Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Golden Compass

So in anticipation of the upcoming movie, last week I went and spent my 3rd Place Books gift card (thank you, David and Gretta!) on Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass (renamed by annoying American publishers from the British version Northern Lights). And I must confess Pullman is a great storyteller, and I got sucked in and read until five in the morning, a dangerous thing for me in this crazy end of quarter time when I should mostly be working on schoolwork.

I really enjoyed it. There are certain conservative Christian leaders and groups who are *very* concerned about the book, the trilogy, and the movie, claiming that Pullman is dangerously using his superb storytelling skills to draw children toward atheism. I find this reaction kind of sad. It seems to be propogating the controlling, fear based worldview for which Pullman is criticizing religion in general.

So I just disagree with those who disparage the books. First of all I think good story is story that gets at truth, and I think this is gaugeable by a story's popularity. When 21 million people want to take the time to read something, it's because that something is getting some ... rather broad truth in such a way that so many people read it and have that "aha" connective feeling--this touches on the truth of their experience, their story.

Plus, here's a couple quotes from Pullman

"But I'm not in the business of offending people," he says. "I find the books upholding certain values that I think are important. Such as that this life is immensely valuable. And that this world is an extraordinarily beautiful place, and we should do what we can to increase the amount of wisdom in the world." (from here)
I don't know whether there's a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it's perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don't know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.

Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it's because he's ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they're responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I'd want nothing to do with them. (from here)

So I'm thinking that if conservative Christian leaders would be more willing to step up and admit the darker half of the truth, then they wouldn't have to come out so vehemently against someone who is so truthishly enstorying that for them. And the truth to which I refer is this: Yes, it's true that Christians are part of a tradition of thought and belief that on the one hand has done astounding amounts of good in the world. And it's *also* true that this same tradition of thought and belief has been responsible for astounding evil in the world. I think the church should hear Pullman's stories as a call to the church to name and disavow the same religious evil that Pullman is enstorying, and to affirm the same good that Pullman is affirming. Instead, sadly, it seems to me that many conservative Christians, in response to this movie, are diving further into an "us versus them", defensive, anti-dialog, mentality. This is the kind of mentality out of which wars arise. It's very much too bad to see it. I.M.O. followers of Jesus *ought* to be the most free, the least fearful, the most willing to engage in dialog and to listen, and the most willing to recognize and join Pullman's legitimate critique of organized religion's promotion of evil and of a god who is evil or weak or both. I mean to me Pullman's critique of religion and old rules and and a too-limited god sounds *really* similar to Jesus' own such critiques.

1 comment:

byron smith said...

I agree that the response has been knee-jerk (often with the an emphasis on 'jerk'), though I'll be interested to hear what you think of the third book in particular. I found it quite disappointing from a literary standpoint after the first one (which I loved).