Box Office Pantheism

**C.**S. Lewis thought pantheism—the belief that a non-personal God and nature are one, that there is an all-inclusive divine unity—was more corrosive to Christianity than atheism itself. Yet might even the Oxford classicist have donned 3D glasses for a romp on Pandora, the lush backdrop of Avatar, James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic? The most profitable movie ever made, Avatar is up for nine Academy Awards this month…

Whatever spiritual brew Cameron has served up, Christianity it ain’t. The question for CT readers is, so what? The buzz surrounding Avatar gives us a chance to ask what kind of religious formation we expect from contemporary film, and what to do when that formation is counter to the kind rooted in Christ. Two responses have long dominated Christians’ discourse on the topic.

The first response has been to forgo movies (and books and music) that applaud things out of sync with Scripture and church teaching…

The second, more recent response has been to engage movies and other popular stories eagerly

I think just as Paul used the Greeks belief in the “Unknown God” to dialog with them about the Christ, so we can use “Avatar” as a springboard to discuss Christ.

I enjoyed the movie very much…it was visually stunning…and the story line was imaginitive…IMO.

Marcus Borg has spoken of being “panentheist” instead of “pantheist”…that creation is not only an expression of God…that God is Present in each molecule and atom…but also “Wholly Other”. God is immanent…as well as transcendent…these are some of the themes that could be a springboard to speak of the things of Christ to a seeking heart.

Some didn’t think so. Cameron is being sued for plagiarism. If you asked me its a rip off between ponchaotis (sp) (Disney’s version) and dances with wolves. I felt the movie was dull over all. Lucky i didn;t add to his coffers i watched a pirated version. :blush:

Lucky you. My parents only bought it months after taking us to the actual film. Unfortunately, I’m the only member in my family who really didn’t like it. It was a waste all around… well almost. I managed to confirm just how far trashy and typical the storyline was. :rolleyes:

i agree that God is present in each molecule & atom, but He is truly “Wholly Other”.

The problem with your theory is that we take that presence, that Love & we want to be our own God because He created us & is in us.

**We are His creation, but we are not God!!

Too often we try to impress ourselves & others with our brilliant intelligence, but in reality, you, me Prof Borg & every other human being are so far inferior & unworthy of God’s Mercy, that we are truly a joke!

Only when we realize that Jesus, the God Man who gave up Perfection to become like us in all things but sin, because He Loves us Perfectly, despite our imperfection, & suffered & died on the Cross for our sins, do we approach Him in Love; asking only for "MERCY! (that is all we can hope for)"

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!



So you’re a panentheist.

To engage or not to engage. That is the question. I think you have to do both.

IMHO, Deny yourself. “Do not engage”. Fasting and prayer (almsgiving) will win all the time. This is the safest route. Through God’s grace, obtain his gifts, wisdom/knowledge/understanding/piety/counsel/fortitude/fear of the lord. God will give you the power to tread on snakes and scorpions and all the forces of the enemy, and nothing will ever injure you. Is that me? No, I’m not perfect, I am still learning.

If you have been made ready “by not engaging”… then by all means “engage”.

That article defines engaging as the second, which is… “to engage movies and other popular stories eagerly, evaluating their narrative and visual artistry alongside spiritual content”. And then further “… to give us a vocabulary to understand film in ways that take seriously both Scripture and creativity. This response recognizes film’s power to awaken what Lewis called Sehnsucht, our innate sense that we have wandered far from Home, and long to return to it.”

In other words, the purpose is to engage art in a “missionary” capacity. We are all called to be missionaries. If the art form is bad say what is bad. If there are good things, then say what is good.

I don’t trust anything James Cameron puts out. I’ll always remember him as the executive of “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”. A sham documentary claiming the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and His family has been found in a Jerusalem construction site.

If Avatar is pantheic, not surpised. It’s just another Gnostic sect, like theosophy etc. Forms of Gnosticism is in so much of our film and music.

A Christian argues that Avatar is not pantheistic:

Much has been made of Avatar’s pantheistic spirituality. But pantheism — defined as the belief that “God is everything and everything is God” — isn’t quite the right word for it. The people of Pandora believe that all life is interconnected, trees and plants and animals and humans (or whatever we’re supposed to call the tall, lanky blue creatures). But the Na’vi also believe in a personal deity, Eywa, who listens and responds to them.

I’m not really sure where people got pantheism from. It’s pretty clear that they only have 1 god in Avatar (Eywa).

The connections between the plants and the animals and the world and such were very clearly stated several times to be of an electrochemical nature (like our human nervous systems).
That analogy was used right in the movie itself (“there are 10 to the [something] trees and each tree has 10 to the [something] connections to the tree next to it. That’s more connections that the human brain.”). Heck, the word “electrochemical” was even used.

Sheesh. It’s one thing to try and look and interpret something out of nothing, but it’s a totally new level to just ignore what’s in the movie itself.

I haven’t seen the movie beacuse I don’t want to fill James Cameron’s coffers. I wait till the movie is free on TV. But thanks for the invitation though.

Did a quick google search on “avatar pantheism”. There’s a lot of hits. If I were a betting man, I’d bet avatar promotes pantheism. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be such a ruckus out there.

I totally agree: Avatar acknowledges an emotional/intellectual prescence in the deity. The kind of pantheism most people see as pantheism is that everything that exists is God, the material world is good, and the consciousness within that world is God. God is not some separate consciousness, and has no designs for the human race in particular. I got very into it for a while, but I think it is just me spiritualising my atheism.

Avatar portrays a pagan sort of nature-religion. But not pantheism.

It is a very bizarre religion they portray. Most people would call it pagan just because of the nature connection, but it also seems to be monotheistic (as far as I understand it, there’s only 1 god in Avatar, and it does seem to have an active presence in the world given the completely played straight deux et machina ending).

They seemed to have kind of crossed the familiarity of monotheism with the fantasy of paganism.

Many pagans were/are monotheistic.

Hasn’t anyone in a large Neo-Pagan community seen the bumper-stickerf…“The Earth is Alive…better hope it’s not Aware.”

Hmm, you learn something new everyday. When I think pagan I think Pantheon (greek, roman, norse, that kind of thing).

hmm… just because lots of folks are saying something is true doesn’t mean that it is true. Poor reasoning and mistaken facts are often behind controversies.

What I don’t get is – why can’t a movie just be a story – especially when it’s science fiction? There’s a recent thread about how *The Wizard of Oz *is really satanic. Have we reached the point where we think Snow White promotes witchcraft?

“Pagan” usually refers to any belief system that is not Jewish, Christian, or Islamic. So Greeks like Plotinus, who believed in a transcendent One that is the Source of All, would still be labeled “pagan”.

True, “… just because lots of folks are saying something is true doesn’t mean that it is true”.

However, I didn’t say it was true or not true. Without seeing the movie, all I’m saying is that if I had to place a bet one way or the other, I would say Avatar promotes panthesim. It’s not just on what most people are saying. It has more to do with the reputation of James Cameron. I don’t trust anything James Cameron puts out. I’ll always remember him as the executive of **“The Lost Tomb of Jesus”. A sham documentary **claiming the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and His family has been found in a Jerusalem construction site.

Well if we’re gonna talk storyline, I’m not sure you’re gonna be doing Avatar any favors by citing it as an example. :rolleyes::stuck_out_tongue:

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