The Boston Globe on The Golden Compass

I posted my thoughts about The Golden Compass, the trilogy to which it belongs — His Dark Materials, and the controversies surrounding them, last week.

Now, more perpectives are emerging, some more interesting than others.

This one is very interesting, and sure to throw fuel on the fires of discussion. What do *you* think of Donna Freitas’s interpretation?

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  • Bubba

    So, a theologically liberal Christian finds Pullman rewarding because his work targets a common enemy: Biblical Christianity.

    How charming.

    Shall we go through the list of things this theologian name-checks? Radical feminism in which the true God is “a feminine divine”; Marxism and liberation theology; an outright denial of divine omniscience and omnipotence; a suggestion that — never mind that “Lord” stuff — man’s relationship with God is emphatically not heirarchical; and even a toying with pantheism.

    It seems to me that Pullman’s books are an attack on religion in general, particularly theism, and most especially Christianity, and if this is the heretical form of Christianity that one can most plausibly squeeze into the structure of his trilogy that kinda reinforces my original conclusion.

  • theottery

    I’ve also seen Donna Freitas’s views on Pullman over at Idol Chatter, and I’ve already critiqued her claim that Pullman is killing the “false God.”

    What I’ve never seen before the Boston Globe article is her explanation of what the true God is (since killing the false God is supposed to make way for the true God). The true God is DUST????? More specifically, Freitas says Dust is the Holy Spirit. I could say so much here, but I’ll limit myself to one point: Dust is not a person or in any way personal. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. Saying that Dust is the Holy Spirit is like saying the Force (in Star Wars) is God. I have no problem with making some comparisons between impersonal forces and a personal God, but the comparisons have limits.

    I’m not saying we can’t learn something about God from reading His Dark Materials, in spite of Pullman’s atheism, because that’s how common grace works. But Freitas’s readings seem to ignore so many things within Pullman’s text–as well as ignoring key principles of Christian belief.

  • Freitas’ point that “His Dark Materials” is anti-church or anti-religion rather than anti-Christian or against the true God is well worth considering. However, I can’t agree that we can both have “Dust” as the Holy Spirit–an element of the Triune God–and as she describes it:

    “Pullman’s Dust certainly moves beyond orthodox Christian ideas about God. Dust is a “spirit” that transcends creation, but all living beings are made of Dust, so Dust is a part of creation. While Dust is indeed the divine fabric of the worlds of “His Dark Materials,” Dust is not all-powerful, all-knowing, and immutable. Dust is as dependent on creation for its sustenance as we are dependent on Dust for ours.”

    God is not “dependent” on God’s creations. If Dust “is not all-powever, all-knowing, and immutable” it is not truly God. It may be a good metaphor for certain divine qualities, however, just as (dare I say it) Aslan may be.

  • krisras

    Donna has blogged a lot over at Idol Chatter on Compass and I was asked to respond. I actually linked to you and Peter as good places to go for a different, articulate opinion because i am not the expert on Pullman.
    As much as I like Donna, the interview she did over on the site with Pullman was very surfacey and allowed him to backpedal.

  • flatlandsfriar

    Ms. Freitas echoes some things I believe I have read here and elsewhere, suggesting that Pullman’s attack on religion isn’t really directed at Christianity, because the Magisterium and Authority he uses as his targets don’t really represent anything about actual Christianity. Pullman seems to champion virtues of love, compassion and self-sacrifice, and it would be a strange and Phelpsian vision of Christianity indeed that had no room for them.

    But she seems to overlook that not only Mr. Pullman’s critics claim his books are about killing God — the author himself offers that interpretation when comparing the major fuss kicked up over J.K. Rowling to the near-absent fuss over his own books.

    And to me, it doesn’t seem like a minor quibble. Ms. Freitas suggests that such an idea requires the most literal reading possible of Mr. Pullman’s trilogy, and offers interpretations that presumably reflect more open-ended and imaginative readings of the stories. But if the deicide interpretation is not simply reflective of a narrow literal reading and is actually part of the author’s intent, then bracketing it out means those open-ended and imaginative interpretations and messages do not draw on his whole text. This is not necessarily a problem in and of itself. But it makes me wonder quite a bit when Ms. Freitas draws conclusions and ideas from Mr. Pullman that happily coincide with her own, once she has mistakenly set aside the inconvenient contrary opinions as unreflective of a more thorough appreciation of his work.

    Ms. Freitas suggests that Mr. Pullman’s work is anti-orthodox rather than anti-Christian. I can’t say I’m certain this would recommend the trilogy to me (if I hadn’t read it already), as I am not yet ready to draw a line that excises 2,000 years of our tradition, history and thought from the core of our faith.