The Golden Compass

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Saturday, December 01, 2007

Recently, I've been bombarded by requests to join Facebook groups boycotting the upcoming movie "The Golden Compass" because of its atheist message. Now, I have a few things to say here, so don't think I'm crazy before you finish reading.First of all, let me ask a simple question. How many of you involved in these "Boycott the Golden Compass" groups have actually read any of the books? My guess is probably few of you. I'll admit that I haven't read them either, but that's not the point. How in the world are you supposed to oppose something when you don't even know what it contains?

Second, I'll admit that author Philip Pullman wrote his fantasy novels from an atheist standpoint. There is no doubt that he is an outspoken atheist. But does that mean that we can't give his novels a chance? To be honest, there have been many great works of literature written by atheists and Christians alike. In addition, God can use anyone to convey truth.I'll conclude with this. I have no desire to see or read "The Golden Compass" because it doesn't appeal to me. I'm more of a drama/thriller movie lover than a fantasy movie lover. But for those of you that aren't going to see the movie because "we'll be putting money into the pocket of an atheist," you're just being ridiculous. Grow up, and give it a chance...

I originally wrote this as a note on my Facebook page, and close to thirty comments resulted from it. Listed below are some of the comments... if you're interested.

Christopher Davis (Christian Academy of Louisville) wrote at 12:02am on November 27th, 2007
Andrew, this is so true, and I agree with you 100%. It was the same with Harry Potter, yes, its about magic and wizardry, but they were great books. Very well written, and held a LOT of positive messages too. We can respect a good book as a good book, even if we don't agree with it or like the author. And as for "putting money in people's pockets", I agree with you. Grow up. We do it everyday. I mean, think about where your money goes. Really.

Julianna West (Asbury) wrote at 10:49am on November 27th, 2007
Harry Potter. Yeah, I am a Potterhead. When I first started reading the books, my mom held a pretty apprehensive view towards them- like Chris said, for all the "practical" uses of magic. She slowly relaxed though as I shared with her some of the underlying messages of loyalty and bravery and how the right choices aren't necessarily the easy ones. (I think it is important to remember also that both Narnia and the Lord of the Rings, which are both largely highly respected works in the eyes of Christians, contain magic.)I think that with this story, it is much the same. While I completely understand the necessity of only allowing things into your mind that are true, just, pure, noble, etc. as the Bible clearly outlines, I think that ultimately the reader must decide to what degree they will internalize the words they are reading. I plan on seeing the movie and making my own judgments.

Matt Schlabach (Asbury) wrote at 9:02pm on November 27th, 2007
that is true sometimes but in this series he actually kills God, Pullman's goal isn't just to undermine God but to kill him off entirely. i agree that God can use non-Christians but when someone actually opposes our faith we can't just let it go and act like its no big deal

Andrew Groves wrote at 10:08pm on November 27th, 2007
Matt, I see what you're saying, but I still don't like the idea of people boycotting the book/movie because they HEARD that he kills God. Why not read the book (or see the movie) for yourself and then make a judgement? Yes, as Christians we need to be careful about what we put into our heads, but shouldn't we also as Christians be aware of what our culture is thinking, even if we don't agree with it?

Hilary White (Vanderbilt) wrote at 10:12pm on November 27th, 2007
Well, duh. Three things though - 1) in their defense, I believe both Narnia and LotR were written allegorically. Obviously there exists artistic license within those plot lines but I see the basic themes of redemption and ultimate triumph of good over evil, etc. It's not just magic; 2) God uses filthy rags and empty vessels as well and 3) Andrew, dawg, you're absolutely right, but what interests me is this - do you realize that what you're arguing against is exactly what we were all taught at WA? Were we ever encouraged to read The DaVinci Code or anything else like it on our own? No - we were taught that "oh my gosh good Christians don't read that it's bad and you'll go to hell" rather than finding out what made it principally wrong. Most of our fellow students have not developed those critical thinking skills so remember that when you're invited to join the group by a WA person; I'm just glad you can think of it on your own. Woot. Go you.

Hilary White (Vanderbilt) wrote at 12:24am on November 28th, 2007
Matt, you made clear that Pullman's characters ended up killing God, which as you said should be a big red flag to us as Christians. You pointed out one of the main tenets of the Christian's argument in my opinion. It's a valid point that we not support the makers of the film, I just wanted to add that we've got to know why it's wrong as opposed to blindly following. You're smart enough to know why so I'm not worried about you or anyone else here :) shoot if anyone cares enough to post that's more than a lot of people.

Nate Yardy (Urbana / Champaign, IL) wrote at 10:59am on November 28th, 2007
You make a good point, Andrew! And I'm surprised at how many people have responded in agreement!So, I have read the books. Essentially in this story, and this is a bit of a spoiler, but not too bad, there is no God. Instead, the oldest angel happened to be the mightiest and told everyone else he created them. And so the main characters are part of a resistance against this imposter. The books are very well written, and I for one, greatly enjoyed them. I don't think the books will lead people really astray if they already know what they believe, even if the author "kills God" in the story.

Nate Yardy (Urbana / Champaign, IL) wrote at 11:04am on November 28th, 2007
P.S. I would have to strongly disagree with Hilary about LOTR being an allegory. For one, Tolkien hated allegories. He thought stories should be able to be applicable to reality, but not always have direct correlation. He believed allegories were a cheap form of story-telling. And besides, since an allegory is a story that has direct correlation to reality/the spiritual world, LOTR doesn't fit the picture. LOTR is simply a story from a greater world that had been and was developing in the Silmarillion and in Tolkien's mind. This world has similarities to ours, but not enough for it to be an allegory. Tolkien believed the highest form of praise to God was "sub-creating," or using the abilities God gave us to the utmost for His glory, without necessarily being didactic. Anyway, those are my thoughts. If you disagree, oh well. I thought I would just throw out a few things to add to the discussion.

