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The Tarzan of Pandora
By David Outten and Ted Baehr
The international smash-hit AVATAR has provided more opportunity for commentary than there is unobtanium on Pandora. Political activist Alan Keyes smartly pointed out that AVATAR follows in the footsteps of movies like TARZAN where the savior of the natives turns out to be a white man who becomes the greatest native of all and combats the further encroachment of greedy white men.
In AVATAR, the great human savior is virtually anointed by Eywa, the “god” of Pandora. Early in the movie, he is spared from certain death when “light flowers” descend like doves from heaven indicating that he is a chosen one. Concluding that Eywa has found in him a pure heart his would-be killer takes him to see the tribal chief instead of running him through with an arrow.
After being thoroughly trained in the ways of the Na’vi, the great “white” savior exceeds the ability of the best Na’vi hunters and becomes master of the biggest, meanest flying beast on the planet. He even manages to have a talk with Eywa himself that eventually results in all manner of nasty beasts joining to fight the evil human beings.
Far from being the prince of peace, AVATAR’s great white savior’s greatest miracle is to defeat the evil white men and their advanced weaponry with the primitive weapons of Pandora.
The truth is people want a savior. When life gets ugly, everyone wants a hero to come fix things. It’s easy to provide saviors in movies. You can write a script where a dog comes to save the day.
When you leave the theater and the planet of Pandora, you come back to earth where things are a mess. There is no Eywa. You cannot plug your hair into a tree and have a spiritual conversation with earth. There is no Superman, Tarzan or even Santa Claus. There’s something better.
God does exist. He sent his son to earth as our Savior. He is not a human being trying to figure out the ways of the natives. He is God himself.
Jesus Christ didn’t come so the people of Israel could drive out the greedy Romans regardless of their superior military might. He changed Rome, and the world, by bringing salvation to individual people. As lives changed, cultures changed. True salvation results in a spiritual relationship with God, not with earth or the universe.
In AVATAR, they use the word “spirit” as if plants, animals and inanimate soil were joined in an invisible moral relationship. This false concept of spirituality is known as pantheism. It does not lead to salvation because it does not connect you to God.
Jesus is more than just an historical figure portrayed in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. He is part of the holy trinity. You don’t have to plug your hair into a tree to talk to Him. The oneness you need is not with plants and animals, it’s a real relationship with the One True God, Creator of everything — Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Salvation comes one person at a time, but as more and more people in a society begin to be led by the Spirit of God cultures change for the better. The converse is true as well.
Movies like AVATAR promote belief in the myth of the noble savage – that America would be better off if we lived at peace with nature like the Na’vi or native American Indians. In reality, native American Indian life was not peaceful and idyllic. Tribes fought each other and many considered scalping their enemies a source of pride. Revenge was a popular motivation.
Greedy Capitalists did do nasty things to the Indians and the American government broke many promises. But, there were also missionaries who sought to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the Indians. There are missionaries today spreading the gospel in remote areas of the world. Capitalism does not save. Democracy does not save. Pantheism certainly doesn’t save.
The only real savior is Jesus Christ. And, salvation comes one person at a time.