I believe that the Good Lord gave man intellect to make good choices and the free will do to do so. So when a Church, in this case Saddleback Church, sends out an email to strongly suggest the movie “The Golden Compass” is anti-Christian, I have to take notice.
There are plenty of movies out there that cater to all sorts of tastes. But for every grass roots effort to encourage people to see “Bella” there’s a effort to discourage people from seeing “The Golden Compass” or any of the “Harry Potter” series (I wonder how many conservatives will stop seeing those now that J.K. Rowling has outed Dumbledore?).
However, the U.S. Conference of Bishops, a Catholic organization, reviewed “The Golden Compass” and they give it two thumbs up. See the letter from Saddleback and the review after the flip.
Dear Saddleback Family,
I hope you’re having a great start to the Christmas celebration season. And that, if you’re facing some tough times, you’re finding strength daily in God’s great love.
We’ve been getting a lot of questions about a new movie coming out this week. People are wondering about things they’ve heard about “The Golden Compass.” The concerns you may have heard about this movie are true. It’s an anti-God movie posing as a children’s movie. The ads compare it to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but the fact is that its view of the world is exactly the opposite.
The movie is based on the first of a series of three books by Philip Pullman that are anti-church in their core message. When Pullman was asked by the Washington Post what C.S. Lewis (author of the Narnia books) would think of his books, he answered, “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief. Mr. Lewis would think I was doing the Devil’s work.” And he told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2003, “My books are about killing God.” I love the wisdom in this article from Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/movies/commentaries/fearnotthecompass.html. It’s a great encouragement to not be afraid of the message of the movie, because the message of Christ is so much greater. And an encouragement to voice our disagreement with the author’s message with a Christ-like spirit. And a warning not to be tricked by the hype around the movie – the most hateful parts of the books have been removed in this first movie in order to attract commercial success, but in a recent MTV interview the director stated that if this movie is successful, the future episodes will not be “watered down”. Personally, I won’t see the move, not because I’m afraid of its message, but because I don’t want to support its message.
Pastor Tom and the Saddleback Pastors
Then there’s this review that ran in the Kansas City Star.Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Golden CompassÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€ and Philip PullmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s His Dark Materials trilogy of novels on which it is based Ã¢â‚¬â€ has been criticized in some quarters for being anti-religious and specifically anti-Catholic.But the U.S. Conference of Bishops recently issued its official review of the film Ã¢â‚¬â€ and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a rave.
Writing for the Catholic News Service (catholicnews.com), critics Harry Forbes and John Mulderig call the movie Ã¢â‚¬Å“lavish, well-acted and fast-paced.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The good news,Ã¢â‚¬Â they write, Ã¢â‚¬Å“is that the first bookÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s explicit references to this church have been completely excised, with only the term Magisterium retained. The choice is still a bit unfortunate, however, as the word refers so specifically to the churchÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s teaching authority. Yet the filmÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only clue that the Magisterium is a religious body comes in the form of the icons which decorate one of their local headquarters.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Most moviegoers with no foreknowledge of the books or PullmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s personal belief system will scarcely be aware of religious connotations, and can approach the movie as a pure fantasy-adventure. This is not the blatant real-world anti-Catholicism of, say, the recent Ã¢â‚¬ËœElizabeth: The Golden AgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ or Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe Da Vinci Code.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Religious elements, as such, are practically nil.Ã¢â‚¬Â
While noting that Ã¢â‚¬Å“PullmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fanciful universe has a patchwork feel, with elements culled from other fantasy-adventure stories Ã¢â‚¬â€ most especially The Chronicles of Narnia (a work Pullman disdains),Ã¢â‚¬Â the review goes on to say that the film has Ã¢â‚¬Å“hardly a dull moment.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Whatever PullmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s motives in writing the story, the film Ã¢â‚¬Å“can be viewed as an exciting adventure story with, at its core, a traditional struggle between good and evil and a generalized rejection of authoritarianism,Ã¢â‚¬Â the review says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“To the extent that LyraÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€ the movieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s young heroine Ã¢â‚¬â€ Ã¢â‚¬Å“and her allies are taking a stand on behalf of free will in opposition to the coercive force of the Magisterium, they are of course acting entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching. The heroism and self-sacrifice that they demonstrate provide appropriate moral lessons Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Is Pullman trying to undermine anyoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s belief in God? Leaving the books aside and focusing on what has ended up on screen, the script can reasonably be interpreted in the broadest sense as an appeal against the abuse of political power.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Addressing the question of whether the film may inspire teens to read the books, the writers suggest that Ã¢â‚¬Å“rather than banning the movie or books, parents might instead take the opportunity to talk through any thorny philosophical issues with their teens.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The religious themes of the later books may be more prominent in the follow-up films, they note, but for now Ã¢â‚¬Å“this film Ã¢â‚¬â€ altered, as it is, from its source material Ã¢â‚¬â€ rates as intelligent and well-crafted entertainment.
Folks — it’s a movie; if it appeals to you, see it. If it doesn’t, don’t. Use your free-will to make the choice.