The Golden Compass – A Christian Review

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Paul Davis did go to see the Golden Compass. See his review here.

I want to mention a couple of reactions to his post. I have not seen the movie and so I say this cautiously.

1 – Paul believes that the group that is supposed to parallel the church more closely parallels the government because they have a police force, K-9 dogs, weapons, etc. He draws that conclusion because the church is not that way in America – “Needless to say, anyone who lives in America, with our separation of Church and state, will be totally unable to draw any parallels between the Magisterium and the Church.” I have to cautiously disagree. The problem is Paul is viewing this as an insider and a minister who sees the church as a healthy and loving organization. Many atheists and non-Christians in fact do see the church just as he described the “Magisterium” – as an attack dog of intolerance with its own type of police force. Paul then points out another thing about the Magisterium, “The witch describes how the Magisterium is trying to control all people in all worlds and take away their free will.” Again, this is how many atheists see the church – the opiate of the masses that brain washes people into a false hope in order to “control all people in all worlds.”

2 – Free will

Of course the church doesn’t take away free will, but outsiders believe that is exactly what the church is attempting to do.

3 – “I have to say that it is pretty much impossible for anyone to come away from this movie with the impression that the Magisterium represents a religious organization, much less the Church as we know it.” – That is just the thing I wonder about in Paul’s analysis of this movie. He is viewing this movie from his perspective as a minister in the church. “The Church as we know it” is different for him than it is for those who do not believe in God or respect the church. In order to understand the movie you have to put yourself in the shoes of an unbeliever. Then the parallels with the church begin to stand out.

I say all of that carefully because I am basing it solely on Paul’s review. Please correct me if I am wrong.

0 Responses

  1. In response to what Matt has voiced concerning my review, I can totally see where he’s coming from and his points. It is impossible for me to totally disengage my perspective on the church. However, I do believe that even outsiders who are not a part of the church will still have a difficult time drawing comparisons from the movie to the church. Roger Ebert’s review included these quotes:

    “Pullman’s evil force, called the Magisterium in the books, represents organized religion, and his series is about no less than the death of God, who he depicts as an aged, spent force. This version by New Line Cinema and writer-director Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”) leaves aside religion and God, and presents the Magisterium as sort of a Soviet dictatorship or Big Brother.”
    “Attentive as I was, I was unable to find anything anti-religious in the movie, which works above all as an adventure.”

    I know many people will disagree with my viewpoints. However, from the movie alone, it’s hard to find a “church-bashing” message.

  2. I won’t know until it hits video stores. I think the big concern wasn’t about the movie but that it might send kids and parents to the bookstore for the other books.

  3. I have lots of thoughts on this subject myself.

    * Why do we in the Christian community seem to be reacting with such bewilderment that an atheistic script would come from an atheist, or that a movie that would seek to put-down Christianity would come out of Hollywood?

    * I see this movie as an opportunity. Perhaps even a greater opportunity than was “The Passion of the Christ,” which was effectively a vapor & really did little for my faith personally (that’s another subject of course).

    Here’s the deal: we live in an increasingly pluralistic culture. People are going to disagree with us. We have grown so comfortable & accustomed to living in a “Christian nation” that we scarcely know how to react with people who disagree with us. And so we react with outrage.

    I didn’t see Jesus protesting about the 10 Commandments not being in halls of the Roman Senate. I don’t find the precedent in the New Testament where we are supposed to rally against any work of art that is antagonistic against our theology or world-view.

    (I’m not necessarily saying that that is what you are doing, Matthew. The Christian community at large is guilty of this, however)

    What I do see are examples like Acts 17, where Paul indeed grieves at the ignorance of people but does not get judgmental about it. And, from my perspective, that’s consistent in the New Testament, where Jesus & other evangelists use events like this as teaching opportunities. And that’s how I react to this. I’m excited because of the civil discourse (HOPEFULLY… if we can control ourselves!) this may open up on a large scale & person-to-person.

    * As far as the point of your message, though, I don’t see the danger. Basically, if what Paul says is accurate about the movie & I agree with your views on this, the movie does not at all discourage or spread misinformation to Christians, but it simply further reinforces the positions that atheists already hold. I don’t see the danger in that. If anything, atheists would falsely reference this movie in discourse about Christianity/church, and it would be an opportunity to teach about what Christianity/church is really about.

    As always, JMO

  4. Hey Philip,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I think you are right on target. What you said is much in line with Paul’s reasoning for going to see the movie (which several people really bashed him on). See this post for that. Seeing this movie doesn’t bother me. I have a little bit of a hard time sending money his way but then again we go to the theater of producers who are gay, unfaithful, and every other sin you can imagine and that hasn’t seemed to stop Christians from seeing any movies yet. I have a hard time with boycotts.

  5. I also saw the film this weekend after reading all the “fundamentalist panic”… and I have to say, it was a great movie. I plan to write a bit more about it over on my own blog (, but I agree with the original review. There is nothing in this film that is anti-religion. If you didn’t know anything of the current “conflict” and you went and saw the movie, I think you would agree the Magisterium calls up images of the cold-war Soviet state much more than any iteration of organized religion.

    Matty the Stranger

  6. Again, maybe I will change my mind when I see the movie but keep in mind that some atheists view the church as very much like “the cold-war Soviet state.” From being inside the Christian loop we don’t see it that way and so when we watch the movie it doesn’t seem familiar to us but my guess is that it would strike a chord with you regarding the church if you were a staunch atheist.

    Again, I haven’t seen it.

    P.S. – From looking at your blog, Matthew, it seems you used to be an atheist so I would guess you understand that perspective better than I do. So maybe I am off target here.

  7. Matt-

    Yes… I grew up in the church and then threw it all away and now I’m coming back. My experience is most atheists don’t go around looking for “god bashing” quite the way many Christians go around looking for “god bashing”. By this I mean, many Christians see persecution that isn’t there, just because they are looking for it and expect to find it.

    Hope you enjoy the blog!


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