Think of it as the "anti-Narnia" story, if you will. At least I get that vibe from the Golden Compass author Philip Pullman when he states:
"I hate the Narnia books, and I hate them with a deep and bitter passion."
What do you think? Did you pick up any message from that subtle statement (which is incredibly ironic since he borrows a significant amount of imagery and plot points from The Chronicles of Narnia for his books)?
Let's see … the Golden Compass introduces us to Lucy Lyra, who eventually hides in a wardrobe. There's an alternate world with witches and talking animals and final battles (oh my!). So in other words, he hates the Narnia series with a "deep and bitter passion," but he was happy to borrow some of the critical elements that make it such a compelling series.
Well, isn't that special!
What isn't so special is the apparent dishonesty coming of out the film's promoters and the author himself. Here's a small sample:
From Pullman's web site: "The meaning of a story emerges in the meeting between the words on the page and thoughts in the reader's mind. So when people ask me what I meant by this story, or what was the message I was trying to convey in that one, I have to explain that I'm not going to explain. Anyway, I'm not in the message business; I'm in the 'Once upon a time' business."
Fair enough, except the "once upon a time" actually has clear "messages" from characters in the story like these:
"The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all."
"Every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling."
And the most telling statement of all from Pullman:
"My books are about killing God."
I don't know about you, but when I think "good children's stories," "killing God" ranks right up there with what I look for.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a boycott type person. In fact, I'm not even against this movie coming out. It's a free country with (mostly) free speech as a fundamental right. And I'm not blind enough to ignore that many forms of established religion are incredibly oppressive, and the name of "God" has been used to justify unspeakable evil. My problem lies much more with the obvious dishonesty going on here – as I hope you're picking up on.
Speaking of dishonesty and truth, there's a key element to this movie that I'd like to borrow for a minute. The Golden Compass is not the kind of navigational instrument as you might think. It's actually more of a "truth telling" device that guides Lyra to her destiny.
This is really the heart of everyone's destiny, wouldn't you agree? We all need to know what the truth is, so we can expose the lies around us and follow our true path in life. Keep in mind, I'm not talking individual preference kind of truth – like "Starbucks changed my life" or "people who don't like Hannah Montana should be thrown in prison." Those things may be true to some people, but those aren't truths that apply to everyone.
I'm talking about absolute truth – as in true for everyone, everywhere, for all time – and the great thing is that we can know absolute truth.
Well, to find and know absolute truth, we need a "golden compass" of sorts. We need a "lie detector" that is based on absolutes that come from outside ourselves. See, if I start with myself and my knowledge/feelings as the basis of truth, as a flawed and sinful person I will usually be deceived. That's why I am so amazingly thankful and relieved that there is an outside source of absolute truth whose name is Jesus Christ. Here's what Jesus said about Himself:
Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
Jesus didn't claim to just know the truth and live it, He actually claims to be the truth. No other religious leader would dare make this claim much less try to prove it – but Jesus came back from the dead to back up the fact that He is the source of all truth.
So what does that mean for us? Easy. If Jesus is the source of absolute truth, then His words are the "golden compass" we need to escape the lies of the world and fulfill our destiny. And not just His words in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Revelation – but every word of the Bible, because He "wrote" that as well! That's why the Bible is our only source of absolute truth, because Jesus didn't write anything else.
Does this mean we take the truth of the Bible and twist it, manipulate it, and use it for our own prideful and petty purposes? Of course not – although there are plenty of folks who have in the past, which is probably what's at the heart of Pullman's "issues" with Christianity. What it does mean is that we keep our focus on reading and studying God's word the way King David did:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
We have absolute truth at our fingertips. Without it, we are walking through life without a compass – lost in the lies of "me first" and "party like a rockstar."
So perhaps instead of seeing the Golden Compass, try opening up the real "truth teller." It won't cost you a dime, but it will take you on an adventure that fantasy writers only dream about!
Lane Palmer is the Youth Ministries Specialist for Dare 2 Share Ministries in Arvada, Colo., where he works with to provide resources for youth leaders and students. Dare 2 Share exists to energize and equip teens to know, live, share and own their faith in Jesus. For more information on Dare 2 Share Ministries or the GameDay youth conference tour, please visit www.dare2share.org. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.