Monday, November 12, 2007

The Golden Compass, One Christians Anti Protest

As many know, and others may not, one of the things I enjoy doing that has gotten me a little recognition is review of the arts, including movies. I will sound a little conceded, although I am not trying. I believe I have a unique talent and ability of discovering spiritual truths in the arts, and then being able to communicate those truths with others. I have trained people on this, and have written on it in the past.

Being involved in this type of ministry has its ups and downs. Ups in that I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with various people in the industry, even finding ways to share my faith in a way many seem to appreciate.

I have always been unique in this way, from finding ways that a blind, schizophrenic, uncle, with brain damage could function better to putting Christian Bands into non Christian venues to play the music they loved, before those who were not people of faith and in the process, find ways to talk about Jesus Christ.

There have been the downs, including, debate with Christians who were ignorant to the science and disease of mental illness, or being criticized because we wouldn’t preach to some of the non Christian bands I worked with, and being criticized because I would review certain movies, or music. After all, to paraphrase a verse from the Bible: “What good could come out of Hollywood or Rock ‘N’ Roll?

On these subjects I simply say, the Bible talks about being able to identify followers of Jesus by their fruit, in other words, can one show their lives and actions have had an impact? Or do their lives show a selfish, uncaring, lackadaisical attitude about life? One where you think Jesus cares about the person doing the complaining, but no one else? Maybe the person is so self consumed that the last person they would care about would be anyone not a Christian.

In the above you often see self absorbed attitudes, one that has the person who says they are being careful about life. They are careful because they want to protect themselves, and the ones they believe are incapable of protecting themselves. We see this when we observe the “Christian” emails warning of eminent doom and danger to faith. We saw it when the movie The DaVinci Code was released, we saw it when the debate came about regarding Jesus being married, and we can all think of the most recent events, or maybe the warnings from the pulpits. Let’s not even get into the Harry Potter debacle, where author Rowling’s later on admitted the story was filled with Christian concepts and principles that were revealed in the last book of the series.

The newest concern, the newest movie that is going to destroy the lives of children, tear down the Kingdom of God, (at least according to some) is, The Golden Compass. The Golden Compass is scheduled to be released on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. The controversy has already started, from emails, to discussion forums, and message boards, Christians are warning others about the dangers of The Golden Compass.

It isn’t just Christians giving in to the hoopla though; many Atheists are basting in the delight, hoping the movie has a negative impact on Christianity. While one expresses glee, the other is expressing concern and remorse. The truth is, both are hanging their hopes and dreams on a cloths line during a Kansas thunder storm. There is little that is going to change, wet clothes, will remain wet, and dreams of destruction will remain simply that, empty meaningless dreams.

The Golden Compass is based on the best selling Children’s series written by Phillip Pullman. The fantasy based upon the UK titled Northern Lights (named The Golden Compass in the USA) is the first book of the trilogy, His Dark Materials. While many of the religious themes have been toned down in The Golden Compass, the ultimate concept of the story, written by devout Atheist Pullman (although it seems as if more of an Agnostic after reading many of his interviews) has the story going to the ultimate place where religion is seen as a bad thing, and the children in the story work towards the goal to kill God. While many see the potential for danger in this story, it is important to see and consider other possibilities.

I would like to explore a few thoughts, via questions. These questions are for Christians who seem to be somewhat critical of the movie, even prior to release, not just critical though, remember, there is the need to protect others from a message, from a thought, from a process. Here are the questions I would ask the Christian in this group.

When does the Holy Spirit enter a person?
Even if a child can the Holy Spirit protect, encourage, and teach?
What does it mean to train a child in the ways of the Lord?
Can you mention any thought, movie, process, or teaching that has hurt or destroyed Christianity? If so be specific as to how it has hurt Christianity, or destroyed it?

I ask the above questions because although I am older, I have held firm that we adults don't fully realize the ability of God, through the Holy Spirit, to lead, guide, direct, and even use for evangelism, children just like he has through history. Don't get me wrong, I understand a parent’s responsibility to train a child in the ways of the Lord, but what does that mean? To hide, protect, or to understand full potential, putting on the armor of God and getting ready to go into battle, through love, concern, preaching, and living out the teachings of the Bible? I challenge that with people like Mary, Joseph, King David (who was between the ages of 9 and 12 when he killed Goliath) among others, that God has the ability to do his part, if we do our part.

