I usually do not get overly concerned whenever I receive e-mails warning against “anti-Christian” books, movies, etc. I thought the whole anti-Harry Potter campaign was ridiculous, and I still do even with the new information on Professor Dumbledore’s sexual orientation. But after receiving three e-mails on Monday concerning The Golden Compass, my husband and I decided to do a little research on the books because I was planning to let Eli participate in a reading group at the public library centered on the book. My first thought upon receiving the e-mails was “Great! Overzealous Christians are over-reacting again.” But after a little bit of searching on the internet, I believe that there is a reason for caution concerning these books. I would like to share what I have learned just so any parents who read this can make an informed decision about whether or not to let their children read the books and/or see the movie.
The Golden Compass, Northern Lights, and The Amber Spyglass are a trilogy of books by very-talented British author Philip Pullman. The books have won many awards, and a movie is to be released in December. Following are some quotes from Pullman that many Christian parents will find disturbing.
Just a short walk away from the Pullmans’ house is the grave of another Oxford master of fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien. Comparisons, notes Pullman with a heavy sigh, are inevitable. There’s the Oxford connection, and the invented worlds, and both Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and “His Dark Materials” consist of one (very) long story in three volumes. But Pullman insists the similarities stop there. “What I’m doing is utterly different,” he says. “Tolkien would have deplored it.”
So, too, would have another famous Oxford fantasy writer, C.S. Lewis, a devout Christian whose children’s series “The Chronicles of Narnia” exemplified his religious convictions. “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief,” says Pullman. “Mr. Lewis would think I was doing the Devil’s work.” (From Washington Post interview in 2001)
“I’ve been surprised by how little criticism I’ve got. Harry Potter’s been taking all the flak. I’m a great fan of J.K. Rowling, but the people – mainly from America’s Bible Belt – who complain that Harry Potter promotes Satanism or witchcraft obviously haven’t got enough in their lives. Meanwhile, I’ve been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God.” From an interview in The Sydney Morning Herald.
“I read [C.S. Lewis’s books] when I’d already grown up, and I thought they were loathsome, full of bullying and sneering, propaganda, basically, on behalf of a religion whose main creed seemed to be to despise and hate people unlike yourself.” Author interview at Powells.com
“I don’t say [in The Amber Spyglass], There is no God. I say: There is a God, and here he is dying – and this is what I was particularly pleased with, as a result of an act of charity. And he goes with a sigh of the most profound and exhausted relief.” Interview at ThirdWay.org
“It is [Mr. Pullman’s] objective to bash Christianity and promote atheism to kids. “The Golden Compass” is a film version of the book by that name, and it is being toned down so that Catholics, as well as Protestants, are not enraged. The second book of the trilogy, The Subtle Knife, is more overt in its hatred of Christianity than the first book, and the third entry, The Amber Spyglass, is even more blatant. Because “The Golden Compass” is based on the least offensive of the three books, and because it is being further watered down for the big screen, some might wonder why parents should be wary of the film.
The Catholic League wants Christians to stay away from this movie precisely because it knows that the film is bait for the books: unsuspecting parents who take their children to see the movie may be impelled to buy the three books as a Christmas present. And no parent who wants to bring their children up in the faith will want any part of these books.” From Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
An article on Snopes.com says that some reviewers say the books are not anti-Christian, just anti-religion and anti-authoritarian. The reviewer cited quotes a character from the book saying, “Every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling.”
Hmmmm? Wonder how anyone could get that idea about church? Surely not from any of the churches I know of? Strangely enough, I find this to be true of MANY of the churches I know of. This quote alone should be a wake-up call for the churches in our country. This is how many outside of the church see us. Where did they get a crazy idea like this? From us!
Too many Christians have completely missed the point of the church. As the body of Christ our job is not to be the moral police of the world legislating morality to straighten out all of those messed up people. We are ALL messed up people who desperately need the grace of God in our lives. As the body of Christ we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the hurting, lonely, desperately needy people around us. We, as humans, cannot change people by telling them all the things they are doing wrong. At best that only changes behavior; at worst it pushes souls farther away from God. God changes people from the inside out. When someone experiences God’s great love for them deep down in their heart, they cannot help but be changed. We, as hands and feet of Jesus, are to vessels of that love.
I had a discussion last night with a dear friend who is also our children’s librarian about Philip Pullman’s books. She is a strong Christian who has read the books and shared with me her perspective that parents should use caution deciding when and if their children should read the books but that the books are against authoritarianism. She also says that the world presented in the books is very unappealing, not a world that you long to be a part of.
I plan to read the books to see whether they would be worthwhile to read with my children when they are older(high school age) to discuss a world without God, views of other people that they will come in contact with in their lives, and how to change the way much of the world sees our religion.