Friday, December 7, 2007
ALL EN-COMPASS-ING CONTROVERSY
If you've been following the hubbub (or is it a brouhaha?) about "The Golden Compass," read what author and film critic Jeffrey Overstreet has to say at ChristianityToday.com. As opposed to the torches-and-pitchforks approach to movies that offend Christian sensibilities, he suggests a more rational way to counter the movie and its message.
Should Christians be afraid of The Golden Compass?
Mercy, no. Let's not be afraid. Discerning, yes. But not afraid.
God is not threatened by Philip Pullman. And people who stop to think through Pullman's story, and how he "refutes" Christianity, will see what a feeble "attack" against Christian beliefit really is. Pullman has painted a picture of the church—represented by "The Magisterium" in his stories—that basically reflects only those ways in which the church has abused power. And he has used that selective reflection as an excuse to write off Christianity as a whole. That's sort of like condemning the entire produce section in a grocery store because a few of the apples were bad. (And "Magisterium" is not something Pullman just made up. It's a very real word referring to the church, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. So he's not trying to cloak his intentions here.) It's interesting to note that Pullman's dismissal of Christianity skips over one little detail: Jesus. Pullman's story never makes any attempt to explore or refute the claims and ministry and person of Christ. He has, in effect, set up a "straw God" rather than a "straw man," and his fans are congratulating him for knocking down Pullman's flawed perception of God rather than the God of Christianity. He's not really undermining Christian belief as he thinks he is; he is undermining the abuse of authority, something altogether contrary to the gospel.
Okay, maybe we shouldn't boycott and complain. But what should Christians do?
These recommendations come from my humble opinion, and you're welcome to disagree.
Essentially, don't behave in ways that the Magisterium in Pullman's books would behave. You'll just make his stories more persuasive, by confirming for the culture around us that Christians only really get excited when they're condemning something.
Instead, respond with grace and love. And truth. Admit that, yes, Christians have committed grave sins in the name of Christ, and that those shameful misrepresentations of the gospel have made many people fearful of, and even repulsed by, the church. But Christians have been called to serve the oppressed, proclaim freedom for the captives, bring healing to the sick, to seek justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly, and to bring good news of "great joy." And by God's grace, many are living out that calling. They paint quite a different picture than what Pullman has painted.