Avatar, a Goddess Movie

The movie Avatar is setting some box office records. Since it’s fantasy/sci fi, my preferred genre, I decided to check it out.

Avatar is set at some time in the future, when humans have destroyed the green things on earth and are bent on spreading the destruction to a beautiful Eden-like planet, Pandora, six light-years away. There’s a mineral there, “unobtanium” or something like that, which corporate greedsters will do anything to get. Unfortunately, the mineral underlies a major home base of the beings who inhabit Pandora.

The lead character, Jake Sully, is a marine confined to a wheelchair. He finds himself incorporated into a science experiment on Pandora where he guides a cloned Pandoran body from a special capsule. Although he has no ability to run in his regular body, he can command the cloned body as if it were his own. It’s the ultimate video game–he gets to become the character, at least as long as the character is awake. I suppose this is the reason for the name of the movie. Avatar has come to mean “a computer user’s representation of himself,” according to Wikipedia.

As the story progresses, Jake’s alter ego learns the ways of the Pandorans. He falls in love. He is supposed to be the intermediary between the colonialist humans and the Pandorans. But the negotiations fail–the Pandorans don’t want to become anybody’s colony. Thanks to action on the part of the planet’s goddess, there is a happy ending, at the expense of the humans.

What do I think?

This movie promotes pantheism. The goddess Eywa is in everything and may respond to supplications, but she can’t be depended upon to take a moral position. She seeks balance, and may allow the bad guys their way for that reason. She doesn’t seem to be a person, but more of a force. Actually, she seems to be The Force from Star Wars, renamed as feminine and re-cast in a gorgeous setting. I suppose she takes action here because her planet is threatened.

Clearly it isn’t a Christian movie. So, should you let your kids see it?

Let’s compare it to the Harry Potter movies. Many Christians objected to Harry Potter because there is sorcery involved. The author, not a Christian, nevertheless creates a world where there are good wizards and evil wizards. The good wizards struggle with the evil ones and eventually win. Can this be drawing our children into an acceptance of sorcery? Could be, but I think most readers are able to see the moral tale. Of course, there is no personal God acting in the Harry Potter tales, so they are hardly uplifting.

Avatar however will tend to pull our children away from a moral way of seeing, toward a yin-yang mentality where good and evil are seen as two sides of the same coin, and the deity is in everything and inside us too. This balanced Eastern concept of God is entirely false, we know as Christians. Where is the sinner in need of a savior? Where is our holy God?

What’s particularly troubling is that, according to Becky Miller who did some research, there are some Christian bloggers who think this movie is Christian. Are some in the church stepping onto the inviting slippery slope that Hollywood offers?

I would like to re-imagine this movie with Jehovah as the God who responds to supplications and saves the planet. He is holy and we are not. That would come out strongly. Through the work of Jesus, he has built a bridge to us. He hears our prayers. He acts. He heals. He guides. The resulting movie might be more like Raiders of the Lost Ark, or the Chronicles of Narnia.

Here’s my challenge to you, Christians in Hollywood: create a new fantasy movie starring Jehovah. Thanks to the people who made Avatar, the tools are there to create a lush fantasy world that displays characters with human emotions. Why not use this to tell the world about our loving, holy God?

24 thoughts on “Avatar, a Goddess Movie

  1. Rev. Daniel Zylstra

    Actually, J.K. Rowling, is, by her own confession, dealing very much with biblical, Christian themes throughout the Harry Potter series. There are even scripture quotes in the books and Harry Potter himself is basically a Christ-figure, in the same way that Aslan is a Christ-figure in the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.

  2. Veronica Holden

    Yes, JK Rowling does indeed claim Christianity.

    But aside from that… thanks, Phyllis, for making these points about Avatar.
    Pantheism and feminism/lesbianism is very trendy right now, and it makes sense
    that Cameron would incorporate that to his movie, along with the also-trendy concept
    of portraying big industrialists as greedy environment destroyers. Sounds like he was
    sacrificing a plot for the sake of special effects. I really was personally not interested in
    seeing the movie, and from you and Jim Tudor have said it makes me even less interested!

