The following article is comprised of 2 parts. The first part is a short expose of Philip Pulman’s Golden Compass and the dangers that lie in wait for unsuspecting parents and their children. The second part throws out a challenge to the Christian community in Canada and the western world to get smart and start using the instruments of the age to fight back.
PART 1: THE ATTACK
Philip Pullman is the author of His Dark Materials, a fantasy trilogy for children which is more popular in England right now than the J.K. Rowling Harry Potter series. As controversial as Harry Potter was to the Christian community, Pullman’s trilogy (Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) makes Rowling look like the next candidate for beatification in St. Peter’s square.
You see, Pullman is an atheist. Not just a garden variety athiest but an atheist who is very open and forthcoming about his hatred for Christianity and the Catholic Church in particular:
“My books are about killing God.”1
“I am of the Devil’s party and I know it.”2
“It [the trilogy] depicts a struggle: the old forces of control and ritual and authority, the forces which have been embodied throughout human history in such phenomenon as the Inquisition, the witch-trials, the burning of heretics, and which are still strong today in the regions of the world where religious zealots of any faith have power, are on one side; and the forces that fight against them have as their guiding principle an idea which is summed up in the words The Republic of Heaven. It’s the Kingdom against the Republic.”3
What makes this man dangerous, however, is that he doesn’t market his ideas just to adults, he tries to push the virtues of atheism on our children. Pullman has peddled his agenda within the pages of an award-winning children’s series to expose the so-called evils of Christianity, but especially of Catholicism. The books in the trilogy get progressively toxic with the final book in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, showing its particular venom against the Catholic Church, and while no four-letter words can be found in the trilogy, murder, torture, violent death, and sex are plentiful. His core mission is to invert the story of Adam and Eve and convince children that “the temptation in the Garden of Eden was that of enlightenment rather than an invitation to evil disobedience.”4
Pullman, along with Michael Rosen, teamed up to produce a DVD for 11-year olds called “Why Atheism”? Not content with simply pushing his godless ideas on children, he has a particular revulsion towards Christian authors like C.S. Lewis. Pullman’s admirers, such as Tony Watkins, have admitted that the atheist storyteller becomes unhinged at the mere mention of Lewis’ name: “When I first witnessed Pullman talking about Lewis I was startled at the anger with which he spoke. It’s a very strong reaction to a mere story, even if it is perhaps over-revered by some.”5 In fact, Pullman considers the Narnia series “one of the most ugly and poisonous things I’ve ever read.”6
The attack is so blatant that Pullman offers little in the room of imagination, except perhaps if you are the movie reviewer for the USCCB. In both the book and the movie, we discover that the evil institutional force is called…get ready for this…the Magisterium. In our world, of course, the Magisterium refers to the official teaching body of the Catholic Church, represented by the bishops in union with the Pope. And just so that Pullman’s frontal attack is not mistaken as a coincidence, he litters the book with other Catholic language (which no one who is semi-lucent could miss): pope, magisterium, cardinal, oratories, intercessors, etc. In some passages, he removes any doubt when he writes:
“Ever since Pope John Calvin had moved the seat of the Papacy to Geneva and set up the Consistorial Court of Discipline, the Church’s power over every aspect of life had been absolute. The Papacy itself had been abolished after Calvin’s death, and a tangle of courts, colleges, and councils, collectively known as the Magisterium, had grown up in its place.”7
Of course, like all liberal socialists, Pullman is a literary coward in the end. Although he claims to revile all forms of “oppressive” religion, he only attacks Christianity. One critic asked: “What if Pullman had replaced the Magisterium’s crosses and churches with crescents and mosques? Not that he would have dared. Like any playground bully, Pullman knows which kids are least likely to kick him back.”8
In the fictional universe of His Dark Materials, there is no real God; rather there is a high angel called the Authority, who purports to be God. The Church does the bidding of the Authority, repressing physical pleasure and subverting the will and wisdom of the people. Lyra, the protagonist, is a second Eve. Through her Fall, mankind will once again be knowledgeable and free of the restraints imposed by the Authority and the Church. Thus does Pullman turn the Biblical account on its head. 9
And so, like all liberal adventures, what we are really dealing with here is an attempt to overthrow the last vestiges of morality and authority and push godless and unrestrained sex on minors. What do you think “repressing physical pleasure” refers to? And of course, what could a subversive book be without speaking on the subject of homosexuality? Enter Baruch and Balthamos: rebel homosexual angels who evoke sympathy from one of the protagonist characters. 10
The series has been so popular that the first episode in the trilogy, Golden Compass, will be hitting theatres on December 7. The book is a filthy piece of work but it is cloaked in “good writing” and now that Hoarywood has jumped on board, the season is open our children. Scholastic Corporation, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books and the U.K. publisher, is producing the movie with an estimated a budget of $150 million dollars.
