Avatar and Homesick for Heaven

I’m one of three people left in the world who hasn’t seen the movie Avatar. The other two are Himalayan cave dwellers and have more important things to do, like climb Mount Everest and raise llamas.

From everything I hear, the movie is incredible. The special effects are absolutely mind-blowing. People say it’s like being transported into another world. And William Shatner does an incredible job as commander of the “U.S.S. Titanic”. Or something like that.

But the movie is also having a strange effect on thousands of viewers: depression.

CNN recently released an article stating that after seeing the movie, many viewers have become seriously depressed. After seeing the beauty and stunning majesty of the world in Avatar, people feel disillusioned with this life.

After seeing the movie, one young man said:

When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed … gray. It was like my whole life, everything I’ve done and worked for, lost its meaning. It just seems so … meaningless. I still don’t really see any reason to keep … doing things at all. I live in a dying world.

When I read the article and saw the above quote, I couldn’t help but think of these words by Randy Alcorn:

Nothing is more often misdiagnosed than our homesickness for Heaven. We think that what we want is sex, drugs, alcohol, a new job, a raise, a doctorate, a spouse, a large-screen television, a new car, a cabin in the woods, a condo in Hawaii. What we really want is the person we were made for, Jesus, and the place we were made for, Heaven. Nothing less can satisfy.

I haven’t seen Avatar, but if I did I think it would make me homesick for Heaven.

Have you seen Avatar?


  • I haven't seen it either… but this is quite the interesting spin on it. Very thought provoking.

  • JackW says:

    You're wrong!

    I've never dwelled in a cave. ;-0

    My future home makes Avatar look like the Nazarene dump.

  • @MattRodatus says:

    I haven't seen it. I hear that it can cause overexcitement. One guy in Taiwan I think it was died from the overexcitement.

  • I've really wanted to see it, but I've been too busy hunting tribal blue aliens for their oil. Maybe next month…

  • Julia Davage says:

    When I went with hubby to see it this is exactly what I said. The beauty of the forest especially made me in awe, knowing that heaven will be multiple multiple times better: Avatar cane out of the mind of man, whereas heaven was born from the mind of God.

    Stephen (and anyone else who hasn’t seen it): I would highly recommend that you do, in 3D (and IMAX if available). It’s the best film I’ve seen for ages. And that’s from a girl.

    Julia, Wales, UK.

  • I have seen it and the design work is incredible. I saw it in 3D and it truly is amazing what humans can imagine. If we can create a world like Pandora I marvel at what unspeakable beauty heaven and the new earth will have. We will see Jesus face to face and witness creation unmarred by sin for the first time. I love the grandeur of what I know about the earth now, but wow, this movie did make me long for heaven and has not left my dreams since I have seen it. Cameron himself, freely admits that nature inspired him. I really do think that whether the filmmakers know it or not that the hand of God is actively involved in a lot of our films. There is something in this movie that people really connect with and I do think that it is a distorted view of heaven.

  • Jen R says:

    I felt homesick for heaven after seeing the Lord of the Rings Trilogy movies. But heaven will be better because it is REAL.

    Perhaps God is using the talents of fallen humanity to awaken our need of Him. We can pray for a surge in thirstiness for God even through entertainments.

  • Kaylee says:

    I did see it and I highly recommend it. It was absolutely amazing… the cinematography was stunning, and I mean, STUNNING. It certainly reminded me of the glory of our God as the avatars ran through their forest. I was struck with the thought that “Heaven will be so much greater. God’s imagination is 10x better than these people, what is heaven going to be like? Wow.” It’s going to be amazing and I for one, cannot wait to go.

  • @Dr_Ransom says:

    Thank God for you recognizing this truth. I also have not seen “Avatar”; I’d love to take in the effects, but for me the story’s overtly pagan/liberal propaganda would likely ruin the wonder.

    It would be wrong for Christians to mock the “‘Avatar’ depression” phenomenon without recognizing the truth that — notwithstanding the truth of man’s total depravity and desire for a “heaven” without God and righteousness — the whole world groans for its redemption, as Romans says.

    In recent years I’ve been shown that if Christians act as though they’re “too spiritual” to long for their New-Heavens-and-New-Earthly home, they trivialize the very promises the Lord has given to His people. In effect, such Christians are trying to be more “spiritual” than God Himself.

