Using Current Events (The Golden Compass) to Combat Secularism in the Home

OrthodoxyToday.org | Fr. George Morelli | Dec. 4, 2007

It is very rare that I would use an entire interview from another source as the basis of a Smart Parenting article. C.S. Lewis, in his book — The Screwtape Letters, is the Christian writer who warned against the subtle devices of the evil one working in the world in such books and films as The Golden Compass. Parents, as heads of their “domestic church,” have even a higher God-given calling: to lead their children to the awesomeness of God. Use of the media, the weapon of those who attack God and His Church, an ideal way to accomplish this. Turn the weapon back on the evil one and his cohorts.

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18: 5-6). […]

The material below speaks for itself. When the topic of this film comes up in a family, the interviewers give parents much information to have a meaningful, respectful, and sincere family discussion about the film. The content of the film as outlined below can be compared to what their children have learned about Christ’s teaching by their scripture readings, religious education lessons, homilies, and church services.

What should parents do? First reading the interview carefully. Make sure you understand it. Then be ready to engage your children when the film or it’s content is brought up. As I have mentioned in other Smart Parenting articles (http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/Indexes/Morellix.php), do not preach. Let children express themselves. Listen and validate their views and lead them (Latin: educare), to discover what Christ Himself would say about these issues. The scripture passages, writings of the Church Fathers, religious education materials can be resources for all. Consult your parish priest for any questions that may arise that cannot be readilly answered.

What Every Parent Should Know About “The Golden Compass”
Interview With Pete Vere and Sandra Miesel

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, NOV. 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The film “The Golden Compass” isn’t simply about using fairy-tale magic to tell a good story, it corrupts the imagery of Lewis and Tolkien to undermine children’s faith in God and the Church, says Catholic author Pete Vere.

In this interview with ZENIT, Vere and Sandra Miesel discuss the movie adaptation of the fantasy novels written by Philip Pullman. The film, staring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, will be released in the United States in early December.

Vere and Miesel are co-authors of the booklet “Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children’s Fantasy,” to be published by Ignatius Press next month on the topic of “The Golden Compass.”

Q: The first movie of “The Golden Compass” trilogy is being released at Christmas. For those unfamiliar with the series, what kind of books are these and to whom do they appeal?

Vere: To begin, the books are marketed for 9-12 year olds as children’s fantasy literature in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling. “If you’re a fan of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ‘Narnia ‘ or ‘Harry Potter,'” the critics tell us, “you’ll love Pullman.”

Personally, I just can’t see a child picking up these books and reading them. I see them more as books that adults give kids to read.

Having said that, “The Golden Compass” (1995) is the first book in Pullman’s trilogy. The second book is titled “The Subtle Knife” (1997) and it is followed by “The Amber Spyglass” (2000).

Collectively, the trilogy is known as “His Dark Materials,” a phrase taken from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” This is appropriately titled in my opinion, since each book gets progressively darker — both in the intensity with which Pullman attacks the Catholic Church and the Judeo-Christian concept of God, as well as the stridency with which he promotes atheism.

For example, one of the main supporting characters, Dr. Mary Malone, is a former Catholic nun who abandoned her vocation to pursue sex and science. The reader does not meet her until the second book, by which time the young reader is already engrossed in the story. By the third book, Dr. Malone is engaging in occult practices to lead the two main characters, a 12-year-old boy and girl, to sleep in the same bed and engage in — at the very least — heavy kissing. This is the act through which they renew the multiple universes created by Pullman.

Another example is Pullman’s portrayal of the Judeo-Christian God. Pullman refers to him as “The Authority,” although a number of passages make clear that this is the God of the Bible. The Authority is a liar and a mere angel, and as we discover in the third book, senile as well. He was locked in some sort of jewel and held prisoner by the patriarch Enoch, who is now called Metatron and who rules in the Authority’s name. When the children find the jewel and accidentally release the Authority, he falls apart and dies.

Additionally, Pullman uses the imagery of C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia” chronicles. “His Dark Materials” opens with the young heroine stuck in a wardrobe belonging to an old academic, conversing with a talking animal, when she discovers multiple worlds. So the young reader is lulled early on with the familiar feel of Lewis.

Nevertheless, Pullman’s work isn’t simply about using fairy-tale magic to tell a good story. He openly proselytizes for atheism, corrupting the imagery of Lewis and Tolkien to undermine children’s faith in God and the Church.

