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Friday, December 21, 2007

Vatican Blasts "Golden Compass" as Godless and Hopeless

That is the headline from Reuters earlier this week. Calling for a boycott of the recent film based on the controversial trilogy, His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman, the Vatican statement elaborates: "when man tries to eliminate God from his horizon, everything is reduced, made sad, cold and inhumane". Also according to Reuters, the Vatican paper called The Golden Compass, "the most anti-Christmas film possible."

The Golden Compass is indeed a reason for concern, primarily because of the subsequent two volumes of the trilogy it is associated with. The current movie version of Compass is only mediocre as a movie and for the most part, avoids the most sticky wicky points.

How should Christians respond? First, I agree with the Vatican's concerns, but I believe it is important to remain cool-headed. Is it truly the most anti-Christmas film possible? Such exaggerated assertions suggest that the reviewer either didn't really see the film or is prone to overreaction. In both cases, our cause is harmed.

One of the biggest flaws in Pullman's technique is his extremism. Even some people who agree with his views feel he is an impediment because he overstates his case. I hope the church does not fall into the same approach. Not every attack on the Faith requires the same degree of response. Otherwise, every attack will be the most anti-Christmas film possible. And if every attack is the most anti-Christmas film possible (to use the phrase from the Vatican), then none of them are. Not everything can be the "most possible." Do you see?

So if next year, another film is produced that undermines Christianity but does so in a more direct and sophisticated way, how will we respond if we've already labeled Compass as the worst possible? If it's the worst, then all others must not be as bad.

I am in no way defending the militant atheism of Philip Pullman. I am only saying that our responses to our critics ought to be in proportion to the quality of the threat.

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