Coming Soon To Your Child's School: Hostility Toward God and Church, Heavily Promoted 

True or False: Separation of church and state means schools won't teach from materials that promote hatred for the church—or killing God.


A local school counselor today loaned us promotional material from the Scholastic publishing company, touting curriculum resources based on The Golden Compass. This is the upcoming $150 million movie version of a book by the author who says his books "are about killing God"--the author in whose trilogy God actually is killed--the trilogy of which The Golden Compass is the first book. I hasten to add that God's death in this series is purely fictional, and the actual God is not concerned about threats on his life. It's tragic and it's hard to understand why this author, Phillip Pullman, could so hate what is so good, but he has made his feelings more than clear.
Golden Compass Poster
Heavy Promotion
Scholastic, "the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books," is by far the top source of reading materials for American schools. What they market, schools buy. And they are certainly marketing this film, along with their resources to go with it. Pictured here, with a 12" (30 cm.) ruler taped to the wall next to it for size perspective, is their very impressive 21" by 31" (53 by 79 cm.) promotional poster. It has an "Amazing Student Sweepstakes" advertised on it: the poster is meant for students to see. (There's also a PDF copy on the web.) On the back of the poster are several pages for teachers to copy at no charge and use as curriculum resources (copies are also available here). Scholastic is also promoting the film here.

One has to wonder what Scholastic stands to gain from giving all these expensive materials away. Well, it's not really all that hard to figure out. The poster says the materials are "generously sponsored by New Line Cinema." Now, don't you agree it really is generous for them to co-opt an educational company to advertise their film for them? And then of course, the students will have to read the book to do the study. Guess who sells it? Scholastic was also the book's first publisher, and was in fact a co-producer of the movie. Does this smell like a company that has students' and schools' best interests at heart?

Objectionable Material Regardless of Your Religion
Now, the information we have so far on this movie is that its anti-God message is toned down from that of the book. Therefore I don't know if the movie includes "intercision," as the book does. What, you may ask, is intercision? Read about it at SparkNotes, but be sure your children aren't looking over your shoulder when you do. (How can they possibly present this at schools?! And Scholastic says it's suitable for age 10 and up!!!)

Sin Is the Answer?
Here is one section from SparkNotes that I can feel free to quote here:

"In his trilogy, Pullman draws on [John] Milton's Satan [from Paradise Lost] for inspiration. Both Milton's Satan and Pullman's Lord Asriel are gentlemanly, powerful, and suave. But while Milton bemoans the fall from grace caused by Satan, Pullman hails it as the moment when humans gained freedom."

Kill God!
Of course the idea in a trilogy is to read the second and third books, and not just the first. (Naturally Scholastic is selling nicely packaged boxes of the trilogy. All three books are in my son's school's library.) The second book is The Subtle Knife. Looking again to SparkNotes, we discover that this knife is "the one weapon that can kill God," which is considered quite a desirable thing to do. Subtle indeed.

God and the Church Are Just So Awful and Pathetic
The third book is The Amber Spyglass, which Scholastic considers fine material for 8-year-olds. SparkNotes on that book includes these fascinating plot details (my emphasis in these quotes):

"Because God's rule is based on a lie, he prefers to rule over people who are obedient and don't ask questions. As Balthamos explains it, the first big rebellion was not, in fact, led by a male angel named Satan, but by a female being who recognized that God was lying. In Pullman's book, the rebellion against God was a revolution against a tyrant."
"The Church leaders are terrified by the eleven-year-old Lyra because they know her passage from childhood to womanhood could somehow bring about their destruction. They know that she is the new Eve, the one the witches call 'mother of us all.' They are willing to go to almost any lengths to destroy her. The bomb they build is strong enough to create a bottomless abyss in the world of the dead, yet they think nothing of detonating it."

God's Death Comes As a Relief--To God
"Pullman's representation of God is typical of his portrayal of the Church. Instead of an all-knowing, all-powerful God with a vast and incomprehensible plan for the universe, Pullman's God is half-crazed with age and infirmity. When Lyra and Will liberate God from his glass case, he seems pleased. He is so weak and old that he blows to bits with the first breeze, but his dissolution comes as a relief. It is as though God does not want the burden of leadership. In the end, Will and Lyra don't kill God. Instead, they free him, and he becomes one with the universe again."

How To Respond?
Now, back to our original question. Is this suitable for schools? Is this separation of church and state? Is this not teaching religion? How can this be legal?

I refer back to my original post on this movie. I did not know then that it was being promoted for use in schools. I'm still not in favor of picketing the film. I still believe it's better to meet it on the level of "story to story," as I wrote then. It's clearly wrong, though, for schools to present Pullman's story while absolutely locking out the Christian story. So I would certainly argue that it doesn't belong in any school in America. Or anywhere else.

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: Tue - October 30, 2007 at 07:52 PM           |

© 2004-2007 by Tom Gilson. Permission is granted to quote up to two paragraphs of any blog entry, provided that a link back to the original is included or (in print) the website address is provided. Please email me regarding longer quotes. All other rights reserved.

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