His Dark Material, Our Silly Protests

Next month, “The Golden Compass” will open in theaters. The movie is based on the first book in “His Dark Materials” trilogy written by Philip Pullman. In the trilogy, the lead characters work to kill “God,” whom they find to be a weak and senile old man. Their quest is started by an attempt to stop cruel experiments on children by “the Church.”

Needless to say these books (and movies) are not The Chronicles of Narnia and are not faith-affirming. Pullman is not C.S. Lewis. Christians should be educated about these books and their evangelistic atheist author. Christian parents should not allow their young children to read these books or see these movies, as they can be easily influenced in a negative manner.

But as with almost everything else, the Christian reaction to this verges on the self-parodying. How else can you explain Bill Donohue of the Catholic League complaining that the movie is not atheistic enough. No, that’s not a mistake.

They’re intentionally watering down the most offensive element. I’m not really concerned about the movie, [which] looks fairly innocuous. The movie is made for the books. … It’s a deceitful, stealth campaign. Pullman is hoping his books will fly off the shelves at Christmastime.

We have a Christian activists complaining that a movie based on an atheist book is too weak on the atheism. That makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

As I said, the books are (and I assume the movies will be) blatantly anti-Christian. Pullman wants it that way. He was repulsed by Lewis’ seven-part children’s fantasy, viewing them as propaganda for Christianity. While he may not like to admit it, clearly he wrote them to be an anti-Narnia.

But the way to combat Pullman’s attempts is not to complain that the movies have watered down his message or even to stage boycotts (although as I said, I would not take young children to see this film or read the books). The way to combat this and any other lie is to expose people to the truth and do so in a creative way.

The reason why the novels are big-budget Hollywood projects is not because they are anti-Christian. It’s because they are good reads. Donohue called Pullman “very talented.” Everyone is quite clear that the novels are excellent stories. We will not glorify Christ by demonizing Pullman in this situation. We will glorify Christ by being informed, making wise choices and then encouraging Christians to produce something better.

We worship the Creator God. He is the source of creativity. We have an advantage over the world – all they can do is twist what God has already created. But instead of using the gift of creativity, we hide behind victimization. We blame the world for why each generation is becoming more secular.

It’s time Christians stop playing victim and start being aggressive in taking back our culture for Jesus. We don’t do that through boycotts or withdrawing. We do that by living out a life of truth and using our God-given creativity to present that truth in a way that is more compelling than anything Pullman or any other secularist can put together.

If your child likes to read stories similar to His Dark Materials, direct them toward Christian alternatives, don’t just lament the collapse of civilization. Point them toward classics like Lewis and JRR Tolkien. If you want some newer books, look at Ted Dekker’s “Circle Trilogy” and the rest of his novels. Don’t condemn a child who wants to read Pullman’s novels, instead give them an alternative that will point them toward, instead of away from, the truth.


  1. You say you do not understand why Donahue complains about the movie not being atheistic enough.
    It’s simple: He don’t worry about the movie per se. He feels a fairly innocuous movie about these books will make the books sell better. He fears that parents will see a “harmless” movie with their kids, and buy their offspring these books because of that movie, not guessing how blatantly anti-religious the books are. That is why he calls it “a deceitful, stealth campaign.”
    Wether we agree with his argument or not, we can surely agree that anything that succesfully markets these books to kids is cause for concern.

  2. I agree, but I think a better route is not to complain about the movies being less atheistic – that’s a good thing – but to educate people about the worldview behind the novels and then create and promote movies and books with a more positive worldview.

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.