Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Christian Read of Avatar

Ah, Avatar.  The current king of the box office, both in the U.S. and internationally.  Many critics found it uninspired, but pretty to look at.  I think it did what Science Fiction does well: allegorizing subjects that are difficult to talk about.  Just as Twilight Zone discussed racism, greed and hatred in short story form so Avatar takes the themes of Dancing With Wolves-- the plight of the aboriginal-- and sends it to another planet.  Only those who want to see the themes understand them.

I loved the story, myself, because it has a story that is ancient and hopeful, full of justice and mercy. Rather than giving a review, or an analysis, I am simply going to tell the story again, from the perspective of a homeless pastor, siding with the down and out, the oppressed and lowly, seeking justice. 

There is a empire, ruling the world, and its focus is to increase the wealth of a limited few, even if that hurts others. Everyone within the empire is a part of this system of greed, even if they superficially attempt to oppose it.

There is an alternative system which focuses on relationships, community and spiritual power.

The secret of the spiritual community is empathy. It is the sign that one is a part of the spiritual community, the unifying principle as well as the power. One has empathy with all life. Even if one must kill to survive, empathy requires that one feels the death of the other, and give it the respect that one would demand. The minimal amount of empathy is treating other’s life as one would be treated.

All empathy begins with understanding, with listening. Eventually, one can “see” another, deeply understanding the other, placing them as an equal in importance to oneself. Those who do not have the ability to understand, to empathize, are insane and cannot exist in the spiritual community.

But some relationships have deeper empathy, a full bond. In those relationships, two share their minds, their lives, their souls. And once bonded, the bond cannot be broken except through death. This is love.

The opposite to empathy, to bonding, is fear. To fear the other is to separate from the other. To listen to the other, one must receive the other; to accept the other, one must trust; to bond with the other one must unite.

Those of the empire cannot empathize. Yes, they can understand intellectually the other different from oneself, but they cannot truly see them as equals to themselves. They are so caught up in building their own empire for those like themselves, that they cannot see the other. So they outcast those who truly empathize, because the desires of empathy is opposite to the greed of the empire.

The evil empire wants the resources of the spiritual community and will ignore all the concerns of the spiritual community to get it. On the surface, the evil empire is more powerful than the spiritual community, and the spiritual community is in threat of extinction.

For the spiritual community to survive, there must be a mediator—one who knows what it is to be spiritual and one who has lived amidst the empire. He or she must be born of both worlds, but the Mediator does not straddle the fence. The Mediator must be on the side of the spiritual community, the weak, the oppressed, if they are to survive.

In the end, there will be conflict—disasterous conflict—between the empire and the spiritual community. And although the empire seems to have the greater power, the fact is that the spiritual community has a source that is at the core of all life. The only way to connect to that Source is through prayer. Thus, though the Mediator may use many different resources, the true power is found in prayer. Prayer is what changes the course for the spiritual community.

One must recognize, however, that the Source does not take sides between the empire and the spiritual community. The Source is on the side of all life, of order and balance. However, as long as the spiritual community is on the side of the Source, then the Source will act for them. And this action is more powerful than anything else they might conceive themselves.

Eventually, the spiritual community of empathy will rule the world and force the empire out. But this will only happen when the truly are united in Empathy. Only then will many in the Empire become united with the Source of all life, and seek balance.

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