Friday, December 7, 2007

How Should a Christian Respond to The Golden Compass?

There has been a firestorm of controversy surrounding the recent film, The Golden Compass. Previously a more blatant and aggressive form of the film's message surfaced in a book by the same name and its two sequels. However, with the exception of the Harry Potter series, the audience for a book generally pales in comparison to the audience for the corresponding movie (which rarely does the book any justice, due to the nature of the medium). While the idea behind the movie has been in circulation for years via the book, it is only now reaching the vast majority of the public.

Controversy has ensued because of the story's blatant and intentional (according to author Philip Pullman) atheistic message and anti-authoritarianism which logically follows. I have heard Christians who range in response from advocating a full-blown boycott of the film and its supporters to simply not exposing themselves to the story. I propose a third option: exposure to and engagement in the surrounding dialogue.

First and foremost, I firmly believe that this material is not suitable for children, despite its intended market. Second, I believe that this book/movie combination, much like the DaVinci Code, is a "golden" opportunity (to use a pitiful pun) to speak truth. The release of the film and consequent mass circulation of the message should be seen as a challenge to educate ourselves and respond accordingly. As C.S. Lewis so poignantly stated, "Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered." The Golden Compass certainly promotes a "bad philosophy", that is one which is inherently flawed.

Even if Christians (or, for that matter, Theists) do not have the time or the inclination to read the book(s) or watch the movie, I believe that we should still become familiar with what the story entails (in a nutshell, atheism) in order to engage in informed dialogue. That may or may not mean reading the book or watching the movie, but it certainly includes educating oneself about the arguments and counterarguments of atheism and the problems with an authority-deprived world.

Campaigning for a universal boycott of the movie and the books is at best futile and at worst counterproductive. What some will likely assume is that Christians are afraid of an opposing philosophy and are retreating due to lack of a response. If you don't want to see it, then don't see it; I, for one, am not inclined to pay to sit through that movie. It is still vital, however, to be prepared to give an "answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess", as 1st Peter 3:15 (NET) mandates.

While The Golden Compass will fade away and Truth will persist, we nevertheless find ourselves presented with an opportunity for dialogue in order to speak Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).


Jon said...

Nice job. I was going to make a very similar post, but it looks like you beat me to it.

I did read The DaVinci Code, though I haven't seen the movie (the book wasn't that great to begin with). I don't really have any desire to read or see The Golden Compass, though, not because of the atheism/theism debate, but because the story just doesn't interest me. I agree that boycotting it serves no useful purpose, and in fact it likely gives credence to the opposition's argument.

Kevin Winters said...

Where does Pullman say that the Golden Compass' story is blatantly and intentionally atheistic? In one interview I've read he explicitly said that he's agnostic, not an atheist. Also, he's said that Milton's Paradise Lost was one of his primary inspirations for this story.

Lastly, it's fiction!!. It does not claim to describe things as they are. It does not claim to be providing arguments against Christianity, dog lovers, or nose pickers. It doesn't even claim to accurately represent Christianity or Christians, even as it uses those terms. Please stop the persecution complex!!

Kevin Winters said...

Here are some interviews where Pullman explicitly rejects an atheistic agenda:

Pullman not promoting atheism in 'Golden Compas'

HNN Interview Transcript: Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compas

Philip Pullman Reaches the Garden

Philip Pullman on God, Atheism, and 'The Golden Compas'

Philip Pullman: About the Writing

Philip Pullman--The Extended E-mail Interview

There are more, but that will do for now.

Sarah Scott said...

1)The entire trilogy of books was written by Pullman specifically to counteract The Chronicles of Narnia.

"I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief. Mr. Lewis would think I was doing the Devil's work." -Philip Pullman in 2003

2) Fiction can be even more dangerous than non-fiction; a good writer can dull your discernment and wits by creating a fantasy world fostering empathy with the characters. In this case, we are to empathize with a deceitful, manipulative, anti-authoritarian little girl.

Any storyline which challenges and ultimately kills authority and God is making a claim against Christianity.

Sarah Scott said...

Oh, and about PARADISE LOST, Pullman was inspired by the concept of Satan as the protaganist. Then, if you were to actually FINISH Milton's work, you would find that Satan turns out to be the deceptive, evil tyrant (most) readers suspected all along.

Pullman was inspired by the story. That is a far cry from retelling the story.