Vatican denounces Avatar movie – sent in response to comparisons of the Coal Country book and Avatar the movie.

Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2010

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican newspaper and radio station have called the film “Avatar” simplistic, and criticized it for flirting with modern doctrines that promote the worship of nature as a substitute for religion. L’Osservatore Romano and Vatican Radio dedicated ample coverage to James Cameron’s big-grossing, 3-D spectacle. But the reviews were lukewarm, calling the movie superficial in its eco-message, despite groundbreaking visual effects. L’Osservatore said the film “gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature.” Similarly, Vatican Radio said it “cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium.”

“Nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship,” the radio said. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said that while the movie reviews are just that — film criticism, with no theological weight — they do reflect Pope Benedict XVI’s views on the dangers of turning nature into a “new divinity.” Benedict has often spoken about the need to protect the environment, earning the nickname of “green pope.” But he has sometimes balanced that call with a warning against neo-paganism.

In a recent World Day of Peace message, the pontiff warned against any notions that equate human person and other living things. He said such notions “open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone.” The Vatican newspaper occasionally likes to comment in its cultural pages on movies or pop culture icons, as it did recently about “The Simpsons” or U2. In one famous instance, several Vatican officials spoke out against “The Da Vinci Code.”

In this case, the reviews came out after a red carpet preview held in Rome just a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Square. The movie will be released Friday in Italy.

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2 Responses to Vatican denounces Avatar movie – sent in response to comparisons of the Coal Country book and Avatar the movie.

  1. Admin says:

    Hi Randy,
    I appreciate you sending this along as a question you had after reading the comments about the earlier mention of “Avatar” in conjunction with the “Coal Country” book. It definitely made me think about this, and the previous posts.
    Well, among other things, being an Agnostic Episcopalian, and somewhat of a fledgling Biblical scholar, I guess I have a lot of things I could say about this article. For the Vatican to be worried about neo-paganism is interesting, because most of the traditions of paganism were embraced so that Christianity could be accepted by the masses in Rome. In AD 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25, a pagan holiday of sun worship. There is little doubt that he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans (who remained a majority at that time) to convert to Christianity. The Catholic Church has also had many positive views about Ecology, and “God’s Handiwork”. I tend to disagree with the Vatican when they start doing this “us against them” belief system of guilt, and have definite disagreements with their view of the lack of divinity of human beings. So I tend to be more sympathetic to Eastern views of the possible enlightenment of an individual, as taught by the Buddha, and Jesus. So this could lead to a large spiritual discussion that isn’t so easy to put into a simple email or blog post. Both spiritual masters taught that when you are attached more to “Things” than “God” that your life can end up being un-fulfilling in a deep way, you can’t “enter the kingdom of heaven”, and your livelihood can create disastrous effects on humanity.

    But to answer your question, no, I don’t think the Catholics have to worry that nature is becoming a divinity to worship. Most of the “Christian” world,as well as “Muslim”, “Jew”, and many people of other faiths…think that we are separate from the natural world, and thinks very little about their grandchildren’s children’s environment, or there would be no pollution, greed, war, stealing, and self-absorbed behavior. Now that doesn’t go to say that there aren’t good, moral people of all faiths that are against those things, and are selfless in their behavior. It’s just that the majority of people in power tend to be more concerned with “things” bought by money and power, and concerned more with making people conform to their views that support that stance,even through lies. All in all, I have been most influenced in this era by people who seem to speak truths, like The Dalai Lama, who asks that people keep their own faiths, and try to live in harmony with the environment, and each other. Also, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, who said similar things about non-violence, and who tried to break down the barriers that men put up between themselves. Gosh, isn’t that kind of what this whole discussion that’s been brought up by the Coal Country movie is all about? Maybe it isn’t a flagrant attack by the “tree huggers”, but a sincere attempt to bring light to these issues… When you get all the emotion out of it, it seems to have brought up a lot of points from both sides. Yes, probably more from the environmentalists side, but they’re more outspoken. I get many more posts from them, than from the coal companies. So, again, just as the Catholics can do, the coal companies can say a lot by not saying anything, or “not recommending” certain views, or readings. I’ve never heard an environmentalist say that they didn’t recommend reading coal company, Catholic, or even Nazi propaganda. They seem to be content and secure in the fact that most well educated people can make up their own minds.

    I think the Catholics have always been a bit confused about what they believe, but might be on the right track in some instances… Vatican views on the natural world:

    * 1610: Galileo declares that the earth revolves around the sun. He is persecuted for blasphemy by the Catholic Church.

    * The Pope risked the wrath of the religious Right by declaring that Darwin’s theory of evolution was compatible with Christian faith. In a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which advises the Vatican on scientific matters, the Pope said the theory of natural selection was “more than just a hypothesis”.

    * “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men.”-St. Francis of Assisi

    * Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), also known as Blessed Catherine Tekakwitha, is honored by the Roman Catholic Church as the patroness of ecology and the environment. Tekakwitha’s baptismal name is Catherine, which in the Iroquois languages is Kateri. She often went to the woods alone to speak to God and listen to Him in her heart and in the voice of nature. “Lily of the Mohawks” before her tribe was wiped out by “progress”.

    * Pope John Paul 11 wrote in Centesimus Annus: ‘It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards “having” rather than “being,” and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself. ”

    Let’s take a look at the 10 most popular books “Not Recommended

    by the Vatican:

    1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

    2. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling

    3. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

    4. The Giver by Lois Lowry

    5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    6. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

    7. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

    8. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney

    9. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

    10. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

    What do you think? I was most interested by the quote by Pope Paul 11 who inferred that to use natural resources for “having” rather than “being”, is very compelling. The coal industry talks a lot about “turning the lights on”, and progress. But I think that sometimes people that are labeled as “tree huggers”, “environmentalists”, “the Christ”, and “liberals”, might be on to something when they say that our society is too attached to material things. Blowing off the tops of mountains seems to encapsulate the Pope’s warning that we should be careful that we use the natural environment “not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself. ”

    Lot’s of good food for thought! Don’t you agree?

  2. Randall Maggard says:

    I really hit a nerve with that post. I also thought the Vatican comments were amusing also. So at least we can agree on a few things.


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