The Golden Compass: “Not all is gold that glitters”

Priest James BAGLIEN

We have come to that time of the year when Hollywood presents its annual “Christmas” offerings, in the form of various films that open in December

Most are the usual action-adventure fare, but there are always one or two that are positioned, in advertising at least, as “family-friendly.” The most touted film of this type for the current holiday season is the “The Golden Compass,” which reportedly cost $180 million to produce. The early teaser ads suggest a spectacular visual adventure, a combination of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Adventures of Narnia.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, “The Golden Compass” is one of the most direct attacks on Christianity ever launched by Hollywood, if superficially less obvious than “The Last Temptation of Christ,” or “The DaVinci Code.”

The movie is based on the first of a trilogy of books for children called “His Dark Materials,” written by the English writer Philip Pullman. Pullman is a militant atheist, who has said quite frankly that he wants to “kill God” in the minds of children, and that's what his books are about.

But let the author speak for himself. In one interview with the Sydney Morning Herald , Pullman expressed amazement that the “Harry Potter” books took more flak than his own:

“I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God,” he explained.

As for his own beliefs: “If we're talking on the scale of human life and the things we see around us, I'm an atheist. There's no God there.”

Pullman greatly admires Milton's 17th-century classic “Paradise Lost,” with its battles between good and evil to determine who will rule heaven. “His Dark Materials” trilogy covers similar territory, and tries to turn the tables through the triumph of two young adventurers, Will and Lyra. The goal is for this young couple – his new Adam and Eve – to eat forbidden fruit, and this time around, to destroy God.

Along the way, Pullman serves up clergy who kidnap and torture children, visitations from gay angels, fickle witches patrolling the skies, a wise shaman, warrior polar bears, a brilliant ex-nun and plenty of opportunities for children to get in touch with their inner “daemons,” the talking-animal spirits who represent their souls.

Meanwhile, evil incarnate has a name in Pullman's books – the Church. In the movie, the word “Magisterium” is used instead of “Church,” but the ‘forces of evil' are fond of Orthodox Christian iconography and Bible verses written in Latin. By the end of the trilogy, the ultimate villain has been identified: “The Authority, God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty.”

Archpriest David Moser, who has read Pullman's work, comments as follows:

“This particular film is based on a fantasy book which is written and filmed in the same style as “Narnia” – however with a very different message. The Narnia tales, by C.S. Lewis, are a clear retelling of the Christian message of our Lord's death and Resurrection, whereas the “Golden Compass” stories contain an equally clear anti-Christian, even atheist message. I have read a lot of science fiction/fantasy stories in my time, and while none of them (with the exception of Lewis' books) really have any kind of Christian message, they all seem to be relatively harmless stories (even the Harry Potter books which seem to have generated so much attention). But there were some that deeply disturbed me when I read them, and the “Golden Compass” tales are among that group. These are not nice, harmless stories; these are stories written with an aggressive anti-Christian agenda/message which even as an adult was disturbing to me. With the movie production, this anti-Christian message is packaged in a wonderful cinematic package that can easily speak to the heart of a child and bypasses the usual questioning, thus making a deep spiritual impression which may not be immediately obvious. This film is harmful to the spiritual health of our children (and to most adults as well), and thus we should avoid seeing it, or allowing our children to see it.”

December 1, 2007
St. Martin the Merciful Church
Corvallis, Oregon

 


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