The December 7 release of “The Golden Compass,” a movie version of the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, appears to be stimulating sales of the books. The publisher, Random House, reports a 500 percent increase in sales in the past three months, and The Golden Compass has made the USA Today Top 50 Bestseller list.
This is not good news for Christians, especially for parents who care about their children’s faith formation. Pullman is a clever writer (I hesitate to use the word “good” in connection with him), but his books have hitherto not attracted nearly the popularity of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia or the Harry Potter books, in part because they are, as the trilogy’s title suggests, dark. His explicit purpose in writing these books was to undermine the Christian faith of children and to promote atheism, and he has said so. “I am of the devil’s party and know it,” he has openly averred.
Defenders of the film point out that the more objectionable themes of the book have been downplayed in the movie version. Nichole Kidman, who plays one of the main characters, has responded to criticism of the film, saying that, as a Catholic, she would never have accepted the role if the film contained an anti-Christian message.
That may be, say Pete Vere and Sandra Miesel, the authors of the forthcoming publication, Pied Piper of Atheism (Ignatius), a critique of the Pullman books, in an interview on Nov. 14 with the Zenit News Agency. However, they warn in the interview, the movie’s popularity will likely increase curiosity about the books. As we see, this occurred already before the movie’s release. Indeed, while meaning no offense to Mrs. Urban, I am more inclined to trust the theological judgement of experienced Catholic thinkers like Mr. Vere and Ms. Miesel.
I have been warning the parents in my acquaintance about the Pullman books for years, and I don’t think I exaggerate the danger. Pullman has been very open about his disdain for the beliefs of Christian writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein and about his desire to undermine faith in God and the Church, particularly the Catholic Church. In light of this, it seems to me that the most appropriate course of action for Christian parents and their children is to shun the movie and pray for the salvation of Philip Pullman’s soul.
For an excellent analysis of the anti-Christian nature of Philip Pullman’s fiction, see “Paradise Denied: Philip Pullman & the Uses & Abuses of Enchantment,” by Leonie Caldecott, in the October, 2003 issue of Touchstone magazine.