find your spiritual compass

the other day i scored some new pez-- a bear with a metal helmet, a monkey, and some other animal. the package said the golden compass. i had no idea what that meant, maybe a new discovery channel show? i came home and showed my new surprises to christy, ready to place them next to the other 200 or so pez in my office. and then she said i had to take them back.

she explained that the golden compass is the first of a three-part series of children's books written by an atheist, whose stated purpose is to destroy kids' belief in God. in fact, as i have discovered recently, in the third book the kids kill God, who turns out to be not a god at all, but a man with a serious personality complex-- sounds sort of like The Wizard of Oz to me.

this brought up a very difficult decision: get rid of the golden compass pez or not? a true collector simply collects, and does not weigh his/her collection by moral standards. i collect pez; therefore all pez should be in the collection. on the other hand, nearly 100 children walk past my office every day, often queuing in the hall to get a peek of the pez. what if they asked about those new pez? (and yes, they notice when new ones are added!) what would i say? "yeah, they're from a book and movie that's really bad, but aren't they cool?" nah, that would not work. so i decided to sell them on ebay. i even took pictures of them. and four weeks later, they still sit in the cabinet, not listed on ebay.

earlier today i did some research on the golden compass and its author, philip pullman. it is true mr. pullman is an atheist, and evidently he has said some things about helping kids disavow their belief in God. recently at church i led a discussion of God is not great, written by an atheist. one of his arguments was that religion amounts to child abuse, since children are forced to believe, and not given the freedom to decide for themselves. so mr. pullman is avoiding such abuse by teaching them his understanding of truth. it seems to me he has that right. i also read that the movie version of the book will contain no references to God or the Church, but the antagonist will be a broader intolerant monolith. nicole kidman, a practicing Catholic, has said the project is not anti-Christian, or she would not associate with it. changes to the plot were made so as not to infuriate Christians in the U.S.-- hollywood has always been driven by ticket sales, not moralisms.

which brings me back to the pez. i have not read any of the compass stories, and the movie does not come out until december 7, so i cannot say whether or not any of this controversy is valid. i have decided to display the pez. they will not be in a prominent location. i have decided to leave the discussion open on the books and the film. i was outspoken in my opposition to the da vinci code, but i never called for a boycott of it-- in fact, i led a three week study of it, and preached a sermon series on issues raised by the book. i think Christians have turned away from challenges to their faith enough. boycott harry potter. boycott the last temptation of Christ. adore the passion of the Christ but be careful not to criticize its one-sided angle of last hours of Christ's life. now many Christians, particularly the Catholic League, will boycott The Compass. in a rare wait-and-see approach, some evangelical groups are not boycotting yet, waiting to see how things open up next weekend.
it's time for Christians to address these things when they come with an educated response. who knows-- maybe if we sat down with our kids and discussed their questions, raised by a book or a film, couldn't their faith actually be stronger in the end? john wesley, founder of the methodist movement, encouraged Christians to use their God-given intellect, or reason. faith was not something to be ingested without mental activity-- it was to be wrestled over. my reason says the golden compass is not, and never will be, the threat to children that many think it is. it may well be an opportunity to discuss their faith with parents, teachers, and pastors, and by challenging them to articulate it for themselves make them stronger Christians than i could ever be. it would be a shame to boycott that.


I actually read The Golden Compass books after reading a magazine article (Vanity Fair, I think) about how The Golden Compass should have Christians more upset than the Harry Potter books. The Golden Compass had slipped under the radar of the Christians and they instead focused all of their energies on Harry Potter (which I think is a great book about friendship, sacrifice, love, etc.). I enjoyed the Golden Compass books as good storytelling, but I'm not sure what you should do with your Pez....
Anonymous said…
This has nothing to do with your blog topic. I just wanted to let you know that this week's sermon on Sloth was the most meaningful sermon I have have heard you preach yet. Thanks.
Carol Miller
Anonymous said…
I agree with your decision to use the Pez figures as a beginning for dialog. I believe we must learn to meet that which scares or threatens us with judicial reason, not with emotion. That's how our faith, and our civilization, grows.
Dotti Stevens
Anonymous said…
Unlike the atheists of the past generation who mourned the loss of God, the new atheists (Dawkins, Hitchins, Harris), like Nietzshe celebrate the "freedom" from the God delusion. Harris goes so far as to label religious education a form of child abuse. Faith is 'unreasonable' and 'illogical'. He points to Islamist fundamentalist education/indoctrination of children in the Middle East to make his point and (see flash video at webaddress below)

As Christian apologists we have two tasks:
1) to illustrate the practical real world benefits of Christianity compared to competing worldviews including other faith systems.

2) to differentiate Christ from the false gods and atheist/humanist idols, which under the banners of fascism and communism brought about death and destruction of millions in the 20th century.

The marginalization and outright rejection of Christ in the public square seems to correspond with an upsurge of random lawlessness and intrafamilial 'coldness' culminating in murder.

The answer to atheism in this world is the humanitarian, scientific and cultural advances which seem to occur in the wake of Christianity. It is not mere coincidence.
What we've learned from both godless communism and monotheistic Islam, is that it seems to uniquely require Christianity in order for a democratic republic to fluorish and the best in man to dominate. Merely imposing a ballot box without the one true God who loves his creatures (us), blesses those who bless His name and obey His Word, and dwells in the hearts of His people, is what we've tried in Iraq. The result is a Shiite Muslim regime, in which the American experiment has failed to take root.
Government by the people is never strong enough to rule against lawlessness, unless the people are governed from the indwelling Spirit of God in their hearts. Unless citizens are capable of self control, government need exercize control. We can be ruled by the Bible or by the bayonette.
If atheism becomes too prevelant, what is to become of our republic? There is more at stake here than just our church community.

Elliott Snyder