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The Golden Compass and the Threat to Faith (& DUMB Christians) : redivivus

July 9, 2008

I’m going to be off-line for an indeterminate period, laid up in the Mater Clinic in Dublin undergoing heart surgery (as one does!). So rather than leave the blog dormant, I thought I would trawl through the archives for some posts I like, or which got a particular reaction from my reader!

This one was posted originally on 10 December 2007.


Went to see the ‘Golden Compass’ yesterday with Ade and our two children, and CJ reckons it’s the best film he’s ever seen. I’m not sure I agree with him (his qualifications as a film critic amount to being nine, and anything with cute animals and armoured bears counts as high-culture).

Not a bad film, though I think it suffered from being the first part of a trilogy, introducing too many characters too quickly and establishing story lines that the book takes almost 400 pages to establish). Iornik Bjarnesan is undoubtedly a spectacular character and Serafina, the witch is just too cool.

CompassI read the books years ago and found them an unexpected delight. To me they represented a much more literary Harry Potter, which whilst being exciting, are not all that well written. I remember preaching in a Belfast church, mentioning them tangentially, and spending a
n hour after the service with concerned parents, mostly mothers.

My kids are now old enough to read them. My older daughter didn’t much fancy the first book and didn’t carry on. But my son is riveted.

So here’s my take. Yes, I know Pullman has an agenda. Something to do with criticising the controlling tendencies of and the abuse of power in religion. Hurrah for him. if I could write like Pullman, I might choose the same approach and make loadsa money in the process. And in doing so, I wouldn’t be too far behind the footsteps of Jesus, who did something similar in his day.

But hold your horses just a minute! The religious criticised Jesus too…and killed him, did they not.

These books, and these films will NOT destroy the church. Nor will they destroy the faith of my children? Assuming my wife and I take responsibility for their formation. And this is the real issue for me.

Far too many Christians have ceded responsibility to the church, to Sunday School and to the school forThgc_087_ar
the faith formation of their children. It seems to me, however, that the primary locus of formation is the family, the wider family certainly, but it begins in the home, and from there out into the faith community

The near hysterical reaction of some faith groups therefore represents an intuitive understanding that the world catechises their kids far more effectively than the faith.

We watched the movie, and on the way home discussed the issue of the soul/spirit as represented by the animal characters in the movie. How these animals mirrored the internal character or nature of the person. (The explanation given at the start of the movie which intrigued my kids was that in some worlds the soul is outside the body and in some it is inside. Nice idea.) We tried to identify an animal that would stand for our companions. And what we would like it to be.

The companions of the children in the story are able to change shape constantly, dictated by mood, emotion, location etc., because the character, nature and spirituality of children is still in flux. Adults have a fixed dæmon reflecting their more fixed nature and role in life. So, all the servants have dogs as their companion, and the ‘superior’ servants have ‘superior’ dogs. Lord Asriel’s cool but violent character is represented by a snow leopard.

How I wish we lived in Lyra’s world during disputes like this, then I could get a hold of the dumb rothweilers of some of these idiot church people and have them neutered.

The movie is fine, but not life changing (unless you’re my CJ). And if you take your kids to see it, TALK to them about the issues raised. While they’re young, you’re still one of the most powerful shaping influences in their life.

[no animals were harmed in the writing of this post, neither in actuality nor in virtual forms].

From → Film, Reflection

One Comment
  1. The title of your blog entry caught my eye while perusing Daily Scribe… and it made me cringe, especially in light of the following Scripture:

    1 Corinthians 16:14
    14 Let all that you do be done in love.

    “Dumb” may not be the best way to get others to listen to you. Sometimes it matters not what we say if we go about it in a less than gracious manner.

    May all of the things that the redeemed do and say be done in love,

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