Adherents of religion don’t like seeing their deity kicked to the curb.
Enter teddy bear named after a certain prophet and ensuing imprisonment. Enter cartoonists who poked fun at the same prophet and ensuing worldwide riots.
And while Christians are not calling for the arrest of anyone or even the destruction of anyone’s work, they are quite miffed at the latest attack on their God and religious traditions.
Enter Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials Trilogy, of which the Golden Compass has been released as a movie. Pullman doesn’t hide his agenda, criticizing the Christian church. “As the trilogy progresses the author reveals a battle between a dictatorial deity and the rebel angels determined to defeat Him. God is the villain of the piece, Satan the hero.” In a recent Time Magazine article, he is quoted saying, “My books are about killing God.”
OK then, so our cards are laid out neatly on the table.
How should Christians respond to so bold a claim? Boycott? Lobbying? Protest?
Well, we can begin by saying that we don’t much like Pullman’s point. We can also add that we think he’s wrong. But should we try to stop his movies from being made or try to stop people from seeing them?
Think about this, if Christians boycott the movie and try to stop future movies from the same series from being made, what does that say? To me it sounds like, “Pullman has uncovered a secret that we cannot dispute, so don’t read his book or watch his movie!”
Look, the book has been out for a while. The movie lightens up on the heresy, and we all know that people watch movies so they don’t have to read the books. So perhaps it’s a win-win scenario. Pullman makes his money, people get less heresy, and a more heretical book is pass up for the movie.
Even so, there are plenty of good movies with positive spiritual messages out there. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia are guided by Christian values, and I don’t remember any atheists making a lot of noise, “Wait, don’t see these movies for they speak of the living God!” They probably didn’t like the message behind the movies, but there was no outcry of the magnitude we are seeing with Christians over Pullman.
See the movie. Don’t see the movie. People will have to sort through what they believe and don’t believe. I don’t think very many people will see The Golden Compass and say, “Hey, atheism really sounds like a great idea,” just as many people didn’t exactly walk away from The Chronicles of Narnia saying, “Wow, I think I’ll become a Christian now!” The book has been out and people will most likely use the book’s material to support their previously held views. It will either make atheists feel the warm fuzzies or make Christians annoyed at the atheists they already dislike.
While Christians should scold Pullman for wanting to kill God, there is no reason why we should try to silence his work or hold boycotts. Not only has nothing catastrophic happened, we now have a reason to answer some hard questions. Have Christians been abusive? Yes. Is it easy to make God into a villain? Yes. The key is that Christians can offer rebuttals, the truth about God, and can testify to his gracious, loving revelation.
Atheists will come and go, but the truth of God will stand. People may be drawn to movies about cosmic battles, but at the end of the day God is still reaching out to us.