Archbishop Jonathan Blake

The Most Reverend Jonathan Blake, Presiding Archbishop of the Open Episcopal Church B.A. (Hons), Dip. Pastoral Studies. Bishop's Haven, 105 Danson Crescent Welling DA16 2AS U.K. Mobile: 07767 687711 www.bishopjonathanblake.com bishopjonathanblake@ntlworld.com www.openepiscopalchurch.org www.twitter.com/bishopjonathan The Church is a member of The International Council of Community churches and the World Council of Churches. Married and a proud Dad.

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Location: London, Kent, United Kingdom

Gassed in Tehran, seized in Kabul, helped Mother Teresa, almost murdered, raised £300,000, ordained 1981, street sleeper, pilgrim to Auschwitz, Kenya + Pakistan 4 peace, began 1st inter-faith NHS chapel, wrote text on Parliament, arrested, relinquished his 12 year Anglican post 2 be independent, baptised 1000's in homes, on Mt Snowdon + in circus ring, did wedding underwater, wrote ‘For God’s Sake Don’t Go To Church’, nailed 95 Theses to Canterbury cathedral, arrested, co-founded the Society for Independent Ministry, was consecrated a bishop, co-founded the Open Episcopal Church, did 1st gay wedding on prime time TV, sued Associated Newspapers 4 defamation, co-consecrated 1st women bishops 4 England. Wales + Scotland, accommodated the homeless, took Mass 2 sex workers + posted it, elected Archbishop, arrested 4 taking kids on roof, not charged, founded ‘When No One’s Watching', became an ICV, did Jade Goody's wedding , invited 2 Downing St, wrote 'That Old Devil Called God Again', arrested 4 times campaigning against child abuse, had harassment conviction quashed on appeal, appealing a conviction for breaches of restraining order 2 stop a paedophile

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

THE GOSPEL OF AVATAR

The problem with Pandora, the Na'vi and Eywa is that we can use them to delude and denude ourselves.

So many have been entranced by Avatar's graces and have plummeted into depression realising that life is rather more mundane on exiting Cineworld.

Others have 'seen the light' and have left determined to regard their world anew.

Avatar is an extraordinary film with considerable value. It shows as a modern day gospel, a religious narrative and a prophetic call to conversion.

There are irritating anachronisms and contradictions - a medieval call to arms and mustering of the troops, a smoking scientist, linear characterisation and salvation mediated via the traditional hero.

There are also the classic ingredients. The innocents, the serpents and the divine and no return to Eden. Humanity is superceded, returning to their inferiority while the 'hero' evolves into a Na'vi, within his resurrected body, fit for paradise. Pandora isn't that, merely a staging post in our ability to conceive of that which might be, but it delights nevertheless.

The problems though rest in the modern habit of being 'entertained' by a gospel rather than transformed by it. The idea that cineworld is a church and many films are sermons is lost on most. Amidst coke and popcorn, we gape and leave, rating the film but not our lives.

We marvel at floating mountains and exotic creatures and proceed to destroy our natural wonders and drive further species towards extinction. We weep at the destruction of the Hometree, the habitation of the Na'vi people, but watch while the Amazon is deforested and the indigenous tribes are displaced. We detest the ruthlessness of the RDA Mining corporation and Sec-Ops, their private military force, but then happily eat chocolate and listen to our ipods without a thought for who or what has been devastated in the process.

It seems the snake hangs a long way away and whispers in the ears of others. We are able to tuck into the crates of apples with impunity. That sense of disconnection is replicated in our conception of the divine.

Millions have either relinquished traditional forms of religion or espoused their fundamentalist versions. Both choices present a crisis, for we have not found a pure source of inspiration which delivers. All earthly dogmas and belief systems are flawed.

A myriad of alternatives are advertised and loom on screen and in print and Cameron's take is appealing. When the disabled former marine prays to Eywa for help in winning the battle, Neytiri corrects him that the divine does not take sides rather maintains the balance. Cameron can't quite translate that into a novel resolution of conflict and so Eywa is shown to be partisan after all.

The humans are defeated and exiled, only presumably for them to re-arm and return to continue the cyclical violence that haunts civilisation.

It is understandable that we feel we need to ring fence our concepts of divinity placing them out of harm's way, but when it panders to film makers and humanity's desire for an easy fix solution coming from afar, it does us few favours.

I am left with the following musings.

We live on Pandora and are in the process of destroying it with ruthless disregard for the vulnerable who find themselves in our way. We also exhibit the ability to conceive of something far better and the desire to apsire after it.

It is time to come of age. We must own the darkness which broods within us as well as the potential for a connectedness which prevents a violation of the balance.

Cameron's visionary film is a modern day gospel which takes us to the boundaries. It is for us to pioneer further. Perhaps away from the cult of the super hero God and the super hero human, away from the stereotypes of good and evil, away from combative techniques of conflict resolution, away from the tendency of religion to divest us of the belief that we can work for our redemption, away from the colonial belief of what constitutes superiority.

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