Q: Many Catholics, including William Donohue of the Catholic League, are speaking out against the movie. What should parents know before they let their children watch this film?

Vere: I don’t recommend any parent allow their children to view the film. While the movie has reportedly been sanitized of its more anti-Christian and anti-religious elements, it will do nothing but pique children’s curiosity about the books. I’m a parent myself. My children would think it hypocritical if I told them it was OK to see the movie, but not to read the books. And they would be right.

It’s not OK for children — impressionable as they are — to read stories in which the plot revolves around the supreme blasphemy, namely, that God is a liar and a mortal. It is not appropriate for children to read books in which the heroine is the product of adultery and murder; priests act as professional hit men, torturers and authorize occult experimentation on young children; an ex-nun engages in occult practices and promiscuous behavior, and speaks of it openly with a 12-year-old couple; and the angels who rebel against God are good, while those who fight on God’s side are evil. This is wrong. And while it’s been softened in the movie — or at least that’s what Hollywood is telling us — it’s still there in the books.

Miesel: Furthermore, there’s a great deal of cruelty and gore in the books, not just battles but deliberate murder, sadism, mutilation, suicide, euthanasia and even cannibalism. There are also passages of disturbing sensuality and homosexual angels who are “platonic lovers.”

I agree with Pete. Avoid both the movie and the books. It would be best if people didn’t picket or make a public fuss because that’s just free publicity. If the movie fails at the box office, the second and third books won’t be filmed.

Q: The author, Philip Pullman, is an outspoken atheist. Does this come across in the books and the movie as a secularist position or more in the form of anti-Catholicism?

Vere: It’s not an “either/or” situation. What begins as a rebellion against the Church turns into a rebellion against God. This then leads to the discovery that God — and Christianity — are a fraud.

The 12-year-old protagonists — Lyra and Bill — discover there is no immortal soul, no heaven or hell. All that awaits us in the afterlife is some gloomy Hades-type afterlife where the soul goes to wait until it completely dissolves. Thus Pullman uses anti-Catholicism as the gateway to promoting atheism.

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Comments

  1. It’s called “fantasy”, folks. It’s not being marketed as an alternative religion, last I heard.

    “Furthermore, there’s a great deal of cruelty and gore in the books, not just battles but deliberate murder, sadism, mutilation, suicide, euthanasia and even cannibalism. ”

    Quotes like this make me wonder whether the writer has actually picked up a Bible or has used it for anything other than a prop on the coffee table. The “righteous” man, Lot, impregnates his daughters in a drunken stupor, the “wise” Solomon has not one but thousands of concubines and Abraham is lauded for his faith for his willingness to stick a knife into his son’s stomach. Then we have people “washing their feet in the blood” of the wicked (Psalm 58:10). No, the Bible wouldn’t make for a very “family-friendly” movie, either.

    I’m not into fantasy all that much, so I’ll be skipping this movie, anyhow.

  2. Ronda Wintheiser says:

    Ummm… Just wondering, Mr. JamesK, do you happen to have any kids? Hm?

    Whether or not you do, I’m curious… You don’t see a difference between hearing about or reading a historical account of “deliberate murder, sadism, mutilation, suicide, euthanasia and even cannibalism” as found in the context of the Bible, and viewing such things on a gargantuan screen, wrapped in surroundsound, with a bag of popcorn in your lap?

    In case you hadn’t noticed, the writer of the article you are mocking isn’t advocating making a movie for families about such things from the Bible, either.

    I think you missed the point, Mr. K.

    Ronda

  3. I saw the movie “The Golden Compass” Friday. I can imagine why a Roman Catholic group might not like it considering the way they view themselves. In the movie, the ficticious organization “The magistrum” did remind me of the Roman Catholic church somewhat by their authoritian rule over people. There is nothing in the movie that I perceived as anti-Orthodox or against Christ.

    Still, the movie is fantasy and fantasy is dangerous to those who cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality. I don’t have children yet but, I would not recommend any parent let their children watch any fantasy movie without proper context.

    As to the writer Phillip Pullman, I got curious so I looked at his own website.
    http://www.philip-pullman.com/about_the_writing.asp
    He is a self-admitted agnostic, not Atheist. There is a big difference, in my opinion.