Monday, December 31, 2007

The Golden Compass - pt. 2

I have finished the three books of Philip Pullman. The Golden Compass is the first book in the series. I thought I would chime in with my final thoughts on the book.

First, let me say that I decided that I would not go see the movie. After reading the novels, I didn't feel that the I could agree with where the story was going to go. I am sure that the movie is a wonderful cinematic piece. But I chose not to see it.

The second and third books develop the story of the main character, Lyra, as she continues on the adventure that was begun in The Golden Compass. The story continues to show the opposition of Free Thinkers versus the Church. Lyra, and her new companion Will, seem to be caught between the two sides. Lyra was raised by the church (although she never fit in) but doesn't want to give over completely to her father's anti-church opinion. Along the journey to find Lyra's father, Will acquires a remarkable knife that enables the wielder to travel between worlds. In their journeys, they discover that the knife has more, and even more incredible, power than they first thought.

Pullman makes no effort to hide his opinion of authoritative structures, of which the church is the most prominent. I still am of the opinion that Mr. Pullman's experiences with the church are tainted by the failures of humans within the church. The way he speaks about the church is not the vision that Christ intended and is displayed over and over throughout history and the world. His vision is, instead, the picture of the church when it has failed because of human interest coming before the will of God.

And I suppose that is my overarching observation of this book. Mr. Pullman has created a world within his novels where human interest is the ultimate factor of what is right and good, as long as that interest is subjectively positive. This is secular moral philosophy. There is no ultimate good or evil. Good and evil is what each of us makes it out to be. And as long as we are not hurting another, then what we call good can be good. There is no ultimate source of evil (such as the Devil). Evil is only defined in the acts that people do that cause harm to others.

In Pullman's books, the church is evil because it forces people to live according to rules and takes away choices. It is evil because it limits people freedom to decide what is best for their own lives. It is evil because it prohibits discovery, curiosity, wisdom and knowledge.

There were some minor points brought out in the book that really set me on edge. One is the portrayal of God as an angel who glorified himself above other angels and received the worship of humans.

Another was the portrayal of homosexual angels. Two angels who help Will (Lyra's companion) are written in such a way to show deep abiding affection for each other beyond companionship.

Third is the somewhat obscured idea of a 12-13 year old girl becoming the lover of a 12-13 year old boy. While there is no blatant sex scene, the description of their relationship leaves little other category.

By the end of the book, I didn't feel good about it. As I read the last chapters, I wanted to see how it would end. It is well written. It is also an engaging story. But as a follower of Jesus Christ, an ordained minister of the gospel, and a pastor of some experience, I cannot recommend this book to believers. I would always recommend that you read it yourself to make your own opinion. I can see this book becoming for secular humanists and the Free Thinking Movement what the Chronicles of Narnia has become for the evangelical church.

I will tell you that the promotion of the movie and the related material is deceptive. Everything that I have seen promotes this as a hero story about a girl and her animal friends. This is not what the book or the movie is ultimately about.

I hope that the church will not take a position like that portrayed in the book. We do not need to come out fighting against this story. If it wants to be made, then let it be made. But if followers of Jesus Christ are going to see it, then be prepared to say, "This is not my church. This is not my God. This is not how I live." And if you can't, then be willing to allow change to happen so that you can become the follower Christ wants you to be, the church God intended, and the witness that can share Christ openly.