  3. Eric Wilson

    You’re right that this movie is not Christian. However…

    As Christians we spend a lot of time pointing out
    all the faults and differences we have with people, whereas
    I think we would often have a stronger witness if we looked
    for connection points. For example, James Cameron’s Na’vi talk
    about being born a second time. He is brushing on a spiritual
    truth here, without a full understanding of it. His main
    character also talks about he begins to realize his old world
    is less real than the one he’s discovered. What a beautiful
    example of our eyes being opened to the reality of Jesus and
    the world of the Spirit.

    I don’t believe James Cameron meant these things in any
    Christian way, but I think we can use these concepts to go
    deeper in explanation and conversation with our nonbelieving
    friends. In the movie, Jake Sully is being tempted to serve
    his old master for the sake of regaining his legs. It’s a
    visceral temptation, but in the “real” world, he can not only
    walk, but run and fly (on winged creatures). In the same way,
    Satan’s temptations have a strong pull, but they pale in
    comparison to the miracles of walking with Jesus.

    All this to say, instead of focusing on differences, I believe
    we can take this opportunity to redeem faulty ideas from the
    film and turn them into beautiful examples of God’s love. That
    seems like the way Jesus did things, and I think we’d get a
    lot further in promoting the Gospel by taking that approach.

    Or at least that’s the way He calls me to approach it.

  4. Bill Tillman

    Thanks for the insights Phyllis, we have been looking for a good
    afternoon to see the 3D version. Alas Hollywood is not the Holy
    Land and will continue to fall short of our hopes and asperations.

  5. Sara

    You named movies that Hollywood HAS produced re: the Christian God. It doesn’t seem
    that the Christian God (or any god or goddess) “saves” a planet or people. If the
    people can’t figure out the connections between themselves and the planet then
    things won’t go well.
    It was uplifting to me to see a movie where the female divine isn’t dissed as she is in
    the scriptures (demoralized, demonized, and as Jake Scully says–he’s correct actually
    according what we see in the Bible—“we’ve killed the mother.” Yep, sure have. With
    very negative results. The female is not fit metaphor for the Divine here, sadly and it’s
    been that way for a least 3,000 years. Damaging for little girls and for grown
    women, too. Even if they don’t realize it. All it takes for a light bulb to go on is that
    symbols of the female divine were once serpents and trees. The writers took care
    of that in Genesis. Best way to defame those one wants to demote and control—
    make their sacred symbols “evil.”
    sacred symbols “evil.”

  6. Pingback: Avatar and Religious Discussion « A Christian Worldview of Fiction

  7. Rod Salinas

    So, what is the point? That everything shall go around
    Christianity? You are missing something Wheeler;

    1) The story is based on a different planet with no Jesus, so
    it cannot be Christianity related at all.
    2) You are assuming that God (Jehovah) has gender, so you are giving
    God a physical form… so you are limiting God. If the Na’vis
    call Eywa to their Goddess, they are doing just the same that
    you do… giving God a gender; but the opposite gender that
    you are giving to Jehovah. It seems that this is what you don’t

    I think that Christians can tell their children that God has no
    gender and It can be called as the each person or alien wants. This
    can take your vision beyond frontiers… beyond Pandora.

    The movie is a tale of men ambitions, and a group of compassionate
    persons that got rid of their missions to defend life… Couldn’t
    be this a Christian message?


  8. Emily

    When I saw the film a name stood out to me. It got my attention.
    That name was the goddess’ name, Eywa. It sounds just like Yaweh
    but the letters are shuffled. The story reminded me of Eden.
    As an artist and a believer in Jesus I refuse to align myself
    with “Americanized Christianity” and refuse to be so naive to see
    the world through its pallid and microscopic lens. It is true,
    not only Hollywood is corrupt, but so are our churches. Now that
    we have sinned and been banished from Eden, we are living in a
    corrupt and sin infiltrated world. I think the lens in which we
    see things needs to be like a kaleidoscope. For example, Jesus
    spoke to people in parables & used symbolism in his teaching. The Bible is rich with
    poetry and mystery, symbolism and profound depth of meaning that
    leaves us shivering, longing for more. James Cameron’s Avatar
    reached the human heart level. That is the place where Christ teaches
    us and the place he wants to
    dwell. Why are Christians so afraid of God being in control? Using his
    influence through all kinds of unlikely vessels? Surely Avatar is
    a testimony to the heart of God and the beautiful world (Eden) He wanted
    to share with us and will recreate for His people someday. Americanized Christians try to act like there’s the Christian world and the pagan world. As far as scripture goes,
    I see only one world, and in that world, God is alive and moving.

