Friday, January 8, 2010

Avatar and...Christianity?

Last weekend I saw the movie Avatar with my husband and two of our boys. We had planned to see a different movie but were told it was almost sold out, and since I didn't want a sore neck from sitting down front, we decided to see Avatar. We would be a few minutes late which meant we would miss the previews. Rats! I love the previews.

I figured Avatar was mostly an action, sci-fi film which would appeal primarily to my male companions, and I would silently endure the next three hours. But I was pleasantly surprised. It was definitely an action, sci-fi film, but it was creative, intense and visually stimulating. We didn't see the 3-D version, but the vivid colors and lights seemed to be richer than normal.

What really stayed with me about the movie, (and I am about to discuss the ending in case you haven't seen it yet), was the parallel between Jake's journey and our lives as Christians. Jake starts spending time with the Avatar, which begins as a mission to befriend them in order to eventually manipulate them. But it doesn't take much time for him to become deeply affected by their lives. He sees that they are kind and peace-loving and communicate meaningfully. They live in harmony with their world and each other.

When Jake goes back to the military base and reports his experiences into his webcam, it's clear that his heart is growing softer toward the Avatar world. He longs to spend more time there and less at the base.

Here's the parallel. As Christians, we are living in this physical world and feel fairly comfortable here. In fact, we do what we can to increase our comfort and benefits on earth. We often hope that Jesus won't come back before we've had time to experience certain things! We claim we want to go to heaven, but we don't look forward to it like we might toward a dream vacation with friends and family. For some of us, it's just hard to imagine there is anyplace else where we would feel at home, even if it's heaven. But as we spend more time with God in his "world," we get to know him better and are more comfortable there. And not just more comfortable, but we begin to long to be with him.

We see God's love and compassion for us. We learn about how he desires for us to be near him and how he waits patiently for us. We begin to realize that because of our physical limitations, we can't know and experience him as much as we long to. We must make the final step into his dimension to really know him and fully experience him.

Jake realized that in his desire to be with the Avatar, he was willing to forsake his "human" world and relationships. The Avatar world and its ways were more appealing and fulfilling than his "old life." In one of his latter reports on his webcam, he states that he thought he had always lived in reality, but he realized the world of Avatar was true reality.

Initially, Jake had a body like the Avatar, but he still thought and acted like his human self. As he spent more time with them, he began to think and act like them, and when he found himself back in his world, he couldn't wait to return to the Avatar. I wondered though, as the story developed, how or if Jake would ever truly be one of them.

The more time we spend walking with Jesus, the more we become like him and want to be with him. As we commune with him, yet still limited by our humanness, we resonate with the apostle Paul when he mentions "longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling...For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened..."

Jake did become one of them, finally. It would cost him life as he knew it as a human, but he had counted that cost and knew, without question, that life with the Avatar was what he wanted. In a sort of spiritual ceremony, his human body had to die in order for his new, true life to begin as an Avatar. The transformation was successful and celebration ensued.

I can only imagine that it will be something like this for us. Now we are burdened by the corruption and limitations of our body and our world. But as Christians, we have tasted the goodness of the Lord and long for more. We spend time with him, yet it often feels like we are stepping in and out of that heavenly realm. We long for our experience with him to linger, but we must return again and again. As our walk with Jesus deepens, we begin to look more like him and are able to focus on the spiritual realm more readily. But it's not until we lay this body down in death that we will once for all be transformed with a body like his and be able to forever live in his world with him.

Kudos to James Cameron, the director of the film. His creation of Pandora was captivating. I couldn't help but see, though, how his artistic expression, as creative and cutting edge as it was, was still heavily influenced by the originality of our Great Creator. If a mere man can depict a beautiful and alluring paradise, then what kind of breathtaking views and experiences, designed by God Himself, are in store for us in heaven?! Not to mention forever being with the Love of our life!


  1. Enjoyed this post, Ashley. I saw Avatar last week and loved it. It is one of those movies you think about, and think about some more. I could not help finding, as you did, many spiritual parallels and I thought 'many great sermons will come from this movie!' I thought a lot about Jake 'in the box', where he was linked in his mind with the Avatar. Only then was he able to really experience what Avatar life was actually like. I thought how true - for us, as followers of Christ ... the reality of the spiritual world we all do live in is only made clear as our minds are continually renewed through the word and through time spent walking with Jesus. It is unspeakably marvelous when we catch a glimpse from time to time of what the true reality of life really is - when we are able to see the world and people through our Father's eyes. Unfortunately, for me, this seems to only happen in snippets. But I am thankful for those times - they continue to pull me back into reality and to the understanding that the life Christ has given us is beautiful beyond imagining - just as Pandora was. I believe that I will be thinking about this movie for a long time.

  2. Nice, Ash.

    I had different thoughts about Avatar, but mostly because I am a cynic. I was looking for other things. How nice to see this through your eyes and relate it to things personal and spirtitual. Pandora truly was beautiful and your words make Jake's journey fresher than I had let it be while watching. :-)