Here are some other rather lame citations from the book:
Mrs. Coulter, speaking about Lord Asriel: “He’s pushed his heretical investigations to the point where it’s positively dangerous to let him live. At any rate, it seems that the Vatican Council has begun to debate the question of the sentence of death, and the probability is that it’ll be carried out.”11
A witch, to her fellow witches: “Let me tell you what is happening and who it is that we must fight. For there is a war coming. I don’t know who will join with us, but I know whom we must fight.It is the Magisterium, the Church. For all its history…it’s tried to suppress and control every natural impulse. And when it can’t control them, it cuts them out…I have traveled in the south lands. There are churches there, believe me, that cut their children too…not in the same way, but just as horribly. They cut their sexual organs, yes, both boys and girls; they cut them with knives so that they shan’t feel. That is what the Church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling. So if a war comes, and the Church is on one side of it, we must be on the other.”12
Dr. Mary Malone: “I used to be a nun, you see. I thought physics could be done to the glory of God, till I saw there wasn’t any God at all and that physics was more interesting anyway. The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all.” 13
Serafina: “I met an angel: a female angel…She told me many things…She said that all the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity. She and the rebel angels, the followers of wisdom, have always tried to open minds; the Authority and his churches have always tried to keep them closed.” 14
What You Can Do :
1) Please make parents/grandparents/young adults aware of the pernicious nature of the book series (particularly the final book) and of Pullman’s agenda. This can be done via emails, homilies, one-on-one chats, blog storms, Facebook, etc. etc.
2) Pray that the film bombs so that the next 2 films are not made (the director says that he will take a more literal interpretation in the upcoming movies and he “softened” this one to make $$ and lure people in).
3) Get the book series out of the Catholic school system by educating principals, librarians, teachers etc.
4) Boycott Scholastic Books as they are the $$ behind the movies and are using their December take-home flyer to introduce Golden Compass “reading made easy” booklets. http://www.scholastic.ca/kids/whatsnew/
5) Email Kyle Good, Vice President, Corporate Communications and Media Relations at Scholastic (email@example.com), and let him know about your disgust. If you are homeschooling parent, tell him that if Scholastic continues to support Pullman, you will cease to support Scholastic.
6) Consider purchasing Pete Vere’s book co-authored by Sandra Miesel, entitled Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children’s Fantasy (to be released by Ignatius Press before Christmas).
Special thanks and acknowledgement to The Catholic League’s research into Pullman’s books. Please consider purchasing their report on the trilogy for $5.
Endnotes: 1. Tony Watkins, Dark Matter (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2004), p. 21 and 152 2. Ibid., p.129 3. His Dark Materials, Q & A, www.randomhouse.com 4. Kenneth Minogue, “Christophobia and the West”, New Criterion, June 1, 2003. 5. Tony Watkins, p. 170. 6. Charles McGrath, “The Narnia Skirmishes,” New York Times, November 13, 2005. 7. Sarah Johnson, “Philip Pullman: A Preachy Rant Against the Church,” www.christendom-awake.org 8. Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, 2007 (www.catholicleague.org), The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked, p. 7 9. Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass, p. 27. 10. Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, 2007 (www.catholicleague.org), The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked, p. 11 11. Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass, p. 239. 12. Ibid., pp. 44-45. 13. Ibid., p. 393. 14. Ibid., p. 429.
