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54anickel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-13-10 08:12 AM
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Avatar: A Subversive Reading of the Bible?
I finally saw the movie over the weekend - the 2D version as 3D was sold out again. I felt so spiritually moved at points, it resonated so deeply for me - as did this article.

Warning: Plot spoiler /


I saw the movie on New Years Day and found it offers much food for thought on an anti-imperial reading of the Bible. The movie retells Rahabs story in the book of Joshua with an interesting twist. In that familiar story, Joshua sends two spies to search out the city of Jericho. The spies enter a Canaanite prostitute Rahabs house. When the king of Jericho orders Rahab to surrender them, Rahab hides them and saves their lives. Rahab makes a pact with the spies and asks them to spare her and her family when Jericho falls.

In Avatar, planet Pandora is not only a land of milk and honey, but also has a large reserve of a precious metal unobtanium. The avatar of Jake is sent as a messenger to ask the natives to relocate so that the humans can mine the unobtanium. Jake learns the native ways, falls in love with one of them, and becomes so identified with the natives such that he helps them to fight against the colonizers. The movie invites us to look at the world from the point of the indigenous peopleto see the beauty of their interconnected way of life and learn about their culture. By doing so, it invites us to look at the Bible from the side of Canaanites.

The Navi humanoids of Pandora worship the Goddess Eywa, and their sacred symbol is the gigantic Hometree. The roots of the Hometree connect to all other living organisms, because everything is connected in this world. While this may sound like a New Age moral tale, it also reminds us of the Canaanite Goddess Asherah, who was associated with the Tree of Life. This trees roots reaches to the lower abyss and the branches ascend to heaven. The Hebrew prophets have repeatedly warned against worshiping the Canaanite goddesses, who were connected with nature and Earths fertility. In Avatar, there is a moving scene in which the protagonists go to Hometree to pray to Eywa to save the planet. The Goddess, whose spirit animates the whole world, answers their prayers and offers them protection and hope. The ancient Goddess religion is affirmed and not condemned.

Jake can be seen as a hero-savior figure, and at one point he is tied up and almost killed. But the movie offers a different Jesus story and of redemption. Redemption is not brought about by offering blood sacrifice, or by killing an inoocent scapegoat. Salvation comes because the Navi become conscientized and they rise up in solidarity to fight against the colonizers. This theory of atonement is closer to the modern-day liberation theologians than the substitutionary theory of Anselm during the Crusades. The humanoids prevail not because of their might, but because they have befriended the environment and nature work in their favor.

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supernova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-13-10 10:41 AM
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1. Interesting article
thanks for posting 54anickel.

The older I get the more I love liberation theology. Too bad it's heyday was mid20th Century and we've seen the return of the fundamentalists. I still hope though.

I doubt that Cameron is consciously retelling a biblical story. In Joseph Campbell's terms and Carl Jung's, we westerners are all familiar with these archetypal stories and we retell them again and again because these same situations still present themselves in our waking life. James Cameron said that this is the movie he had in his head when he was 14, quite an age to have been soaking up family stories and traditions as well as those of his friends.

I think anything that gets people to think that a story has more than one meaning, more than one narrative is a good thing.

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54anickel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-13-10 07:26 PM
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2. I agree on the plural narratives. I've read differing views of the movie. This one
just resonated with me. I can also understand the critical views of it being just another white messiah flick, I just didn't see it that way while watching it.

I didn't read any reviews about the film before seeing it, I had no idea what the story line was going to be about. I just "experienced" it, from my claustrophobia kicking in as the characters go into the "tubes" to feelings of total awe and tears when the Na'vi gather at the sacred tree/garden.

I'm sort of disturbed by the fact that I enjoyed a movie that's been criticized for being racist though.
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wryter2000 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-26-10 10:57 AM
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3. Thanks
I didn't actually read your post because I wanted to avoid spoilers. :-) I've heard a lot about the movie, but it didn't occur to me that it might be Christian in nature. I'm looking forward more to it now.

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