into this movie is far-fetched and perhaps heresy.

The main theme and message appears to be based on Mayan and Native American spiritualism all wrapped up in pantheism. I believe this film has more harm than good, especially for new believers and particularly children that will see this movie. "Pantheism has been Hollywood's religion of choice for a generation now." - Source - www.neptunuslex.com

There is a difference between caring for the planet and worshiping it, which is where the new age elements come in.

It's absurd to say that God has feminine attributes. As far as I know, there are no Scriptural references that back this up. I read your blog entitled "The Feminine Side of His Image". It appears that the statements presented here are mere opinionated metaphors without real solidity to them.

Yes, Avatar has been released one week prior to Christmas and is the time that the birth of Jesus is celebrated. However, December 25th is also one of the main satanic holidays. I don't think it is a coincidence that this Pagan-poisoned movie is released at this time.

To illustrate an alien population overthrowing a human society is just plain idiotic.

As a true believer, I would be crazy to use the spiritual message portrayed in Avatar to reach the lost. However, this brings up an interesting question. Are the spiritual illustrations in Avatar parables? Not hardly. They are fables. The difference between a parable and a fable is this; "Fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human characters." - Source - http://www.wikipedia.org

That's all for now. It's getting late!

Mike Furches and The Virtual Pew said...

Todd I am responding due to the fact that you chose to remove me as a friend, and essentially called me a heretic at Facebook. Up to this point, you have refused to practice the Matthew 18 concept of reconciliation. You live in the same town, and yet refuse to follow Jesus commands and get together face to face. At least that is what I have been told.

My response: I am glad you saw the movie, you were making comments about it prior to seeing it and were basing those opinions on what others said, not what you had observed. You seem to deny the ability of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit to speak truth via various forms. God chose to spoke through an ass with Balaam; Jesus stated truth would be spoken by rocks. You either ignore, or not accept the reality that God is the author of all truth, truth that can be used as Paul illustrated to reveal ultimate truth to others. Let me be blunt, it seems that you, and those like you, are more self absorbed with your perception of truth that is rooted in judgment, than the need for a lost and dying world to see, understand, and accept Jesus as a point of salvation. Jesus was willing to incarnate and sacrifice, yet there are the supposed prophets who are unwilling to live out the message of Christ. It is time the Pharisees to stop being critical of those who by all means necessary are attempting to reach the lost. You limit the ability of the Holy Spirit, and your own unwillingness to follow Biblical mandates indicates volumes.

Think about the basics of this, I and many others who have commented on this and other postings at Facebook, clearly state, and point the need of salvation specific to, and only provided by Jesus Christ. This is a message contrary to, and totally unacceptable to one who follows Satan, yet despite the fact we believe in salvation through Christ only, that we place a place of extreme importance on the following of God’s word, again natures contrary to Satanic or heretical belief, you call what we say, what we use to point others to Christ as heresy. Yet you are unwilling to follow clear biblical guidelines like how to resolve dispute. First to each other, face to face, I offered that, then if need be, with witnesses, I offered that, then if need be before the leadership of the church or the church itself, I offer that if need be. Part of the problem though is the only way I can respond is publicly due to you blocking me and removing me as a friend. After this posting, so you are aware, I will not respond publicly, neither will I post your comments. If further action is taken, you must respond in a Biblical way, initially privately and if need be from there, via details in Matthew 18.

I would recommend looking at the Greek definitions, not Wiki. There are ample proofs as to the nature of God including the perspectives attributed to feminine aspects. A serious study of such passages can be in Psalms, 1 Thessalonians and others. I would also suggest a serious study of Romans as it is stated God has revealed himself through nature. You may quickly learn that the image of God is not male or female, for example, both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, I challenge that image is more spiritual than physical, but you do the study. Frankly, your views are I believe, rooted in bigotry, not truth.

Mike Furches and The Virtual Pew said...

As to your comments and link related to James Cameron, you point out the voices of some, while at the same time ignoring the voices of others, especially in the responses. Funny thing is you used the quote from a source credited to The New York Times, by an author who is clearly basing his opinions more on political opinions than Biblical conclusions, a simple google of this author will help prove that point. Personally, I will as I think we all should religious conclusions based on political desires. Heck the site it is sourced on even has quotes from the ‘heretical’ individuals you seem to hate. I can’t find the reason in your argument when using the link you use. I challenge others to open up the link and see if from a reliable source.

