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serving jesus christ the king

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass is this Christmas’s fantasy epic blockbuster. It’s part one of Philip Pullman’s blockbuster trilogy His Dark Materials and it hit the screens last weekend. It has attracted a bucket-load of publicity, mostly for the strongly anti-Christian message of the books.

It’s a fantastically well-made film; it has a great storyline – full of excitement, drama and adventure. Pullman has set out to create a parallel story to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles with talking animals, beautiful witches, giant airships, epic battles and all the rest.

The gist of the story is that in this world your soul walks beside you in the form of an animal. The authoritarian Magisterium are kidnapping children and surgically separating them from their souls in order to keep the kids good (allegedly). The heroes, not surprisingly, want to keep their ability to choose what they want to do, and set out to rescue the kidnapped children – led of course by a child with a magic golden compass that provides answers to all life’s questions. It all culminates, as always, in a battle between good and evil.

It’s spellbinding stuff and kids will love it. Pullman is a brilliant author. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that Pullman’s parallel world is one where things are turned upside-down. God and the church are the bad guys. Pullman hates Christianity; he once complained about the Harry Potter series, “My books are far more subversive. My books are about killing God.” That isn’t seen at all in this first film – the problem isn’t so much there, rather it’s in the next two, where the heroes kill off God.
The Golden Compass ends with the heroine heading off to rescue others, leaving the story unfinished and viewers hungry for parts two and three. And that’s where the explosive stuff happens (especially in volume 3).

So parents need to be careful about seeing
The Golden Compass and then unthinkingly giving their kids the rest of the series of books.

Of course biblical Christianity is not about to be toppled by a film, nor by a series of fantasy books. Yet we need to be informed about what authors are seeking to do with what they write. And we need to teach our children to think critically about what they are watching or reading – whether it be the
Simpsons, the ads on TV, the music they listen to, the whimsical Miracle on 34th Street (where God is compared to Santa!), or The Golden Compass. Sometimes instead of stopping people doing things, we need to teach them to think and evaluate what they are taking in.

And although he is wrong about many things, Pullman is right to criticise authoritarian churches, cults and leaders who expect people to believe without questioning or thinking, and who use authority in an oppressive way.

That, of course, is not biblical Christianity – Jesus spoke with authority, but was not authoritarian. The gospel is even better than the fiction. Jesus was the child who grew to be the rescuer of mankind and the restorer of souls. Freedom is not found by ‘killing God’ but by turning to him. It’s then that we find freedom and forgiveness for our souls.