Few movies or books have generated more desperate emails from concerned conservative friends than the Golden Compass. The last time I saw this intensity was when the Da Vinci Code came out as a movie. I had already read the book. It was clearly fiction to me--fantastical and hardly grounded in sound doctrine or history. The premise was intriguing and the book was a fun read. My faith wasn't shattered. I doubted few others would be either.
Now comes the Golden Compass. In this case, I haven't read the books, but plan to. Some put books with questionable content in the same category as porn--detritus that will pollute and confuse the mind. And while I grant the idea that the "dark arts" can poison the mind, it seems that to be able to have an intelligent conversation, understanding the arguments from all sides is necessary.
Adhering to my policy of waiting to read the books so that the movie isn't ruined (movies are invariably a disappointment) will no doubt color my interpretation somewhat as I understand that the movie has been watered down to appeal to the masses. In fact, even the atheists are up in arms:
Among the points of contention:
The movie refers to the ominous "Magisterium." But is this simply a totalitarian "authority," as the filmmakers say, or does it refer to the Roman Catholic Magisterium — meaning the pope in communion with the bishops?
Are mystical particles called "Dust" a euphemism for sin?
That's the implication in Random House's teacher's guide, which suggests students "use the Bible, a storybook, or an encyclopedia to read about the Garden of Eden and the fall of Adam and Eve."
In the publisher's interview with Pullman, he says his books depict "the Temptation and Fall not as the source of all woe and misery, as in traditional Christian teaching, but as the beginning of true human freedom, something to be celebrated, not lamented."
So the film isn't doctrinaire enough--a point I find amusing in this post-modern world.
Catholics are equally dismayed at the movie and have moved to educate their members:
I won't take my kids to the movie, though they enjoy fantasy adventures. They didn't see Happy Feet and Sesame Street isn't played in this house, either. Once they have a good, solid foundation and learn some critical thinking skills, then we can work our way through a movie like The Golden Compass.
The Catholic League will have none of that. "We're just taking Pullman at his word," says Donohue. The League produced a pamphlet, The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked, debunking Pullman on 95 different points; copies have been distributed to every Catholic bishop in the USA.
"The movie is just bait for the books, which are worse," and the chance to make more movies, Donohue says. "We don't want unsuspecting Christian parents to … take the kids to the film, buy the trilogy, and unknowingly introduce their children to the wonders of atheism and the damnation of Catholicism."
The world brims over with objectionable ideology. The notion that there are no moral absolutes and that we can each define the world our own way makes it seem like all ideas are equally valid. But that's certainly not what these Atheists believe. They believe religion to be poison to the mind. They believe that freedom is only possible apart from God. In short, they believe and have faith in something, it's just not God.
It's important for Christians to understand the arguments if only because it demonstrates free will. For all the moral relativism on the Left, they hardly seem interested in understanding why people might disagree with them. Narrow minded, churlish, and resistant to nuance, it causes one to wonder who the zealots are these days.