Saturday, May 1, 2010

Avatar, Christ, and The Peace Child: Hidden Gems Of God's Presence

This week, I, like thousands (if not millions) of others became the owner of James Cameron’s newest box office hit Avatar. Sitting and watching it a second time (yes you read correctly SECOND time), I find myself learning about the Na’vi and the world of Pandora all over again. By the way, Kudos to the script writers for how we learn of the Na’vi. For as Jake Sully is schooled we to become akin to Pandoric lifestyle.

One question Jake asks his army buddies are about Eywa – The deity and life source for all things Pandora. The one thing from which all living things originated, and to which all things return upon death. This parallels the biblical teaching of all human life came from dust and will return to upon death (Gen. 3:19).

One of the first things we learn about Sam Worthington’s character Jake is that he’s a paralytic marine. Contrary to popular belief, Jakes paralysis doesn’t disqualify him from active duty. His heart and determination are displayed with his desire to keep up with his fellow marines despite his lack of mobility. When Jake first uses his avatar, we learn that life as a Na’vi warrior is drastically different then the average human.Not only is the genetic make-up of the Na’vi different, but Jakes first exercise as an avatar is exactly that – physical exercise!

We see the paralytic Jake Sully wiggling his toes, shooting hoops with his colleagues, and running through the fields of Pandora with exceeding joy – possibly recalling the days of old, prior to his paralysis and able to use fully functioning legs again! Revelation 21:4 says: God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. This is another of many examples of what Don Richardson calls redemptive analogies.

What is a redemptive analogy? Playing on the idea that God can use anything to communicate to people, it’s the theory that all people groups, including tribal cultures – like the Na-vi for example – have practices or understandings embedded in their way of life that can be used to illustrate the gospel. Don Richardson used this method of communicating the gospel to a tribal people in the 1960’s.

In 1962, he took his young family from Prairie Bible Institute to live with a group of cannibalistic headhunters known as the Sawi in The Netherlands and share the gospel of Christ. Don and Carol Richardson’s first attempts at sharing about Jesus didn’t go over so well with the Sawi people. As Don told them about Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus, the Sawi were inspired to be like Judas and Jesus became a laughing-stock among the tribe. They had success much later after witnessing a peace offering between the Sawi and two other warring tribes.

Each tribe would give up one of the infant sons to be raised by their enemies. Along with this trade, each member of the tribe would take a vow of peace as long as the child lived. There is no chance that a warring tribesman would kill the peace child as such an act was dubbed the ultimate sin. In this case, the ritual was especially poignant because one of the peace children was an only son . The Richardson’s were able to use this story as a parallel to Christ. Consequently, many decided to follow Jesus, and this led to a plethora of activities including having the New Testament translated into their native tounge. The Richardson’s mission in the Netherland jungle initially involved the young family showing the Sawi people that Christ had been imbedded in the tribes own mythology.

I wonder if the same could apply to the Na’vi of Pandora. From what we learn of Pandora, is there a Christ figure embedded in “the Na’vi way”? Where do you see Christ in Pandora and/or Avatar? Or even those who hold the same views about the natural world and humankind’s sense of being and existence. I see similarities between Pandora and the gospel of Christ, what about you?

1 comment:

  1. I've been reading our old reflections on Avatar Tim Bit's as I weait for tonight's God at the Movies. I really cannot wait for our discussion afterwards!

    These are good thought Tim and I'm glad you shared them. Maybe we can have a follow up post after tonight's discussions. What do you think? Well anyways, I look forward to following you next couple posts in the coming days. See you tonight!!! :D