I must also remind you, teachings such as Do unto others, by Jesus, existed long before Jesus time on earth. You can see those attributes, in the same words, taught in Asian Culture. Does that deny the truth of what Jesus taught? Of course not, but if other religious teachers taught those things does that immediately imply the teaching is wrong? Of course not! Neither does it say one has to adopt or accept the totality of those teachings from others. I don’t believe Confucius was the only son of God. Neither do I deny the importance of some of the things he taught, why, because God is the author of all truth. Is your opinion based on what you seek from an honest search, or a diatribe of pharisaic attitudes based on political agenda? I ask in all seriousness. I am asking honest questions, for example, where do you worship? Who holds you accountable? Who is the leadership you submit to? Are there those you can point and specifically say, yes, he has been responsible for pointing me to, and helping me understand Jesus? I am not saying you are not a Christian, I am saying these things have relevance and while I don’t have to defend against your comments, I respond because there is what I believe to be a dangerous comment from you, one that calls others heretics.

Please don’t tell me what you are doing, pretend that I am from Missouri, show me. I have heard enough apologies and comments from others, and actions that at this point, I don’t respect the position you have taken because you have taken it beyond where it should have gone. In the process, you refused to follow clear Biblical teachings. You may hold on to your words, and your views, but I challenge, when do you submit to the teachings of Jesus? As the author of this page and article it is my right to seek wisdom from those I submit to as well as measure the truth and reality of the fruit I have seen. I have heard from others I have peace from those who know me, know you, and ultimately, God.

You mention ‘my’ blog titled "The Feminine Side of His Image", now I have written hundreds if not thousands of blogs and articles, please help me out by pointing me to that blog, to be honest, I am having trouble finding it. I am simply saying I can’t find anything titled that.

Mike Furches and The Virtual Pew said...

There is a phrase you use that bothers me, it is used by cults and those who are exclusionists, it is "true believer." This implies God has told you specifically, (may want to read up as to the real context of what it means to take God's name in vain here) and it implies you, and those like you alone have the ability to understand and apply scripture. When admitting wrong in some areas it seems wrong to use terms like this as God don’t change his mind unless you are an open theist, and I would hope more than that. The danger is anyone who disagrees with you is not a “true believer.” That is not only insulting, it is DANGEROUS especially when to others, you have admitted you made mistakes and did some things wrong in the way you responded at Facebook. The fact that you are unwilling to follow specific Biblical guidelines like those in Matthew 18 doesn’t help.

The ability to quote scripture does little to impress me. Even the Devil quotes scripture. Now I am not calling you the devil I believe in your potential, I have at times seen your heart. I just think you are misguided, I hope you struggle as struggle ultimately brings truth to an honest search. What impresses me more than the ability to quote scripture, is the willingness and desire to live, breathe, and put scripture into practice, ultimately doing what Jesus wants, especially to reach and save the lost. You see you made comments at Facebook that Jesus never maintained contact with sinners, but when people who have been a part of ministry for many years pointed out Judas and various others, you ignored the comments and refused to comment on them, instead you removed yourself as a friend, then blocked me, and apparently from what I have been told by others trying to contact you, blocked them, I hope this isn’t true with others. Let me ask, aren’t we told to study to show ourselves approved? Aren’t we to get the big log out of our eye before we start trying to remove the speck of dust from someone else’s eyes. Aren’t we supposed to throw down those stones, of course when one is without sin, I guess they can throw the stone. I guess when you are a true believer and others are heretics you can throw stones. Keep throwing if you want, I choose to follow the path of Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Mike I have seen you respond to these types of things before, this one is a little different, I saw the exchange at Face Book. You don't need to say anything else, you have said enough. Todd, if I see herecy, it is the herecy of attacking another believer as you have done here and over at Face Book. My prayer is that you will earnestly seek to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit, so far, you have obviously not done that. If you are sincere about following Jesus, do what is right, ask for forgiveness, repent, and then do what is needed to correct a false statement against a brother. I would also encourage you, the ability to discover truth and present that truth is something many of us have seen Mike do with a great deal of success. Leave the personal comments, and the "true christian" comments where they belong, in the gutter. I have seen, and heard Mike preach the cross, and salvation message, he has had a positive impact on thousands at sharing Christ. Your comments do more to hurt the kingdom than help it. I hope you think and pray on that. Just like the other thread, others have pointed out the truth to you, but for whatever reason you are blinded. Don't be so quick to blame that on others, look in your own heart.

Mike Furches and The Virtual Pew said...

Thanks, I don't plan on saying anything else unless appropriate and related to the film, certainly not here. I have made the commitment to not respond to Todd unless he follows through on appropriate Biblical teachings on this. I hate it has gone where it has. I have likely responded too much already.

Anonymous said...

Todd, there was a day when one said another was teaching herecy or was a heretic that it meant someone was getting ready to be burnt at the stake. Is that what you are wanting to happen, I mean a true believer or true christian is to follow the bible and isn't that what the Bible says to do? I bet you and Fred Phelps have enjoyed a good discussion over tea haven't you. You are after all, apparently two peas in a pod.

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Mike Furches and The Virtual Pew said...

thanks 7th Tavern, I appreciate it, these reviews are copyrighted and owned by The Virtual Pew and Hollywood Jesus, please contact us off line if interested in talking about ways they can be used outside of this site.