After finding a couple of good links on the matter, and seeing a good (virtual) friend deal with it, I thought writing my own complete blog post would not be necessary. But then he ended with “I look forward to your blog post on this topic”. So here we go.
This train of thought started with Lady Guinevere’s post, Moet asb nie hierdie movie ondersteun nie! Lees asseblief! (Please do not support this movie! Please read!), with a statement like this:
Please don’t take your kids to see this movie!! We need to get the word out about this movie and make sure that no one supports it!!!
This makes me sad. I ask myself, how small must a person’s God be, that they fear watching a movie like this? Maybe they need to recite Psalm 23 as a mantra…
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Nevertheless, I do understand Lady Guinevere’s fearful reaction. Because parents have been too scared to explore “valleys of death”, they do not know how to provide their children with the necessary guidance to do the same. A child growing up in a very protective, close-minded environment, could find the process of actually thinking, rather fearful. Naturally, we want to protect our children from this fear, so traditional wisdom teaches us to keep them away from it. Beautiful wisdom, the wisdom of compassion, the wisdom of conscious living, the wisdom of Jesus, encourages us to not fear foreign culture. Go, Walk the Streets of Athens (1, 2, 3). Learn to understand “their” culture. In the process, you not only get an improved understanding of your fellow humans, allowing you to live a more compassionate life, you also get to learn more about your own God, and isn’t the pursuit of getting to know your God one of the greatest aims of your life?
I have explored far and wide, and my understanding of “God” has grown tremendously. My God is bigger than that. I suspect Johan Swarts’ God is bigger than that as well. My Jesus has set me free from bondage, free from baggage, given me life, and life in abundance. I so wish you (other fearful Christians, as well as fundamentalistic anti-theists) could experience this freedom, this lack of fear. I really do not care what path you take to get to get there, I just sincerely hope you can eventually get there. Life becomes so much more beautiful, and compassion so much easier.
Lady Guinevere’s concerns are summarised well in comment 14. As much as I would like to respond to that, others have already done a much better job of it than I could hope to do. Please read Christians Shouldn’t Fear Philip Pullman and His Trilogy at Beliefnet, written by a Christian. I repeat, go read it! Thanks to Bertus! for pointing it out. Also consider my (virtual) friend Timothy Mills‘s comment in response to Lady Guinevere’s comment (emphasis mine, and URLs turned into in-text hyperlinks):
Lady Guinevere’s 14th comment is an understandable defensive/fearful misreading of the books.
The books do recast the temptation/fall as a story of growing up and becoming fully human. But then, I came across this idea earlier in the writings of Christian psychotherapist M Scott Peck (Road Less Travelled), so it’s hard to call that an anti-Christian message.
It’s funny that she infers a sexual experience as the climactic event. It isn’t described as such in the book, and in interviews Pullman has directly refuted such speculation:
Interviewer: … I read a review that protested that they consummate their relationship and I thought, ‘I must have missed that.’
Pullman: I don’t know what they did. I wrote about the kiss – that’s what I knew happened. I don’t know what else they did. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. I think they were rather young to, but still…
As most Christian reviews point out (fearful or liberal), the Authority of the books is unlike the God of modern enlightened believers in many key respects. The differences are important. The Authority represents the sort of God-belief that has motivated horrible acts throughout history, and continues to do so. I am glad to see that some Christians (ie, the link you give) take this difference as important. I always find it odd when someone (such as Lady Guinevere) says on the one hand “He is attacking my belief,” and on the other hand “What he’s attacking doesn’t look anything like my belief.”
If Pullman destroys readers’ belief in the sort of god depicted in his books, then good: it’s the sort of belief that deserves no respect, and that should be refuted by all compassionate people.
If they inspire humanist values in readers, as exemplified in the heroine and those who aid her, then good: these are good values, whether you see a god behind them or not.
The problem with the 14th comment is that she is only reacting to what Pullman rejects and condemns in his books; she makes no mention of what he promotes. Inquiry. Curiosity. Maturity. Compassion. Determination. Loyalty. Opposing tyranny and evil.
That very last paragraph? That’s the kind of stuff I believe Jesus stood for. In that sense, I feel Pullman is shouting the gospel from the mountain tops. What more could I possibly add to that?