I want to challenge Christians in particular to think about something else. Does staying away from this movie (your right, and in some situations your obligation) prevent multitudes of others from seeing it? I also ask, do we have any responsibility to those who do see it, who may or may not be Christian? Is it possible that knowing about the contents of the movie or book, the thoughts of the author and so forth, could lead to discussions where you can share spiritual truths that may ultimately lead to the salvation of the person you are discussing the topic with? Or is it possible your faith is at the point in life where you think Satan has more power than God, therefore, you refuse to engage in conversation, or even think about reaching those who are drawn to things you don’t feel equipped for.

On the above point, I would recommend the viewing of the Ray Vander Laan series, That the World May Know put out by the conservative think tank group, Focus on the Family.

In the video series, Vander Laan challenges much of the contemporary thought of Christian Isolationism. We often see Christians only listening to Christian music, going to Christian concerts, attending only Christian camps, even going to the extreme of buying candy with Bible verses on them to give out during Halloween. Using the salt and light analogy, Vander Laan speaks specifically at the importance of Christians mixing with the world to share spiritual truths. He speaks and shows archeological evidence of Christians starting places of worship in the bath houses, sex and prostitute parlors of the day. He also speaks candidly and openly about how Christians should have the faith to attack the gates of hell because Hell won’t survive our attacks, as opposed to taking the defensive and running away from spiritual battles.

Spiritual battles are often spoken about in the Bible. While there are cautions given, one would be hard to discover instances or passages in the Bible that illustrates that Christians should be afraid, or concerned about protecting their own. We are given specific directions about taking the message of Jesus Christ to the forefront, sharing the “Good News” regarding the offer of salvation with all people, men, women, and even children. This is not to say we enter into battle in a haphazard way, we have to prepare, and we have to take it seriously. We must remember the battles we enter have eternal consequences. We see the illustrations of people like Paul, Peter, Timothy, Barnabas and others taking this so seriously they ultimately gave up their lives trying to reach those the religious community seemed to have little or no concern for. Today it seems as if we have no understanding of what it means to lay down our life for our neighbor.

Many Christians are critical of the author, Pullman, because of his views, and his supposed intent to tear down God. I have heard many say, “I refuse to go to the movie and put any more money into his pocket.” My thoughts are that the author has already sold the rights to Alfred A Knoph Publishers and New Line Cinema. He has made his money, going or not going to the movie is going to make little difference.

If in boycotting, or protesting the movie you think you are preventing your child from knowing this story you are mistaken, unless you home school. This series of books, rightly or wrongly, has won numerous awards and is recommended reading in many classrooms across America. Public School kids are already reading the book; already know the spiritual overtones which are much stronger than in the movie. With that said, how will you educate your child as to the book and movie, and the truth about God?

In the Bible, Christians read and see teachings like, “Study to show yourself approved.” In other words, know what is going on, be ready to give an answer and don’t be afraid to stand up, even to those critical of you.. I challenge, with over 2,000 years of Christianity, the true follower of Jesus; the true Church is still strong. It may be different as the Church has always allowed room for change to adapt to the culture.

The love of people for Jesus, their desire to become more like him is still strong despite attacks on the Church and people of faith. If God is real, if God is just, if God is all powerful, this movie, nor any other movie is going to destroy the concept of God, his Church, and his people. In fact, if Christians take advantage of this opportunity, they can in fact, reach multitudes of people because of the spiritual questions raised by the author via the book and movie. It isn’t the ultimate conclusion of the author we focus on, it is the questions and points he brings out in the process. If Christians are there to help those asking the same questions, we will reach many of them. If we are not there, they will come to their own conclusions. The sad thing is, those who love and follow after Jesus Christ are called, even commanded, to show the world Jesus love. Yet, when the going gets tough, when we have to ask a few questions along the way to help us have a stronger faith, we run because we don’t believe our God, is greater than the ruler of hearts who choose to not follow after God.

Christians can use some of this material to get their start in educating themselves about the movie The Golden Compass. This isn’t the end all but it is a start, and it is a start that can show you the potential of reaching others.

