« Mormon Films, Evangelical Audience? | Main | The Gritty Life of a Real Parish »

December 26, 2009

Avatar and the Gospel According to James

NYT says it's 'capitalistic excess wrapped around a deeply felt religious message'

New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis really likes Avatar, gushing that the film depicts a new "Eden" while giving it the prestigious "NYT Critics' Pick."

But her colleague, op-ed columnist Ross Douthat, apparently doesn't share those feelings, saying that James Cameron's sci-fi epic is, "Like the holiday season itself . . . a crass embodiment of capitalistic excess wrapped around a deeply felt religious message. It’s at once the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, and the Gospel According to James."

And that's just his opening paragraph. Douthat goes on to call the film "a long apologia for pantheism" that merely reflects the results found in a recent Pew Forum report -- that "many self-professed Christians hold beliefs about the 'spiritual energy' of trees and mountains."

Hmm, interesting observations, and quite possibly on target. But I simply say, relax. Avatar isn't forcing anything down anyone's throat, no more than any other movie -- and less so than many agenda-driven films made by Christians -- with a message. It's a fantasy film about an alien planet.

Can't we all just chill out and enjoy the cinematic ride? I haven't hugged any trees since seeing Avatar -- though they sure are beautiful outside my window right now with today's fresh snowfall -- and I can't wait to see it again.

Related Tags: Avatar


If you thought the trees outside your window were beautiful, then in that moment you hugged them./

Douthat is not just worried about this movie, he is worried about the wider spread of earth-centered Pantheism in society at large. Possibly he got the inspiration for his concern from the Pope, who condemned naturalistic Pantheism for the second time in a year in his message for the World Day of Peace. Presumably the Pope also thinks this trend is worrying enough to merit a caution.

Personally, as a budding filmmaker with a love for sfx, I agree that James Cameron overdid it. And most media is polytheistic these days, so his message is nothing new.
Sure, we can relax. We also need to remember about the 'little foxes'. (I always think that when the antichrist arrives on the scene, the same folks who are telling us to relax will be the same folks who will take the mark of the beast as 'no big deal', lol. But then again, its only a movie and none of the things that many Christians profess are really real, right? ) Anyway, we are also admonished to remain alert about what goes into our eye- and eargates. Anyway some Christians are so relaxed that they have lost what it is to be a Christian (Living life according to the standards of CHRIST.)
But what does it all matter anyway? It is what it is.
As for me and my house, we serve the LORD.

"It's just....." How many times have I heard this phase in recent days? Avatar is a brilliant technological breakthrough in cinematography. Credits to James Cameron and company for the integration of technology and story telling. True, he "isn't forcing anything down anyone's throat", but he is contributing to the fog of understanding. The little foxes reference is dead on. They eat the fruit and destroy the root. Seemingly little influences have significant impacts on the whole vineyard. So, be on watch and realize that the little things that are seen repeatedly as fiction soon become acceptable as fact. They may not be forced down the throat, but they soon become part of the accepted cultural norm. Then anyone who opposes them is perceived to be the oddity and out of step.


Pantheism has nothing in common with polytheism.

From the discussions I've been reading, we who want to point out the religious worldview of Avatar are already being declared an oddity and out of step--by other Christians. That's possibly the most troubling thing about the movie.

It's no shock to me that Hollywood has put out a film espousing a worldview radically opposed to Christianity. It's no shock that its visuals were stunning and masterful.

It is shocking that Christians are saying "relax." Should we relax because a forest fire isn't headed toward my house? Or because it is so beautiful against the night sky?

I agree that the "little foxes" reference is dead on.

Although I would love to try and break things down and try to find out if Avatar is "a long apologia for pantheism" and reflects the feelings that "many self-professed Christians hold beliefs about the 'spiritual energy' of trees and mountains." I loved the movie. The storyline was great, it made you think a little bit. The visual and sound effects were great, they kept you engaged. Sigourney Weaver did awesome, enough said. It was good movie.

Chris, I used to teach 7th and 8th graders in a Christian school. At times I had a problem with some students telling dirty jokes. I'd point out relevant Biblical principles, but on occasion, I'd get a student who would come back with, "But they're funny!"

The truth is, many were funny. At the same time they were dirty. Is it okay to overlook the latter just because the former is true?

So here's Avatar--a stunning visual rendition of a beautiful, imaginative world. And a movie that lies about God and His nature. Is it okay to overlook the latter just because the former is true?

Pantheism is the world's oldest religion. At a time when the oceans are being depleted of life, rainforests are vanishing, and even the climate is being altered with consequences we can't predict, the world needs a spirituality that recognizes that the biosphere created, made us who we are, and is necessary for our survival. We humans are related to all life through hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Unlike the Bible, Pantheism doesn't contradict science and may be the only hope for keeping this planet alive.

Tom, the truth is, God created and sustains the universe. To think that Man is in charge and can save the planet is an evidence of the pride that got us in this mess.

What we can and should do is repent and ask God for His mercy. He is capable of dealing with each individual and with our planet. But as long as we shoulder the burden and go it alone, we'll continue along the path of destruction.

Climate change symposiums are a cruel lie, offering hope from fallible sources.


eh Mark...yes this is what Satan wants you to tell your "Christian" readers to chill out...so Satan is thanking you for your comments. Why do you wright for a so called Christian magazine...go with the rest of this demonic world....then you will chill out all you want..until the day of judgement.

Avatar is demonic...period and God is displeased.


You have exposed yourself as easily deceived.