The Golden Compass book – Quick Review and Comment

Goldencompassposter2bigEverytime I see people starting to bash some sort of literature, it peaks my curiosity.  I start thinking, "why?"  What is it about this book that threatens people so much?  Well, I hadn’t heard a thing about The Golden Compass during my life until I heard that a movie was going to be released (based upon the book) and that there were a mixture of religious types that we warning that it was going to be the worse thing in the world.  So, just like I did with The Last Temptation of Christ by Kazanzakis, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, The Passion of the Christ (based upon not only the gospels but a book by St. Anne Catherine Emmerich entitled, The Dororous Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ), I felt it was time to pick up the book and get to a conclusion on my own.  First of all, you need to know that when I "teach" on culture and media I say outright that NO work of Art (movie, book, play, etc.) is value nuetral.  EVERYONE has something to push…a worldview…a belief system…and perspective on life.  I can also say that I’ve read TONS of fiction written by people who are professed Christ-followers and have not been consistently "impressed" by their literary skill.  So…with those comments out of the way, let’s say that YES, Pullman has an axe to grind.  He is an athiest…everyone knows that.  So, there’s going to be some "church-bashing" (sounds like he should speak at an Emergent conference – oops, did I say that?).  Even so, this is a fun book.  It is well-written, exciting…great characters…it is complex and thought-provoking.  This is NOT a children’s book – it is clearly written for young adults and adults.  You can find it in a children’s section at a bookstore but that is NOT justifiable…there is blood, death, battles…children are kidnapped and killed and, yes, there are entities to blame….er, mainly the "church" in the books.  Now, the "church" in the book is NOT the actual church in history…it refers to the Church but this is a time when the papacy is over and a group of religious leaders are attempting to control history and thought (by the way, any student of history knows that this is completely consistent with what actually has happened in history…there have been dark days in Christian history when the Church DID do those things).  Frankly, I liked the book…I don’t know if I’ll read the other two in the series (unless they make movies of those as well) but this one was enjoyable.  There are many places to "debate" the author…he is trying to slam some sacred truths and he IS trying, through the book, to control original sin and make a push for some old fashioned "Gnostic", pantheistic, and outright non-religious ideals.  That should not come as a surprise to those of us who walk the way of Jesus.  By the way, wasn’t it the Apostle Paul who knew enough of the current day writings of philosopher’s to actually quote them in his letters?  You see, you can’t hide your head in the sand and pray that it all blows over.  I believe with all my heart that we have to help people discern culture and engage it in a "head to head" confrontation with what we know as the truth.  Would I take a child to see the movie?  Heck NO!  I wouldn’t do it because it is rated PG-13 AND is bound to confuse them.  Would I take some high school kids to it and have some good discussion afterwards?  Man, that would be cool!  In fact, I hope that one or more of my youth pastor buddies do exactly that!  Check out what Terry Mattingly has to say about the book…read what says about it (Snopes is a site dedicated to urban legends and says that "true" Pullman doesn’t like Christianity)…read what Hollywood Jesus has to say about looking forward to the movie…the Homeschool crowd doesn’t like this one bit…First Things (Church and Culture Journal) does a good job outlining the series of books…I could give you more to look at but this one I can’t resist:  Christianity Today posted something quickly in which Pullman (book’s author) says outright, "yep, trying to kill God".  All I have to say is, "bring it on"…there have been many many many many (did I say "many" yet?) that have tried before.  Unfortunately for many and fortunately for the world, "Our God still reigns". 

6 thoughts on “The Golden Compass book – Quick Review and Comment

  1. Wow, someone who actually reads the book, or sees the movie BEFORE giving an opinion! I liken this to the hype over Harry Potter. HP gave us oppertunity to have great dialog with our kids. I probably won’t take my kids to see the golden compass, not because someone said I shouldn’t, but because they haven’t been interested. If they show an interest, then I will make an informed decision for my self! Good post Rob;-)


  2. Good thoughts. I will be posting my own review of sorts tonight some time. Having read all three books, I’ll warn you that the 2nd & 3rd aren’t nearly as enjoyable as the first (but I can never leave a story unread).



  3. Jamie – I’ve read reviews of the other books…in fact, my son’s girlfriend just finished them and she said the same thing…but I’ll read them IF a movie will be forthcoming. I’m not “scared” of stuff like this…when I see so many college students who have not learned how to discern media and culture. Philosophy 101 exposes them to Nietzsche and others and they get blown away. We need to find ways to teach kids on how to process culture from a Christ-honoring perspective. Hey, I will love the dialog as this goes on.


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