'Avatar': A theological movie

With snow piled high, and a movie theater nearby, I headed out yesterday to see "Avatar." It's been praised for cinematography (and that definitely is great), but I also found it a deeply theological movie.

First impression: it's one of the best anti-imperialist films I've ever seen. Whether one believes in the "just war theory" or not, this shows a clearly unjust war waged by earthlings in search of a precious mineral on the planet Pandora. And the crude earthlings leading the military assault are ready to destroy the civilization of Pandora to get what they want.

All this provides a thinly veiled analogy for U.S. wars in the Middle East, and it's not just because of a quest for mineral resources. "Avatar" portrays Pandora natives as having a "strange religion." For some Americans, Islam is a "strange religion." On Pandora, the strange faith is "tree worshipping." And except for a couple characters who cross over between the two worlds, there is no "interfaith dialogue," or anything close to it.

"Avatar" is also an adventure in ecological theology. The natives of Pandora explain the beauty of their creation to an earthling who eventually becomes one of them. They revere creation as a system, and they see themselves as part of that whole. The death of any creature brings sadness. (This might sound familiar to readers of Thomas Berry).

Help fund independent Catholic journalism.
Donate now.

At one point, we are told that the earthlings had destroyed their own planet and came in search of others. And those earthlings are pursuing mineral wealth on Pandora with an openly-admitted greed that any moral theologian would condemn.

"Avatar" is far more than a movie; it's a theological adventure.

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Show comments

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.