Let me state, the best place to start with truth, is with the book of truth, the book I believe to be the ultimate love letter from God to the people of this planet, The Holy Bible. Find a translation you know, respect and believe in, and study the sections that shows God’s people going out of their way to show love to others. Look at this especially in the New Testament with the person of Jesus. Jesus isn’t the only person to look at though; there are multitudes of those who followed him that we can read about in the Bible and in history. People who made a difference in their world because they were challenged to show others love, and to speak up for and share the truth of the Bible with others.

A part of this search has to have a point of honesty, a point of honesty where we can agree with, and have some understanding of, the questions people are asking. Many people, Atheists, Agnostics and others who support this movie have asked some interesting questions and brought up some challenging points. A large part of those questions comes from honest searching. I am fully aware that there are the antagonists, who have no desire for truth, just the desire to tear down and mock Christianity. To be honest, this dishonest discourse has little or no value to me, and is conversation I choose to not be involved in due to the lack of respect given to the debate. I have as much respect for these individuals who hate Christianity as I do for the Christians who say they love others, believe in God, but go on showing no change in life at all. It is as if the Bible is an empty book of words when it says things like, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.” Personally, I would prefer wasting my time in front of a video game (which I seldom play) than spending time arguing with dishonest, rude, and inconsiderate people who are so much into themselves they care little else for the world around them, much less an authentic search for truth on serious issues like faith.

For those that are willing to search, no matter what your position, your faith, your belief, be honest, and share your thoughts, you will find there are points of discussion we can, or likely should agree on, and even if not agreeing, can find points of discussion to help point people to reality and a spiritual truth. This debate, when done openly and honestly, should never be anything we as Christians, or followers of Jesus should be afraid to be involved in, or encouraged to run away from. Here I am reminded of the statement from the Bible, “If we deny Jesus before people here on earth, then God will deny us in Heaven.” Realize this is a passage talking to Christians and followers of Jesus about openly sharing their faith and belief in Christ with anyone, even those who go see the movie The Golden Compass.

When asked about Dark Materials being against organized religion, and asked if he believed in God Pullman responded: “I don't know whether there's a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it's perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don't know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.Pullman continued: “Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it's because he's ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they're responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I'd want nothing to do with them.”

Christians, those who are concerned with how we practice the teachings of Jesus can and should, find points of agreement here. Pullman is actually stating he don’t know about God; (note the reasoning for Agnostic as opposed to Atheist for at least me.) He is also saying though, that religion hasn’t done a very good job at reaching, touching and helping the world. Pullman seems to have serious issue with religion. I would state there was another individual that Christians should know who had trouble with religion, in fact a great deal of trouble, to the point he was one of the greatest reformers and rebels who ever lived. His name was Jesus Christ. I fully believe, that pointing out those facts, pointing to specific issues and instances where Jesus had issues with religion, we can find common points of ground to begin a serious discussion.

Realize, on the above point, one of the great reasons people turn from God, turn from the teachings of Christianity, is because they have seldom seen this aspect of Jesus being taught, and they sure have seen very little of it being lived. When they do, they seem to have an appreciation for those living it to the point of giving respect, respect for people like Martin Luther King, Bono from U2 and many others. Unfortunately, mainly what others see is the money hungry ministries which seem to care little about their neighbor. We can turn the thought around in two ways, we have to first reach those engaged in the discussion, and (we won’t reach them unless we go to engage them. Remember we are to attack the gates of hell, not sit back and let it come to us.) Secondly, we have to be living a life that shows the attitude of Jesus. When the religious organization seems to care little for the world around them, we must do as Jesus did, confront that religious organization.

Of course, on these points, it is easier to say, “I’m not going to see the movie.” It is easier to send out an email that tells about the destructive nature of the movie, it is easier to say we aren’t going any where near the books or the movie because we don’t want to run the risk of being damaged. We stay at home, have nothing to do with the world, and we even have to be careful about those who go to our church because not all of them do ‘Godly things.’ I challenge though, the hard road, the road of sharing Jesus with all people, the whole world, Jew, Gentile, Christian, Atheist, Gay, Straight, Male, Female, and everyone else on the planet has its own rewards. I read Luke 15 and saw the importance of a single solitary soul to the Kingdom of God. Luke 15 illustrates that when that which is lost is found, that all of the angels in Heaven above rejoice. In other words, one person comes to know Christ, and then all of Heaven throws a great big party.

