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Weighing in again on 'The Golden Compass'

As The Golden Compass approaches release next week, there's a slew of articles and reviews avalanching through the media. (Just check out this GoogleNews search and you'll get my drift.) A few of those, however, are by fav-of-this-blog Peter Chattaway. Check out his e-mail interview with author Philip Pullman at his FilmChatBlog, an article about the film at Christianity Today, and an op-ed piece at BC Christian News. Also, if you haven't seen it already, Seattle-based author and film critic Jeffrey Overstreet posted his thoughts on his blog last week. His post is a series of questions he's been asked over the last few months along with his thoughtful answers. I was particularly interested in his answer to this question:

Why are so many people, including many Christians, drawn to this story of people who fight against the church?

People are drawn to stories about brave souls who stand up against oppressors.

And, for a lot of people, whether we like it or not, the church represents fear, power, and condemnation.

The best way to make Phillip Pullman’s stories look like gospel truth is to respond by acting like the villainous Christians in his stories.

The best way to expose Pullman’s lie is to respond like Christ himself: With grace and truth, not hysteria and condemnation.

If we respond with wrath, condemnation, and protest, we play right into Pullman’s naive caricature of Christianity. I’m not saying we shouldn’t point out where he is wrong. His story is deeply flawed, and his religious bigotry is shameful. We should not ignore that. But we also should not ignore the excellence of his artistry. And should speak the truth in love, as Christ commands us. We should respond with truth and grace.

We should encourage people to compare the church of Pullman’s universe with the church in the real world, and how it is growing and ministering to so many needs — here, in Europe, in Africa, and around the world. We should remind people of the church that serves, and that Christ would not have wanted an oppressive church.

My own response to the issues raised by the film's controversy settle in this arena. If people have this perception of the people of God (which is what "the church" is) as oppressive, mean and deluded, what does that say about how we've been living (or not living)?

This kind of interest and resonance with a film that reveals these kinds of issues is more than worth paying attention to. It gives us the opportunity to examine our own lives--and the communities we participate in as followers of Jesus--for any traces of those actions, behaviors or attitudes which give people pause about who God is and who his people are. History reveals too many times when people have used God as a flag to advance their own agendas, power and down-right evil. There are people and groups who are doing the very same thing today--some more obvious than others. And some more intentionally than others.

But history also reveals when the people of God have walked with him, bringing his Love, Life, Right-ness into the world. It's worth thinking about who those people were and how they lived. And it's more than worth mentioning that there are people and groups who are doing those things today, too. And it's worth contemplating who they are and how they live--and if we are among them or not. And if we're not, why not?

Good stuff--and underscores once again why this blog is so fascinated by film: it brings God-talk like this into open spaces.

(Image: New Line Cinema)


Melissa said…
Thanks for posting this, Carmen. I shared it with my readers on my blog.
Carmen Andres said…
i'm glad it was of use! blessings.