So we went to see The Golden Compass last night. And now I am more convinced than ever that Bill Donohue needs to get a life. The guy is worth millions of dollars but all he does is fuss about movies he doesn’t like. Sheeesh.
Granted, the word on the street is that The Golden Compass suffered the same fate as The Da Vinci Code: all of the most controversial elements in the book were disemboweled from the screenplay. Sure enough, the Magisterium comes across about as blandly sinister as the Empire in Star Wars. In the movie, the Magisterium performs Nazi-like experiments on children (a metaphor for clergy abuse?), is willing to assassinate its intellectual enemies, and is rumored to maintain order by “telling people what to do.” Meanwhile, all sorts of cool characters are running about who ignore or oppose the Magisterium and who may or may not be on its radar screen. Lyra, the heroine of the story, is a plucky little orphan who’s not afraid to get in trouble and consequently gets herself imbroiled in the Rebellion (oops, wrong movie, but the counter-Magisterium movement doesn’t seem to have a name), helps an alcoholic polar bear to sober up and regain his dignity and sets all the about-to-be-experimented-on children free in a manner that would make Caractacus Potts proud — all thanks to her gee whiz device, the golden compass, which is basically a device for accessing one’s intuition (i.e., using the Force). I half expected characters to say to Lyra “May the Golden Compass Be With You” whenever they parted. Oh, and if you want a really over-the-top Star Wars connection, just remember that when we first met Luke Skywalker, he was as much of an orphan as Lyra is… only it took George Lucas almost two full movies before he drops the bombshell about Luke’s parentage, whereas the same plot twist happens much-more-obviously all within one movie here.
The movie is getting mostly lukewarm reviews, and I think that’s a bit unfair. It’s head and shoulders above The Phantom Menace and it’s arguably as good as the first Harry Potter film. Granted it’s no Lord of the Rings, but not every film has to have a five-star rating. It’s a lovely film, gorgeously designed and filled with beautiful people (Eva Green, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, and young Dakota Blue Richards, who could out-Hermione Emma Watson any day of the week). Watching the film as a Christian, I can’t help but think that, as it stands, its message is profoundly consistent with the gospel: the Magisterium comes across as little more than a principality of this world, similar to the powers which the followers of Christ are called to resist. And the fact that the church has such a sorry history of colluding with the very powers it is supposed to resist is, as I see it, not evidence that God doesn’t exist, but rather evidence that sin does.
Bill Donohue whines about this movie because he’s afraid that it will entice children to read the books, which is where the real evil lies. Ha. Well, this 47-year-old child can’t wait to take the bait. Both Christian and non-Christian friends have praised the trilogy to me, and so I’m eager to see what all the fuss is (good or bad). In general I am unimpressed with atheism, finding agnosticism a much more intellectually honest position and most atheist rhetoric to be rather adolescent in tone, sort of an inverse to fundamentalism’s equally juvenile snivelling. I guess I’m saying that I find the thought of atheist fantasy neither compelling nor frightening. Which means that I’ll be reading these books for the most literary of reasons: to see if they tell a good story or not.
Just yesterday I wrote in this blog about how I consider myself an orthodox Christian but radically committed to interfaith dialogue. I suppose such dialogue includes even those whose only position is to attack my own. I think when we are threatened by the criticism of others, it is a sign of the immaturity of our own position; and if we worry that others will corrupt our children (Bill Donohue is part of a lineage here that stretches all the way back to the accusers of Socrates), doesn’t that suggest that we both mistrust our children and secretly suspect that the dogma we have forced down their throats won’t stand up under fire? Of course, having said all this, I am reminded that when we open ourselves up to criticism, we possibly could be presented with irrefutable evidence requiring us to revise our way of seeing things. Hmmm. Once again, my favorite quote from Eckhart applies… “Truth is something so noble that if God could turn aside from it, I could keep the truth and let God go.”
What’s cool about this quote is how adaptable it is…
- Truth is something so noble that if Christianity could turn aside from it, I could keep the truth and let Christianity go.
- Truth is something so noble that if atheism could turn aside from it, I could keep the truth and let atheism go.
- Truth is something so noble that if the government could turn aside from it, I could keep the truth and let the government go.
I’m sure you could come up with some examples of your own.