Yes Pullman is a man who has issue with Christianity and the God he has seen presented by Christians. It is as Peter Hitchens a conservative British columnist stated about Pullman, he is: “the most dangerous author in Britain,” in which he called him the writer “the atheists would have been praying for, if atheists prayed.” I challenge, the only thing that makes him dangerous is if God don’t exist. But, if as I believe, God does exist, God is capable of taking care of himself. Seems to me there have been many people, even nations that took on God and lost. Frankly, I believe there will be little or no impact either way from this movie. That is unless Christians get to work, and then there will be a great deal of impact because if we do our part, we can be party organizers for Heaven. If, for some sad reason, Christians are too afraid to do any good work, to turn the tides if you will, then I still believe little will result because of our inaction. I believe little will occur because I believe in God, and in his ability to take care of the things he needs to take care of. I just joy though, that God, through his Holy Spirit chooses to use me and you to reach the very people he sent his son, Jesus Christ to die for. The question then becomes, will we allow God through his Holy Spirit to use us?

There are a few other notes to be aware of regarding the author Pullman when trying to share with others:

Pullman has been compared a great deal to J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis. He actually is an admirer of both authors and has spoken openly about how he would have loved to engage in conversation with them.

Pullman also comes from a religious family where his grandfather in particular was a strong man of faith. He greatly loved and admired his grandfather and refused to engage in discussions on spiritual issues with him based on that love.

Pullman, while calling himself an Atheists or Agnostic, is also a member of the Church of England and commonly reads and recites prayers from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. He recognizes the importance of the tradition of religion in his own family.

Regarding C.S. Lewis, Pullman is not a fan of the fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, he is a huge fan of his other works dealing with morality and often quotes them in his presentations.

While Pullman does not like the conclusions with The Chronicles of Narnia, he does see value in the books, even stating, “The ‘Narnia’ books are a real wrestle with real things,” he then goes on to state that he respects “the struggle that he’s (C.S. Lewis) undergoing as he searches for the answers. There’s hope for Lewis. Lewis could be redeemed.”

Am I telling you to see the movie The Golden Compass or others that would have something negative to say about Christianity? Nah, I’m not telling you, but neither am I telling you to stay away from them. I guess if I was hoping, if I was praying, I would pray that Christians would be concerned about the people who are seeing them. I would hope the conversation, the search, and the discovery of God is important enough to all of us that we wouldn’t run from the battle we are called to be a part of. I also realize though, that not all are ready for battle, but for those who are not ready, start getting ready, you aren’t expected to stay babes for the duration of your life, there comes some point, where we are expected to engage, we have the armor we are taught about in the book of Ephesians, it is time some followers of Jesus get it out of the closet, shake off the dust, and engage in battle that may redeem the soul of one which does not yet know Christ.

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Patrick Roberts said...

the idea that anything can be “anti-god” is funny, it’s like saying, “i’m going to stop thinking about GOD right now, i am not thinking about GOD!” this book is kindof like that. the Golden compass has as much chance of killing God as a fly might knock over Mt. Everest. (killing God is a theme in the book)

it’s awesome how every action men take to resist God ends up strengthening His cause… goes to show how puny men’s efforts are at resisting Him.

even the idea that there are spiritual realities supports the fact that God is.

source said...

I am not a movie critic and certainly not an expert on this particular movie. However, I did read about it and watch several clips from it. I don't normally pay much attention to such things. Here’s why. The important thing for me is to see God in everything (Romans 11:36). Then, just rest assured that He is working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). As Joseph said in Genesis 50.20, “You thought evil against me, BUT GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD!” Hopefully the Good Lord will use the movie, “The Golden Compass”, to motivate people to begin thinking about spiritual things and seek to know the truth, which ultimately is Christ Himself!

In a post Christian era such as we live in (sad to say), it behooves us, as Christians, to help our family and friends filter out the distortions and learn the truth about every situation. Christians are the light of the World. “You are the light of the World” (Matthew 5:14). The Source of that light is Jesus Christ the Lord. “I am the light of the World” (John 8:12). Christians are to walk in The Light—Jesus Christ Himself. Light always dispels darkness. So rather than trying to fight the darkness, our privilege, as Christians, is simply to let our light shine. Tragically all too many Christians have quenched the Spirit, thus inhibiting The Light from shinning through us. There is too much religion based on the doctrines and traditions of men rather than the heart of God, derived from the Word of God, based on the grace of God.

