Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Golden Compass

Once again, I got an e-mail from a parishioner who got an e-mail warning them against the evils of a movie.

I'm glad the parishioner sent me the note because when you have a spiritual question, you need someone to turn to. And I'm glad this parishioner didn't take the e-mail warning they got at face value.

The movie in question? The Golden Compass. Just like Harry Potter, it has a lot of fundamentalists in an uproar. Unlike Harry Potter, I won't defend it so readily. Not that I would ever tell folks to boycott it. If the movie is anything like the book – and I admit I haven't seen the movie yet, but I have read the books – then it should be a pretty good show. And if the books and movies have anything in common, there probably won't be that much theologically objectionable or significant in this movie. It's just an adventure story.

Having said that, the entire series (three books – who knows what sequence of movies), does feature the death of God – or really a god pretending to be the real God – as a focal point. And a pretty weak one, at that. Now, it's been several years since I've read the books at the request of one of our youth group kids, but it seems the story of a brave young girl fighting against evil forces culminates in her finding a pathetic God imprisoned and dying.

This is really poor theology, if you could even call it theology, and it became instantly clear to me that The Golden Compass trilogy is no threat to anybody's religion.

So why freak out about it? Why send out boycott e-mails? Sometimes, I wonder if these e-mails aren't really advertising ploys by the movie makers themselves because they know that controversy sells.

Or, is it because the people who freak out are really insecure in their faith? Could it be that their rock-solid belief is in reality brittle? Could it be that watching, listening to, or discussing a different point of view is downright threatening? That's a far bigger question to me than whether or not The Golden Compass is the work of Satan.

And if you really want to boycott movies that harm the children of God, you'd do better to go after all those shows that glorify becoming "Number 1" or teach our kids that the only way to do good is by killing the "bad guys." That hardly squares with Jesus' example, teaching, or commandments to his disciples.

So if you like the pseudo-fantasy / pseudo-science fiction type of story, go ahead and watch The Golden Compass. But parents, if you're concerned about your kids getting the wrong message or becoming confused spiritually, do what I'm planning on doing. Watch it with your kids. That way you can ask intelligent questions about the story and help them see your point of view.