  9. Karisa Rowland

    Emily, you left me wishing I had written that. What I have been thinking for years, you managed to actually articulate and I am in awe. The only thing I would like to add, at the risk of redundancy, is there is a subtle point in the movie where Jake and the female lead whose name escapes me now uses “Christ” and “Eywa” interchangeably. They are the same thing. Just because one culture perceives God as masculine and another as feminine doesn’t mean they are not one God. IIt’s a matter of perception. So.if we follow the author’s logic, than God is masculine and God is a trinity. Pandorans wouldn’t have reason to believe in a trinity unless Jesus was sent to die for their sins as well. So, the Pandorans are deists, therefore not Christian since the mandate of Christianity is accepting Jesus Christ as your savior. So, it’s not a ‘Christian’ movie. And, according to the columnist, that’s a bad thing. I am a Christian and I resent other Christians who are so narrow-minded and rigid in their thinking. As a Christian, I would rather be inclusive and not exclusive.

  10. Karisa Rowland

    “Here’s my challenge to you, Christians in Hollywood: create a new fantasy movie starring Jehovah. Thanks to the people who made Avatar, the tools are there to create a lush fantasy world that displays characters with human emotions. Why not use this to tell the world about our loving, holy God?”

    Ms. Wheeler, I think you make my point far better than I do. Ewya, Jehovah, Allah, — make some cultures call God “Uncle Bob”. Doesn’t make Him or Her any more or less God. Why do we insist on compartmentalizing God, putting Him or Her in a gender box with a single name and excluding those who perceive God differently. Many Christians have such a narrow view of God. It’s disheartening an disturbing.

  11. Editor Post author

    Eric, Emily, Rod, and Karisa,
    You have all given me food for thought. I had been thinking that
    Pandora surely is a world like our own, fallen, with a gulf of our own making between us
    and God. Aren’t all worlds like that? But no, our own world was not like
    that before the Fall. Perhaps Pandora is more like Eden, where there is
    no such gulf. Perhaps the Pandorans are “unfallen.”

    For us fallen creatures, though, there’s no way to get to Eden now,
    except through Jesus Christ. But for fallen creature Jake Sully, it
    just took a trip of several light years, a cloned body, and some

    As to the gender of God, I go with how God describes himself in his
    scriptures. He describes himself as a loving father, but at least once
    used a feminine metaphor, that of the mother eagle covering her eaglets
    with her wings.

    He is not capricious, but consistent. His thoughts are not our thoughts.

  12. Susan

    Hi there – just wanted to say THANK YOU, Ms. Wheeler, for your
    perspective! I stumbled upon your site while seeking out a
    review of a book my son brought home and now have you bookmarked!
    As a mom and homeschooler I REALLY appreciate your thoughts.
    Thank you again and keep up the AMAZING work!

  13. Satya

    Well to start with I will admit I am not a Christian, I am shakta Hindu and I will say that the World portrayed by Avatar and the Goddess there is quite similar to my belief system.
    What I will confess is while I grew up I had a lot of respect and love for Christians and Christian faith and thought them to be very accepting, liberal and broadminded. Which clearly I was outright Wrong, Clearly from where I see it you and your views are in conformation with that of the “Company” presumption and assumption fills your logic as rightly said one can not fill a vessel that thinks its full.

  14. Leigh Copeland

    I like Tim Keller’s question: “What did it cost your God to save you?” Christians love God’s perfect Avatar (image) who came to die for those who presumed upon the tree of life. Was not Eywa constrained by Jake’s inherent goodness? Doesn’t Jake now worship Her willingness to answer his prayers? Christianity is infinitely more beautiful that Avatar because God vindicates his righteousness not by trampling the planet destroyers and sending them back to their dying planet (helll?), but by absorbing all his own wrath against them and thereby fulfilling the purpose of creation: the display of his inconceivable grace. The heart of the Christian message is substitution, the infinite cost of grace. Eywa wins by power; Yahweh wins by losing.