Movies such as this can help expose the fallacy of religion. We must filter everything that comes into our lives by the Spirit of God, in accordance with the Word of God. Therefore, always remain vigilant regarding your own life. But also take advantage of this opportunity to let your light shine, so that others can see Jesus in you and discover the truth.

Check out these sites I came across that might be helpful in evaluating the movie.

Of course my book, INTRODUCING THE NEW YOU, would be a big help in counteracting religion with a living, vibrant, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ the Lord. It offers a simple practical approach to Christian living.


Mike Furches & The Virtual Pew said...

Patrick, good word and thanks for the comment.

Mike Furches & The Virtual Pew said...

Source, good things to say, thanks for the comments and the links. Hopefully some will take you up on the book

Katelynn said...

In a way I agree with you, this movie wont hurt God and it wont hurt strong believers in God either. I wanna say that I am a christian and after seeing the trailer I read the first book, and I really liked it and then I read the second, but as I saw that they wanted to hurt God I started to look up the author and I saw what was being said about the subject. I was dissapointed about it so I stopped reading the books. I even wouldn't mind watching the movie, but thats because I read that the director said that the religious aspects would be watered down.
Good review though

Mike Furches & The Virtual Pew said...

Katelynn, I have to admit, I haven't read the book, haven't seen the movie yet. I will say though, I want to be prepared to give an answer to the movie and the questions. Comments at MySpace have given me some good things already.

hollaholiday said...

look, it's a movie that is spawned from a book. that book is a work of fantasy literature. i will not tell you my religious affiliation simply because you'll invalidate me immediately. christians seem to find fault with everything and suddenly want to protest it if it has god portrayed as anything short of spectacular and the church anything short of infallable. the church is comprised of people, not gods, who do in fact do evil things in their own name and in the name of god. you completely missed the point of the book if you find that the book or the movie is an attack on god. how do you find it hard to believe that christians commit evil in this world? look at the current state of the world. wars being fought in the middle east over oil and an old man's my god can beat up your god mentality. i personally would like for you to know that it is not a book or a movie written by an athiest that has turned people away from the church. it is the churches own congregations. this has nothing to do with the way the movie was portrayed, but the arrogant way christians attack films such as this and others such as the davincci code. you are not god, so you cannot refute the things said in these stories, and newsflash, it's a movie and it is for entertainment. if you don't want to watch, don't watch it, but don't try to force your holier than thou opinions down the throats of everyone else. you have been given the first amendment right of freedom of speech. use it wisely. i'm sure you won't publish this to your blog and i really don't care since that is simply a way to silence those who feel otherwise, but think long and hard about other people's rights before you judge them.

i wish you a happy and healthy life. happy winter holidays (christmas, haunakah and qwanzaa)

Mike Furches & The Virtual Pew said...

hollaholliday, I have to wonder if you even read the article as no one here is disagreeing with you, certianly not me. Who specifically are you talking to, because if you are making assumptions without reading the article, you become guilty of the very thing you write about here.

Toni said...

I read the first book in the series after hearing some of the anti-religion comments. I wanted to determine if the movie is appropriate for my children to see.

I really enjoyed the story. If you are looking for anti-religious themes, you will likely find them. What I saw, however, was more of an anti-establishment theme...a sense of "the powers that be" not having the best interests of the common folks at heart. I was reminded of Jesus, who was certainly anti-establishment, and who saw that the church leaders may have had their own agendas. I also thought it ironic that so many of our political leaders don't look out for the best interests of the poor, the oppressed, the minorities...and why doesn't the church take these issues up? Why aren't churches protesting over the Jena 6, kids without health insurance, and families who are going hungry? Why is energy being wasted over a work of fiction? Just a thought...

Mike Furches & The Virtual Pew said...

Toni, great comments, and I agree. The sad thing is that Pullman has as much as admitted this. It is sad though when Christians refuse to admit the areas we have failed and made mistakes in. Thanks for your input.