Jenna King (UMiami) wrote at 7:10pm on November 28th, 2007
I think there is something very key about this book that everyone is missing.I'm sure it's very well written, and I'm not one to really support boycotts like this cuz i think they are stupid and pointless. (anyone remember the Disney boycott when we were little? ya...)But here is the problem I have with this trilogy.The author came out and said that he had read the Chronicles of Narnia and hated them. He hated that is portrayed a Christian world view. So he decided to write his own series that struck down all that C.S. Lewis stood for.(cont. in next comment)

Jenna King (UMiami) wrote at 7:11pm on November 28th, 2007
As people have mentioned, the evil organization in the book is called "the church" (in the movie its "The Magisterium" so try to make it more appealling and hide the true intention from movie goers), and the evil boss dude that the 'good guys' defeat is "God" / "YAWEH". You cant get much more anti-christianity than that.No where in Harry Potter does J.K. Rowling trash Christianity in anyway. I'm a potter freak, and made fun of people who bashed it wihtout reading it. but i've read parts of this, and I can tell you, I have no desire to give my money to people who so blatantly defy and blaspheme the name of God.Like i said before, I think boycotts are stupid. However, in this instance, I have no problem standing against something that so strongly seeks to tear down everything that I wrap my world around. So ya.

Christopher Davis (Christian Academy of Louisville) wrote at 11:18pm on November 28th, 2007
Can I ask though...if a fictional book ruins you're faith (not, you, Jenna...just a general you...), then you really aren't that strong to begin with. And if its written for kids, they won't be able to catch the hidden messages it presents anyways. And in the end, like I've said and Andrew has can still respect a good work of art as just that- a work of art.

Andrew Groves wrote at 12:16am yesterday
Jenna, here's my response to a few of your thoughts. I have never read any of the books, and haven't seen the movie. So how am I supposed to really know the nature of his anti-Christian views? You see, you've told me that he blatantly attacks Christianity, but don't you think I should at least read some of them so that I can know how my faith is being attacked? Too many people are hearing from their buddies, "This book is anti-Christian; don't read it," and not finding out for themselves. I'm in no way questioning your assessment of the book, but I believe that an individual should be able to view art and make informed decisions about it. That's my two cents...

Jenna King (UMiami) wrote at 12:51am yesterday
oh totally, Andrew. I agree. Have at it. I'm not saying that anyone should not read it or whatever. Like I said, I think boycotting is stupid. I personally dont want to sit and fill my spirit with someone who is blatantly attacking who I am to my very core. However, I was a huge proponent of people reading the Harry Potter books before making a judgement. however this is different in the fact that the entire reason the series was written was to attack the principles set in Narnia. Of course everyone should make their own decisions. I'm all for that. If you want to spend your money on it, fine by me. You should be able to make your own informed decisions. I'm just presenting mine.

Jenna King (UMiami) wrote at 12:51am yesterday
And Chris, I'm in no way saying these books are going to change a Christian's view and make them an atheist. like you said, if that occurs, they weren't Christians to begin with. What I'm worried about is this type of "harmless" fiction that will indoctrinate the non-believing world by aiming at children, giving them a view that "the church" is evil and we should "kill God." power to the guy for being a good writer and being successful, this is America after all. I'm just not going to put my hard earned money to support it. thats all.

Christopher Davis (Christian Academy of Louisville) wrote at 1:09am yesterday
Yeah, that makes sense. Do you think that the messages might click in a child's mind though? I don't mean to seem controversial, and I'm sorry if I do. I'm just honestly asking. Also, I agree with you about the problem of his using this book to advance his views...I think its wrong. I wonder what made him act this way though...

Jenna King (UMiami) wrote at 1:15am yesterday
eh, honestly, he can promote his views just like C.S. Lewis could. you know? but ya, i do think kids will pick up on it. Even if it isnt concious. Its just adding to an indoctrination of our youth. It's pretty blatant when he calls out "the church" and "God/YAWEH" i mean, he even uses the biblical term for God that God gave Moses.honestly, i'm just worried that the movies will make kids want to get the books for Christmas, and start a giant wave of this. who knows. He just hated the fact that the Chronicles of Narnia got such acclaim with it's pro-Christian views, so he wrote his own. Like I said, he has every right to be successful in this way. Thats for God to deal with, not us.However, we have just as much of a right to say that we won't support it or give our money to it.

Hilary White (Vanderbilt) wrote at 10:56am yesterday
I'm with Jenna on the youth indoctrination idea. I wouldn't let my children see it or read the books without being confident in their abilities to analyze and understand the main ideas through the grid of a Christian worldview. I remember that when my aunt and uncle bought me The DaVinci Code for Christmas I watched my mom cringe and basically hide the book from me and at the time I didn't understand why. Several years later I sneaked it out and read it anyway and was amazed by the stuff in there. Yes, it was an extraordinarily well written novel but equally heretical and, frankly, wrong, academically speaking. But would I have known that as a twelve or thirteen year old reading a Christmas gift? I don't think so. I was especially impressionable through books when I was younger; I remember ideas and am still influenced by things put into my mind as a little kid. I'm glad my mom knew me well enough to take it away before I was ready to handle it, and I think I'd do the same.