    “Lord of the Rings,” and particularly the Gray Havens element, helped enhance my longing for Heaven as well. (For those who do not know, at the book’s and film trilogy’s end, Frodo and many beloved characters leave the shores of Middle-earth for a paradise-like land originally meant for the immortal race of Elves.) We need more of this truth of our *physical* eternal destiny because of God’s redemption of the created universe, spread in nonfiction — such as Alcorn’s excellent book “Heaven” — or even fiction — such as “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

    To a large extent such themes have not occurred in contemporary Christian fiction since then. Many believers picture a vague, “spiritoid” Heaven with loss of personalities, memory and redemption of the entire world, a concept based more on Eastern thought than on Scripture. And in response, liberal “Christians” (real or just professing) claim we’ve thought “too much about the hereafter” and we need to bring “heaven” to Earth.

    Each extreme is false. We live in the light of eternity, and its foundation is the Gospel. Thank God for His incredible plan to redeem not only His own, but His created cosmos — and that even non-Christians, in their pinings for a perfect world, can almost grasp this truth!

    Now, shall we Christians remind them that only Christianity, the “true myth” as Lewis and Tolkien called it, presents this truth fully? Shall we also say that Sin stands in the way and urge people to repent and seek to delight and follow God first, so that they may someday take part in this incredible After-World for His glory alone? :-D I do believe His Church can do this.

  • Sarah D. says:

    Hey, um…I haven't seen it, and I live in Iowa. Granted, I'm homeschooled, next best thing.;)

  • jns says:

    I saw it.

    It IS pretty incredible. The 3D is mind-blowing.

  • That sounds like an urban legend. Do you have an article on it…?

  • That's such a great perspective. If people can imagine a world as beautiful as Pandora, what will the real heaven be like? Amazing!

  • Yep. People are desperately longing for another world. Eternity is planted in our hearts. They just want that world without Jesus.

  • Yeah I kind of felt the same way after seeing LOTR. I need to watch it again!

  • Being home schooled really is the next best thing to living in Pandora…

  • Jim Hogue says:

    I haven't seen it either, Stephen. I actually don't even know what it's about. My guess, from the title "Avatar", is that it is about some guy who stubbed his toe on the belly of a giant hippo and, because of the shock, couldn't quite say anything profound or profane, so he cried, "Ohh Avatar!" Sounds like a boring movie to me.

    Heaven is going to be so much better than that! seriously, thanks for the blog, Stevo!

  • Ben Hastings says:

    Didn't see it. Don't know if I will… maybe when it's available to watch at home. We just adopted two (bringing our total to four) and our lives have revolved around showering them with God's love so they can see how much He and we love them by bringing them to our home. Movies aren't high on the priority list now.

    I posted this to FB – a lot more folks need to think about these things!

  • Jessica says:

    I saw it. It was pretty. I want my own bird. I think it would be purple and gold ;-). It challenged me to think about how to be good stewards of what God has put us in charge of now. We are to be good stewards of our resources and this world God has created for us because by caring for creation we are also caring for/loving others and by loving others we are loving Him.

  • Cristian says:

    What intrigues me the most is Sigourney Weaver's character's name: "Grace Augustine". Google that and see what happens. Two main results.

  • Jeff says:

    Nope. Haven't seen it.

  • Tony R says:

    I may or may not have seen this movie in 3D. IF I did I would guess the influence of the pantheistic theme [Douthat: "Hollywood's religion of choice"] in people's lives originates from its offer of a "heaven" without a transcendent God. People know that there must be a place better than this broken world one. That they can get there without a savior or a demanding God who expects us to abide by His thoughts and commands makes it all the more appealing. You are right, Stephen, the allure of the pantheistic offer of utopian bliss is another form of idolatry, a promise of pleasure severed from the Living God.

  • Dave Wilson says:

    The visual aspect of the film was quite impressive. But for a 3D film, the story was pretty one dimensional.

    It reminded me of the movie "Pocahontas" as far as the whole nature worship thing. Now don't get me wrong; I like to "paint with all the colors of the wind" as much as the next guy. But Hollywood's idea of Heaven didn't inspire me much.

  • Sue says:

    Another who hasn't seen it and hasn't had any inclination to do so.

  • Marge says:

    No, I haven't seen it and have no desire to do so. I'm not at all into fantasy/space age kind of movies.

  • David Beirne says:

    I saw it in 3d, and it was beautiful. However, to me, it was more of a glorified cartoon due to the over abundance of CGI. But in your post on longing for heaven is spot on. Hopefully that is the effect of the movie. BTW, I was equally awe-stricken by the scenerry in Open Range; no CGI, but God can make some pretty nice stuff Himself.

  • Jim, is this even worth the reply?

  • That's awesome that you guys just adopted! Who cares about Avatar when you just adopted two kids?

