I’ve been asked countless times about the movie Avatar. An article I read about it today prompted me to finally respond publicly.
Avatar is a visual treasure. A technological milestone. Stunning… mesmerizing… a wonder. The hype is all true. It’s an amazing piece of theatrics.
It’s also a blatant education in theology and politics, something director James Cameron doesn’t shy away from including his most recent documentary on Jesus which had no other purpose than to discredit Scripture (“The Lost Tomb of Jesus”).
Avatar is a blatant political statement declaring without apology or subtlety:
- Humans are destroying the earth
- White corporate leaders are greedy, unmerciful and faithless
- Industrialized civilizations destroy and abuse nature while indigenous peoples live in complete harmony with the earth (a favorite myth put forth in countless movies over the last 20 years particularly about American Indians)
- The military is full of death-loving, peace-hating mentally deranged psycho’s with no heart or conscience
- Indigenous natives might fight back or kill but their motives are always pure and sympathetic
Yawn… we’ve been fed a steady diet of this environmentally-extreme, liberal, “the rich are evil”, “white people are greedy”, “natives are harmonious earth loving peace makers” for decades. Anyone not completely fooled by Hollywood or thoroughly indoctrinated by the government sees the message for what it is: a political ideology (agree with it or not). That’s why left-wing propaganda movies rarely do well at the box office (but they still keep churning them out).
The spiritual indoctrination of Avatar is another story.
Cameron, director of the previous “most successful film in history” (Titanic; now 2nd place to Avatar) brings us a titanic religious deception in his latest movie.
Generations of Americans have been increasingly desensitized to religious teaching in movies starting most notably with Star Wars. The Judeo-Christian underpinnings of America were significantly eroded by the non-personal teaching of God as a “force”, aka. Hinduism. Add to that movies like Harry Potter, any number of Disney animated “magic” movies, Lord of the Rings and [pick from a long list] – you have a relentless effort to muddy the spiritual waters over the last 30 years.
Christians, in a futile (and unBiblical) attempt to find “common” ground, often try to Christianize these movies declaring different characters and situations represent Biblical concepts and persons. Coupled with the decreasing amount of sound Biblical teaching throughout the church (replaced with a junk food diet of social gospel and “success” sermonettes), we now have multitudes of Christians who see movies like Star Wars and Avatar then incorporate various spiritual ideas into their faith.
Avatar is a BLATANT sermon about earth worship, shamanism and spiritism. Blatant. In fact, blatant is too mild a description. Even though I was painfully aware of all the “messages” being taught by Avatar, my flesh was still left with this desire to wish life were nature-filled, harmonious and wondrous… just like the movie. I could point out just about every spiritual deception in the movie and was still left feeling “wow, wouldn’t life be great if we lived like the natives on Pandora?” If a message can fight that hard to get into the head of someone who knows better, how far does that same message embed itself into minds with open doors?
It is no mystery that generations of secular Christians who are nominally education in Scripture flock to movies like this and then tend to embrace many of the ideas, if only in bits and pieces. To actually criticize the deception in the movie is left to the “religious extremists” who are “intolerant” of just about everything anyway.
Note: there are other issues with the movie that should concern Christians like profaning God and Jesus*, eroticism and foul language. But that doesn’t seem to bother most people nowadays anyway. (*Puzzling, since the movie is set a thousand years in the future; Christianity is outdated and disappeared but saying “G-d d–m” and “J—s C—-t” it still part of their profanity)
I was going to explain much of the spiritual message in Avatar but T.A. McMahon of The Berean Call already has done a great job. What follows are excerpts from his article and a link to the full newsletter:
The Avatar Gospel
T. A. McMahon
Movies are today’s most popular means of influencing cultures on a worldwide scale. They have been effective in that way for the greater part of a century. They are, and always have been, teaching machines.
First of all, it shouldn’t be surprising that the beliefs of most people are not derived from Sunday school or church teaching but rather religious ideas they pick up from a wide variety of sources as they go through life. Prior to being born again and becoming a biblical Christian, for example, I had received a great deal of religious instruction, growing up Catholic, to which I added all kinds of contrary spiritual ideas, from reincarnation to the denial of hell to the universal salvation of everyone. I’ve had conversations with those who claim to hold the Bible as their only source of faith and practice yet who also hold ideas they have gleaned from Oprah Winfrey or some of her New Age guests. Humanity in general seems to be a magnet for all kinds of beliefs about God, and this would include not only the very religious but the agnostic and the atheist as well.
