PJ and I saw The Golden Compass the other night. It was a pretty good movie, though it suffered from the common ailment of movies made from long books, i.e. it kinda zoomed through the highlights of the story without much development in between.
The movie got us talking about the Dark Materials trilogy in general, and particularly Philip Pullman's opinion of God. There’s been a fair amount in the media about this – various Catholic school boards have been banning the books for their anti-God stance. It’s been interesting talking to people about this. Non-Christians generally assume that the hysteria is akin to the “Harry Potter is satanic” excitement. Some of our friends, who had seen the movie, thought that it was anti-church, but not necessarily anti-God. Spoiler alert: the series may seem only anti-church in the first installment, but God is clearly the villain by the third book.
I have a Christian friend who refuses to see the movie, as she doesn’t want to support the work of someone who is anti-God. Since she’s a reasonable and intelligent person, this statement challenged me. I knew that I was comfortable with reading these books and seeing the movies, but why? How do I reconcile this with my faith? After seeing the movie, PJ and I were talking about this the other night. It was one those conversations that spanned from the initial topic to issues as diverse as the general inability in fantasy and science-fiction literature to create realistic religions (a topic I plan to blog on soon) and the Dresden fire-bombing controversy at the Canadian war museum (a topic I have previously blogged on, and I have no idea how we got to from the Golden Compass).
To get back to the topic at hand, though: why am I ok with reading books and watching movies by a guy who apparently views God as an impotent and power-hungry old man, and ultimately the enemy of humanity? I guess the first response to that is that I think Pullman is entitled to his views of God, but I don’t think he’s right. And, in some ways, broad exposure to his harsh impression of God may facilitate opportunities for me to talk to people about how I understand the divine. Next, I like having my faith challenged. I would not be following this God if I thought he was an impotent and power-hungry old man – and if one book makes me waver on this point, what kind of faith is that? Finally, though – I appreciate a good story and I think that the Dark Materials trilogy is just that – Pullman creates a compelling fantasy world framework and fills it with interesting characters doing interesting things. In many ways, it follows the basic hero-myth story-arc, with a bratty little girl who grows up into a brave and loyal young woman as our hero. As a longtime female fan of fantasy and fairytales, how can I resist?