  15. Mariisa

    The movie Avatar is very similar to how my Native American ancestors were stricken by the Europeans back in the historical beginnings and pre-beginnings of the exploration and claiming of Canada and America. So I feel somewhat strongly to it (since I am a Native American). My ancestors even prophesied of a messiah-like man coming into being 10,000 years before Christ was born: thus their beliefs are probably no different from ours and those ancient tribes of Natives had ancestorly originated from certain Asian groups.

    If you were to ever syncretize beliefs together it would all make sense, especially if we were to think it through.
    I believe Jesus sacrificed himself for our sins yes, but I also think He is a true meant-to-be Hero who has sacrificed His life and then passed down the power of the Holy Spirit and now it is up to every one of us to try to be the employees we are to help build God’s Kingdom.

  16. Talitha

    There are paragraphs upon paragraphs upon paragraphs that I could write about what I feel is wrong with the way modern organized religions think and operate. And you know, now that I think about it, so too were the thoughts and principals of many of the ancient traditions within recorded history.
    However, I am only going to touch upon a single theme here.
    Temples have been built, religious texts have been written, incredible artwork has been sculpted and painted, songs of praise have been produced, and rules and dogma have been created to keep the huddled masses on their knees in humble worship and admiration of the Creator. And an official ruling class of clergy have elected themselves as the only bridge of knowledge to cross over that great divide between the fragile world of humanity and the majestic heavens of the Divine.
    What does God look like? What is God’s name? What are God’s attributes? How might we better serve God? How might we effectively praise God? How can I prove that my ideas of God, and my religion, is better than anyone else’s?
    Also involved in the quest to serve and praise is the consideration of the very existence of God. Can we ever prove that there even IS a God? Is God real?
    So much effort has been stressed on the nature of the Creator. But what of the Created?
    No one can ever prove anything one way or another about the Creator. All the mythology, all the rituals, all the traditional trappings about what constitutes Divinity and how He/She should be approached is man-made. It is the OPINIONS of certain individuals, or the collective reasoning of certain cultures.
    But one thing is certain: The Created. WE are real. Our world, and everything in it, is real. Everything in nature is like God’s fingerprints on the physical plane.
    Let’s stop dive-bombing headfirst all of our exhaustive attentions on the ultimately unknowable mysteries of the Creator. I’m not saying that a personal relationship with God is impossible, or not worthy of even trying. What I am saying is that perhaps directly knowing the Divine is out of the scope of our human senses and limitations.
    Let’s instead work with what we’ve got. Keep it simple. Work with the tools that were given to us from the first moment of life. Let us take a long, honest, hard look at the manifestations of the Creator’s presence…..and that is the aura of Nature that constantly surrounds us. THAT is the bridge that connects humanity with the heavens.

    This is the message that the Avatar movies presents to us. It is a celebration of the Creator’s presence through the Created! And the connection that could be possible to have with it, if only we would stop destroying our planet. If only we could open our eyes to the messages of the Created. If only…..

  17. Editor Post author

    Hi Talitha,
    I am so encouraged that you recognize the Creator from his Creation. God has truly opened your eyes for this.

    I hope you will continue to seek him. His letter to us, written by multiple scribes over thousands of years, says you will find him if you seek him:
    “If from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

    It’s such an amazing thing that the Lord of all creation wants a relationship with little old me, and with little old you.

  18. Meredith Leigh Burton

    God is so much more than “he” or “she”. God is a Spirit comprised of three distinct personalities who, nevertheless, are One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is love, (1 John 4-8). I am not an authority on Hebrew or Greek, so anything I say is just that: an opinion from a person who often talks but forgets to listen.

    Anyway, I enjoyed listening to the diverse comments. I particularly liked the comment about how we, as the “created” should be willing to serve and how we should respect and care for “The Creator’s handiwork”. God’s artistry, (visual, yes, but so much more than that), should be cared for.

    One day, the “veil” will be pulled away. We will no longer see with our clouded perceptions, or “as through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13). I am blind, and I eagerly await the day when I shall see my Savior face to face. Even then, I know I will never be able to thank Jesus Christ properly. His blood was shed for everyone, and He seeks to free all those who will accept Him, (John 14-6).

    God bless you all.

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