Movies often teach theology. Some have greatly influenced our last two generations about the character and qualities of God and perhaps none more than the Star Wars series, which began in the late 1970s. This series promoted the supreme deity as an impersonal, amoral energy “Force” that could be tapped into and used for one’s own end through mental techniques. “May the Force be with you” was even interpreted by some sincere (but sincerely wrong!) Christians as Jesus being the true “Force.” Such a promotion attributes characteristics to Jesus that both distort and demean His character as presented in the Scriptures–resulting in “another Jesus.” Star Wars wrapped the beliefs and practices of Hinduism in a high-tech, science fiction saga. Obi Wan was a sorcerer; Yoda was a yogi by design and practice, and the incredibly successful film series propelled Eastern mysticism into the minds of Western youth. Avatar does the same for shamanism.
Shamanism is the religion of nature and spirits and is the most widespread of all the religions in the world. It’s found among every indigenous people group throughout the earth, and its beliefs and techniques are the same wherever it is found. This is due to the fact that shamanism is a practice that comes from the spirit realm, with the spirits themselves not restricted by distant geographical locations. The term shaman comes from the Tungus people of Siberia and has been preferred by anthropologists over “witch doctor,” “medicine man,” “wizard,” “sorcerer,” etc. According to noted authority Michael Harner, an anthropologist and shaman, “a shaman enters an altered state of consciousness at will to acquire knowledge, power, and to help other persons. The shaman has at least one, and usually more, ‘spirits’ in his personal service. To perform his work, the shaman depends on special, personal power, which is usually supplied by his guardian and helping spirits.”
Avatar is a spectacular platform for preaching shamanism. The story line is neither unique nor complicated. A distant moon planet called Pandora is colonized by a corporation that is mining a metal of great value for the earth, which has been ravaged by the exploitation of its own natural resources. The enterprise, however, is hampered by a tribe of indigenous humanoids called Na’vi, whose village and land cover the main core of the precious metal. Diplomatic attempts to persuade the Na’vi to resettle elsewhere have ended in failure, primarily because of the Na’vi’s religion of shamanism. They worship Eywa, a goddess akin to what the Greeks called Gaia, or Mother Earth. Eywa appears to be an impersonal, godlike force that is responsible for maintaining the balance of all life. Everything in Pandora is linked to Eywa mystically and biologically. The biological emphasis amplifies the critical nature of preserving the planet’s physical ecological system for future survival. Demonstrating the connectedness of all life forms, the spirits of animals that are killed for food or in self-defense are addressed by the Na’vi either in thanksgiving or apologetically.
Director and writer James Cameron makes his theological (and ecological) bent quite clear in nearly every frame of the film. The movie’s title and image of the Na’vi are derived from the Hindu god Krishna, a blue-skinned incarnated avatar of the god Vishnu. Hinduism teaches that throughout history avatars have manifested in human and/or animal forms to restore the balance of good and evil. The emphasis on trees in the movie is consistent in all shamanism. The huge Hometree that housed the Na’vi clan and is destroyed in the attack by the humans is representative of Eywa providing for the Na’vi through “Mother” nature. The luminescent Tree of Souls, which provides direct communication with Eywa, is also a power center that can transfer souls to other bodies. In traditional shamanism, the tree is a universal communication medium for such cultures to connect with deceased shamans, ancestors, and the spirits themselves.
After reading dozens and dozens of comments by young people enamored with the theology in Avatar, it is apparent that its false gospel is finding fertile soil worldwide as it introduces and attracts millions of moviegoers to shamanism.
Cameron is certainly entitled to preach the shamanic gospel of Avatar. Christians, however, need to be aware of what they are being fed along with the overpriced popcorn. It is a general lack of discernment among them that is often maddening and spiritually treacherous for the upcoming generation of believers. The maddening part comes when professing believers attempt to read Christianity into popular movies that are thoroughly antichrist. It happened with Star Wars, the Harry Potter series, and too many others to list. It’s a foregone conclusion that we will see much of the same for Avatar. Christianity Today, for example, often leads the way in anointing the world’s popular delusions as Christian. In its supported blog site directed at women and titled Her·meneutics (ironically a play on the word that fosters accurate Bible interpretation), a female Princeton Seminary student writes the featured article, suggesting that the character of Grace (mentioned above) may have been “Avatar‘s Christian character,” and then adds a qualification, “Well, Christian-ish anyway.”