The Golden Compass and "Killing God"--Not An Urban Legend 

Emails have been circulating about an upcoming anti-God movie, The Golden Compass, based on Phillip Pullman's children's trilogy, His Dark Materials. The facts in these emails check out, for a change. It's not an Internet hoax. Pullman is about "killing God." The fact-checker website says,

"The film is based on Northern Lights (released in the U.S. as The Golden Compass), the first offering in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy of children's books, a series that follows the adventures of a streetwise girl who travels through multiple worlds populated by witches, armor-plated bears, and sinister ecclesiastical assassins to defeat the oppressive forces of a senile God." 


"The series' author, Philip Pullman, is an avowed atheist who has averred that "I don't profess any religion; I don't think it's possible that there is a God; I have the greatest difficulty in understanding what is meant by the words 'spiritual' or 'spirituality.'" Critics of Pullman's books point to the strong anti-religion and anti-God themes they incorporate, and although literary works are subject to a variety of interpretations, Pullman left little doubt about his intentions when he said in a 2003 interview with The Sydney Morning Herald that 'My books are about killing God.'"

I'm not sure this will be any worse than The DaVinci Code. Don't let that sound like an encouraging word, though. DVC was both anti-Christian and riddled with historical errors. I'm concerned, however, about this film's being marketed toward children. Its fictional approach will have power, and it's not the kind of thing that can effectively be answered with historical corrections like DVC could be.

How then ought we to respond to this? I've heard some calls for picketing. I don't think so. Picketing doesn't soften the impact of imaginative fiction. Better to respond on the same level: by telling the true story of Jesus Christ, to show that God is hardly "senile" or "oppressive" but is in fact all wise and loving. (And he's not worried about Phillip Pullman killing him!) Christians can "win" on that playing field--it is our own. Not only is our story better, it's also true. That's a hard combination to beat!

On a more formal level of ideas, it's up to us to deal with the charge that God is oppressive; for although I don't know, I suspect this is the idea that has bothered Pullman about God. He is a God of both justice and love. He has standards, he has a character he wants us to emulate, yet it's for our good. He created us in love; and he is not fooled, he knows what really leads to true human fulfillment and joy. To those who think happiness means throwing off all external bonds, that may seem oppressive; but their happiness is like that of the kite who thought he could fly higher and freer by cutting himself free of his string.

Update at 6:50 pm: Holopupenko recommended the analysis in this video, and I do too.

Update 11/15/07, 10:10 am: Other websites are reporting that the God in this series is actually an angel. I'm halfway through the trilogy, and to this point "God" is just "God." Further, it's unclear to me at this point whether the distinction they're noting makes a difference. I'll write a later post with what I find as I continue reading.

Series Overview

The Golden Compass and "Killing God"--Not An Urban Legend
Coming Soon To Your Child's School: Hostility Toward God and Church, Heavily Promoted
Once Again, How Can This Be Legal?
On Christianity, the Arts, and How To Have a Disagreement
Original Sin Is the Source of Truth? (The Golden Compass)
Death of Divine Authority—Pullman's Agenda on The Golden Compass
"I'm Trying to Undermine the Basis of Christian Belief"
"Democracy of Reading" or a Hidden Agenda? (Phillip Pullman)
Strongly Recommended: Jeffrey Overstreet on the Golden Compass
A New Bearing on The Golden Compass
Rehabilitating The Golden Compass's Religion?
Preacher-Man Phillip Pullman  

Posted: Mon - October 29, 2007 at 03:56 PM           |

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