Avatar and a Theology of Liberation

Okay, unless you have been under a rock for the past month or so you have heard of the build-up and now hype over the movie Avatar.

Avatar is James Cameron’s latest movie which was filmed with custom-made digital cameras which made the movie making experience as well as the viewing experience something that it has never been before.  The movie follows a team of scientists who undergo mechanical neurological connections to bodies that resemble a people on a distant planet.  Once on this planet they attempt to meet, teach, interact with and learn from these indigenous people called the Navi.  However, these people are being driven from their lands by people who would like to use it for its natural resources, more specifically a rock aptly called Unobtainium. 

One must not commit the sin of allegory to see the connection and similarities to the experience of the indigenous peoples of our own continent.  However, I think there is a stronger similarity between the Navi and the peoples of South America. 

When settlers came and began to set up colonies in South America, there was a large native population to deal with.  These people, much like the Navi, lived in the woods, relied on nature and were leaving behind just foot prints.  They would constantly butt up against colonists moving further inland who were they to capture resources as well as natives to use as slaves. 

At this time, many people had come to the new world just to find these natives and teach them things:  English, some technology, medicine and about Jesus.  More often than not these were priests of the Jesuit order.  Over time, living incarnationally, that is going into the mountains and living like the indians, the priests would understand the plight of the natives, sometimes even taking up arms and fighting with them against colonists.  These were the early preludes and influences that would later lead to Liberation Theology.

There is just something about that isn’t there? 

There is just something to getting in another person’s shoes and seeing their point of view that changes everything that you see about the world.  It can be anything!  It can be a CEO hanging out in the mail room, a preacher sitting in a pew of another church from time to time, it could be a college kid sleeping under and overpass for a night.  There are a lot of opportunities that help us get outside of ourselves if we will only grasp them.  I think missions (short term and long term) are a good way to do that.  Traveling period is healthy.  Reading and exploring literature from other people and other places helps us to get outside ourselves. 

Finally, just talking to other people helps you understand their point of view. 

I am bad about that.  I am pretty good about getting my friends and getting frustrated about the things that we want to be frustrated about and complaining about the people that we want to complain about and not even let a different voice into our circle. 

Liberation Theology, Avatar and the example of the Jesuits shows that if we would just take the time to get out of our own community and into the lives of others, that we will be exposed to the wrongs of our old community.  Sometimes those wrongs are so blatant you have to change them, or rebel against them. 

Here is to hoping that I can get out of my camp more often and into the lives of others. 

Avatar will probably go down as one of the best movies of the first decade of the 2000s.  It will revolutionize movie making and it will make a lot of money (I have already seen it three times).  It will long be considered a “great” movie.  Do it the courtesy of learning its paralel stories from South America.  If nothing else, see the movie The Mission.


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About coleyoakum

My name is Coleman Yoakum. I am formerly a student at Harding University. Today you can find me in Detroit Michigan doing what I can to expand the Kingdom of God and preparing to start an intentional community in Pontiac. I enjoy reading, writing, photography, music and politics. I am sure that all of these things will find their way to this blog from time to time. Twitter: coleyoakum Facebook: Coleman Yoakum Email: coleyoakum@gmail.com Flickr: flickr.com/photos/coleyoakum/

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