Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thoughts on the Golden Compass

Philip Pullman's fantasy novel, The Golden Compass, has been made into a movie and is slated for release this weekend. This movie has created all sorts of hubbub in the Church, mainly because Pullman has been quite candid about his opposition to Christianity and to organized religion in general, and his novels (The Golden Compass is the first novel in the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials) are sort of the anti-Christian answer to C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. The backlash from this movie so far seems to point to the potential for it to be the next Da Vinci Code in terms of the Church's response to it.
It's a reasonable question to ask: how should Christians handle this movie (and others like it)? I'm sensitive to the need for better understanding on this, and I'd love to provide a comprehensive guide to understanding The Golden Compass from a Christian perspective.
The problem is, I haven't read the books, nor have I seen the movie. I'm not certain I will, either-- fantasy is not usually my genre of choice. So instead, I'd like to point you toward those who are familiar with these, and encourage you to benefit from them.

  • My old friend Russell Smith, a pastor in Cincinnati, Ohio, has also blogged about the movie in a post entitled, "Why is the Golden Compass a big deal?" Russell offers brief but solid advice for how to think about this film and the lack of good NEW stories being told by Christians.

  • Dave Burchett writes thoughtfully about many things, and I appreciate his perspective on why this movie shouldn't be a big deal. His post, "Christians Shouldn't Lose Their Bearings Over a Golden Compass" (which gets extra marks for a clever title) is a great effort to disarm the threat, and also a call to more cultural engagement.

  • Those who want to understand the underpinnings of the story, and how Pullman is both an excellent writer and an effective apologist AGAINST the Church, need go no further than Mars Hill Audio. The most recent edition of Mars Hill Audio's Audition podcast is a very informative conversation with literary critic Alan Jacobs about Pullman's writing and stories. It will serve not only as a helpful orientation to Pullman's fantasy world, but also helpful advice about understanding the story without getting sucked into its worldview.

I'm grateful to these men and the resources they provide. I hope you, too, will approach this movie (and other cultural artifacts like it) thoughtfully and willing to engage culture, and not run in fear from culture.

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