In an otherwise often commendable panel discussion on Christians and cultural engagement, one participant spouted off a real head-scratcher when discussing Avatar, James Cameron's remarkable film that has broken all the box office records and is nominated for nine Oscars.
Russell D. Moore, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's School of Theology, was quoted in The Christian Post as saying, "Keep in mind this is the same guy (James Cameron) who had evangelical Christians standing up and applauding to scenes of fornication in Titanic."
Say what?? I know a lot of Christians who liked Titanic, and as far as I know, every single one of them wished that the film had not included those rather explicit scenes. To what Christians is Moore referring? Sounds like such a flippant comment.
On the bright side, the panelists did encourage better discernment for Christians when watching films or otherwise engaging pop culture.
Mark T. Coppenger, professor of Christian Apologetics at the seminary, said, "We've become so cool about [culture] that we don't realize the dangers. We probably need to take a deep breath and back away from being so enculturated that we don't have any critical distance now."
Panelists acknowledged that Avatar depicts an Eden-like world that makes viewers – religious and secular – long for something more, something better. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of SBTS, said that universal longing yields a potential mission field for evangelicals.
"If this is the story that millions of people are paying so much to see, those millions of people are looking for a story," he said. "And that gives us the opportunity to speak of the story of stories – the Gospel of Jesus Christ."