Thought about writing another "Jeff-centric" blog, but thought better of it. For the record, I retract what I say about the "Kane & Lynch" review apparently being the only reason for his termination (as it's supposedly not), but I stand by the other things I say. I'm still angry and frustrated about it, and I think rightfully so... But I'm sticking with GameSpot.com. I respect too many of the people here to just up and leave.
If you haven't already, I highly suggest listening to the latest HotSpot episode about the matter.
Today (December 7th) marks the theatrical release of "The Golden Compass", based on the first book (known in the UK and elsewhere as "The Northern Lights") of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy.
Unless you've been living in a cave for the past year or perhaps just got out of prison, you've no doubt heard about all of the controversy surrounding this release. Funny how when I was warning people about the books themselves, few (other than friends) listened. They were too busy burning Harry Potter books (which turned out to be quite the false alarm, if I do say so myself). Now that there's a movie coming out, a lot more people are jumping on this here bandwagon.
But now that it's happening, I really wish they weren't.
See, here's the thing: Controversy sells. Big time. What do you think is part of the reason Harry Potter reached the popularity it did? Controversy.
So all these chain e-mails, all these Facebook groups telling thousands of people "DON'T GO SEE THE GOLDEN COMPASS!!!1!", what are they doing? They're giving New Line and Philip Pullman free publicity, and they love it. It's great news for them.
Here's the rub.
Despite their spiritual content, the "His Dark Materials" books are a fantastic read. Philip Pullman is a masterful storyteller, and it's hard to put these novels down. The story is riveting, the characters are interesting, and everything comes together very nicely. It's a good tale.
Shame it's about killing God. Shame it's Pullman's weapon against C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, which he calls "Christian propoganda." Shame Pullman - raised as a Catholic - sees Christians as delusional, as there is no God. Shame this series is marketed towards kids.
But still... It's a good story.
So, MAOQ (Maybe Asked Once Questions) time... I've been asked, so I'll answer:
You're a big fan of fantasy. Have you read the HDM books?
Yes. Multiple times, actually. I have the audio book for "The Suble Knife" (Book II) on cassette, thanks to a clearance sale in which I stumbled upon it. Well done translation (all the dialouge is performed by actors, with Pullman himself reading the rest) of a very well crafted story.
Are the books really about killing God?
Yes. In them, the Magisterium (read: The Church) is the enemy, commiting many an atrocious act. Now, I'll be the first to admit that the Christian religion doesn't always have the best history, but it's certainly not as bad as Pullman might have people think. And yes, the "heroes" of these books - namely, a liar and a murderer - kill God. Spoiler!
Do you think the movie will do well?
Yes. It seems from first impressions to be very well made, and as I've stated, it's based on a very interesting story. Considering this, plus the star-studded cast, plus the advertising/publicity/controversy, I'd say it will earn enough for its sequel(s).
Will you see the movie yourself?
Yes. Not on opening day and perhaps not even during the theatrical run, but yes, I fully intend to view the film. Even if I wasn't very interested in seeing how the adaptation went (and I am), "know thy enemy" is an extremely important rule.
Plus, I'm just a sucker for fantasy films.
Will any Christian author step up and try to fight Pullman?
I think the problem there is the term "Christian author". With the possible exception of Ted Dekker, there isn't really anyone today calling themselves a "Christian author" that has enough skill (which Dekker has), enough exposure (which Dekker is getting more of, but he's got a ways to go), and maybe even enough guts (which Dekker probably has) to do such a thing. Pullman is no fool. He's an extremely educated man and "taking him on" would be quite an extrodinary challenge. I think it will have to be someone like a modern C.S. Lewis, known by many for his fantasy (I.E. Narnia), but who also studies apologetics and is good at analogy and arguments for "Faith through reason". I'd think he (or she) would have to establish a name for himself before throwing down the gauntlet on Pullman... If that were to happen at all. It might be best for there to just be an absolutely fanastic fantasy series out there that teaches the right message instead of the wrong one.
It'll likely come from an author who is a Christian, not a "Christian author". At least in terms of fiction.
You write fantasy yourself. Have you thought of going up against Pullman? Do you think it might be something God has called you to do?
Yes, I've thought about it. I've always been open about that when the subject comes up. But am I the one to do it? Only God knows for sure. I'm willing... I think. But as I said, being that person - that "chosen" - would be quite far from an easy challenge. I would need an enormous amount of prayer in order to even stand straight.
That said, I do thank the people who have suggested this to me. I'm grateful for the confidence you seem to have, though I'm not sure most of you are really familiar with how smart this guy is. As I stand now, I'm probably not ready. Maybe (hopefully) in terms of my fiction writing, but not in terms of non-fiction debates over the matter of religion.
Back to the books themselves, would you recommend them to children?
No. Heck, it's hard at times to recommend them to adults (I usually only do such to strong Christians or those whom I know will think for themselves regardless of what a novel says), but there is a lot of content present in the novels that simply aren't suitable for children. Don't get me wrong, children can handle more than most adults give them credit for... But aside from the elements of religion (which matter a bit more to younger, impressionable minds), there's also the issue of homosexual rebel angels (this obviously depends on your view on that subject, but regardless I'm not sure it's suitable in a children's series) and the idea that sex is great, even among 13 year-olds.
A "boycott" is going to do little, I'm afraid. No, picketing and complaining is not the answer here. Rather, it's best to educate people about the truth of this series, the truth about religion, and the truth about God. Do that correctly, and it won't matter what people like Pullman try to tell them.
If you want to see the movie, go ahead. If you want to read the books, go ahead. Just remember that they're fiction, and the theology behind them is proven to be quite errant. They're a remarkably enjoyable tale, but nothing more. Don't be fooled. No alethiometer would tell you that these books speak an absolute truth, and your daemon - were our world to have them - would hopefully whisper the real truth in your ear.
Myth is a powerful tool... We need to remember to use it wisely. It's a double-edged sword - a subtle knife - that opens up gateways to many alternate universes... And Pullman has used it to open a world that's very inviting, but has very dark secrets. Approach it with caution, and I'm sure you'll be fine.
The Golden Compass -- A Briefing for Concerned Christians
FilmChat: Philip Pullman -- the extended e-mail interview
(Thanks Jade and Ransom)