  • Since I haven't seen it, what aspect of the movie challenged you to be a good steward?

  • Yeah, from what I've heard there is a definite pantheistic element to the movie. Hollywood never can compare to heaven…

  • Open Range was a pretty sweet movie.

  • Brenda N. says:

    My son is a computer science major so he and his friends drove sixty miles to see the movie on an IMAX screen. They say it is remarkable.

    It's interesting to me that these young men were all Christian (former) homeschoolers who came home agreeing the importance of the environmental movement and that big corporations and the military are power hungry and greedy. Makes me wonder about how easy it is for beautiful technology to get the intended message through.

    Not that we don't need to work on the environment and I know military leaders can be imperfect but it was still amazing to me how easily the pagan message was accepted by homeschooled engineering and science students.

  • Jessica says:

    Basically the movie is like Pocahontas, but on another planet. The humans who have destroyed their own planet, have come up to Pandora to mine it for a valuable mineral that is worth a lot of money back on planet earth. The home of a certain group of natives is this huge tree that rests on top of this area rich with this mineral. They want the natives to move their home or else they will just kill them to get them off this area so they can mine it.

    I guess the impression that I got is to not let greed blind you to loving and respecting others or into destroying one thing to get to another. The point was that what existed in their world was really incredible (some cool network of things being connected in a whole "circle of life" sort of thing), but the miners just saw the mineral and were willing to destroy all the other stuff just to get to that.

    This could look like choosing only to eat certain types of fish or seafood so as not to deplete our resources in the ocean, or choosing to eat locally grown foods, so as not to add to the pollution in transporting foods from far away, or in rotating crops and not just deciding to crow corn (that needs to be chemical processed to be edible) because the government will pay you extra money to do so, and in the process not allowing the soil to be replenished with the nutrients that would naturally happen through a rotation of various crops. There wasn't a super direct correlation, but in the movie they talked about listening and learning before just jumping in and taking.

    It also felt like doing cross culture ministry. Stepping into a culture and setting aside your way of doing things and thinking to learn from others. Being open to different groups of people and not assuming you know everything.

  • J.M. says:

    I do not plan on seeing "Avatar" because I frankly do not trust its intent. Call me a government conspriacy theorist, but I think it's having its intended effect. I'm already bipolar and I do not want to be thrown into yet another tailspin. Of course, I am middle-aged and may prove to be invulnerable to the special effects and subliminal images and messages. The whole thing may be directed at the younger generation, for all I know.

  • carmen says:


    I'm quite sure it's true, unfortunately. He got violently sick (due apparently to overexcitement) and passed away 11 days later from a brain hemorrhage complicated by pneumonia.

    Yes, it has caused an especially huge splash here in Taiwan. The society (especially the young people portion) has evolved to become extremely entertainment-driven. Every weekend for this whole month now people have been packing the theatres to see this new phenomenon! And they call the depression symptoms "Avatar blue".

    Love the quote from Randy Alcorn. Spot on!

  • Greg Warner says:

    You’re not the only one, I haven’t seen Avatar yet either. But I can totally relate to the effects people are feeling in this regard. I grew up with this feeling repeatedly when I delved into the worlds of the Myst computer games (and especially the novels). The series’ basic concept, of the exploration of an almost limitless number of worlds?some barren experimental wastelands and others jungles as rich as the landscapes of Avatar?always left me very disillusioned with a future of working 9-5 and retiring to a humble relatively plain and un-exotic dwelling. Growing up in a home carved out of the wall of a fissure next to a volcano in New Mexico, under which a massive dead civilization existed as the portal to endless manifestations of the Maker’s creativity sounded pretty good in comparison. I got the same feeling when I finally got around to finishing the Chronicles of Narnia over the Christmas holidays. Hearing Aslan’s voice beckon, “Further up and further in!” my heart skipped a beat. Any of you fans of Andrew Peterson’s music, I thought of his song “It’s a Window in the World.” For the world, fantasy will always be a temporary escape that ends with depression and another longing for another escape. It could become that for us too, if we’re not careful. But if we remember that these outworkings of another’s creativity are just “a portal where you get a better view,” we’ll savor the common grace of these windows a little more every time we find one. And we’ll be a little more homesick for heaven every time we look through.

  • Cloudy B. says:

    G-day Josh! Greeting from the "Land of the rising Sun". That would be Japan mate. No Avatar propaganda in this one. Just replying to ya comment if that's cool. You're right! I hate that! When somebody talks about a move they haven';t seen.

    Have fun C. Bongwater

  • C.B. says:

    Amen mate!

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