PART 2: THE COUNTER – ATTACK
Too often in the culture war, Christians and other decent people are caught off guard when the latest attack occurs against the family and religious freedom. In fact, when it’s time to fight, the battle is all but decided because the necessary preparations and strategy to be successful are invariably on the side of who is on the offensive. The side that is on the offensive is always dictating the agenda and anticipating the moves of his opponent while the side that is on the defensive is simply trying to react and hold their ground. And as we have seen over the course of the last 40 years, more often than not, the offensive side is not us. Whenever a new battle is foisted on us, we are like the proverbial ostrich who sticks his head out of the sand to complain, proceed to lose the battle, and then, poke our heads back into the sand, totally oblivious to the fact that the scenario will repeat itself again and again. Many times, the saying “too little, too late” is an apt description of our efforts.
The other challenge that social conservatives face, like the Luddites of long ago, is to truly appreciate the power of technology and the mass media and, in particular, the cinema in shaping our mythology. Throughout the course of human history, a civilization’s foundation has largely been built on its cultural mythology, which is sometimes described as a set of stories and beliefs that characterizes a particular culture. In many respects, the mythology of a culture is heavily influenced by the dreams and aspirations of its people. To capture a culture’s imagination, its heroes and heroines, and its “raison d’être” is essentially to capture the mythology and therefore the culture itself.
When our attention turns to the media and its profound impact on our culture, we quickly realize the inherent connection between the media, our mythology, and the culture at large. It is the media, including film and television productions, in particular, which effectively controls our culture’s mythology, and thus sets standards of morality and virtue (or lack of them) for our society. The corrupting influences that have become popular in the West have been fuelled by the ability of liberals to rapidly and effectively disseminate their ideas to the general public. They have done so with the use of the media’s massive reach, and, unfortunately for our culture, without an effective response by conservatives.
In fact, recapturing the mythology and controlling the media is far more important and urgent than many other worthwhile ventures that are typically associated with Christian activism. Activities such as education, political activism, charity, and other worthwhile ministries receive the vast majority of Christian and conservative attention and financial support. Yet, despite the financial resources invested into them, the culture of death remains largely in tact, and continues to exact a terrible price on our society. The reason for this condition is because we have failed to realize that these activities, however noble and good they are, do not represent the soil itself but rather only seed. The soil in our time is the mythology; it is the entertainment and the heroes of the age. The side who can define the hero of the age is the side who will be successful in capturing the mythology and therefore the culture itself. If Superman is a pimp, then the culture is his bitch.
A few months ago, a Catholic colleague of mine who use to work as a director for some of the big studios in Hollywood approached me with a Script he had written many years ago. It remains his hope and aspiration to see it hit the Big Screen one day. After reading an abbreviated one-hour version of it, I was completely blown away by it. The subject matter itself is virgin territory. No one in Hollywood has even broached this subject in any meaningful way and certainly not from a traditional perspective. It has enormous potential in many different markets: the religious community, the special effects community, the adventure-cult community, and the children’s market too. The plot is excellent and the tradition it draws on will resonate with everyone, irrespective of religious belief. It is about a religious topic but it does not imbue “religiousity”. And that’s what makes it such a lethal weapon in the culture war: there is no cheesy telegraphing of religion. Instead, it hits the mark in demanding the viewer contemplate the meaning of life within salvation history.
It has the potential to eclipse Lord of the Rings, provided that the funding, marketing and distribution are all present. Commercially, it could very well be an enormous blockbuster. The problem that my colleague had in the past, however, is that when Hoarywood got its hands on it, they wanted to manipulate and saturate it away from its Christian tradition. Providentially, the film never got made. Over the past few months, we have been working on a business plan to take this fantastic script from paper to a reality that the culture can experience. In the new year, we will be presenting our plan to various investors to begin the first phase in moving this project ahead and therefore taking the first step in redefining our heroes and recapturing our mythology. Protesting and objecting to what Liberals are doing in Hoarywood is largely a waste of time. We need to start to create our own reality, our own mythology, and our own heroes. That’s how to win the culture back to its roots.