Sunday, January 10, 2010

Avatar & Jesus


Recently I saw the new 3D film “Avatar.” (Right up front, let me say I loved it.) There were enough spiritual references to keep my mind turning long after the closing credits.

The first is the central concept of an avatar. In the film an avatar is a person whose consciousness (soul?) enters into a created body in order to live on the foreign planet of Pandora. Avatar is, of course, the Hindu word for an incarnation of God. The figure of the avatar Jake Sully is clearly the Christ figure of the film. (It can’t be coincidence that the avatar’s name is Jacob, the name of Israel in the Bible.) He saves the world by incarnating into the body of, and becoming the leader of, the people called the Na’vi (which is the Hebrew word for prophet.) There is even a death and resurrection of the avatar at the end of the film.

Another theme is brokenness and suffering. The planet is called Pandora. In Greek mythology, Pandora is the equivalent of Eve, the first woman, who is credited for bringing suffering into the world by opening the famous “Pandora’s box.” In the film the world of Pandora is broken and suffering, caused by human sin. The hero, the avatar Jake Sully, in his human form is a paraplegic, a broken man, who is healed physically, emotionally and spiritually through his incarnation as a Na’vi. The avatar saves and heals the world, and he is saved and healed in the process. The plot of the film is incarnation and redemption – cosmic and individual.

A third theme is the interconnectedness of all creation. Everything on Pandora is connected – planet and people and all life – in Ewya, the goddess of Life. The obvious New Age parallel is that Ewya is the earth mother Gaia. But am I reading too much into it to also see in Ewya the consonants of the divine name Yahweh? Whether male or female (and of course God is above earthly genders) the message is that the Source and Ground of all creation is divine. Man is alienated from that divine ground and therefore abuses creation, whereas the original state and the goal is communion with God, man and creation.

After watching the Hollywood film Avatar, I returned home to read the Biblical book, the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It would be easy for me to contrast the differences between the two, for there are many. But instead I prefer to affirm the parallels. In the movie Avatar I see a universal knowledge of God in the heart of man (Romans 1), a sense of the sacredness of God’s creation, the fallenness of man, and a yearning for God’s incarnation and salvation in Jesus Christ.

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