A Tour and a Compass

I’m combining today’s CFBA blog tour for fantasy author Jeffrey Overstreet’s debut novel Auralia’s Colors (see Speculative Faith for my review of the book) and thoughts about the soon-to-be-released movie, The Golden Compass.

You may wonder what the two have in common, since Philip Pullman, author of the series from which The Golden Compass comes, has take a clear, vociferous, and repeated stand against Christianity, and in particular Christian fantasy.

Overstreet, on the other hand, proudly claims C. S. Lewis as one of his inspirations, though his ideas about theme seem to differ considerably from Lewis. (But I’ll save that discussion for another time).

In a lengthy, well thought-out post, Overstreet has tackled a number of questions he’s confronted in his roles as a film critic and a fantasy novelist. I found his comments to be insightful, reasoned, and balanced, something long overdue, in my opinion, to that which contradicts a Christian’s beliefs.

Here’s a taste of what he has to say:

And, for a lot of people, whether we like it or not, the church represents fear, power, and condemnation.

The best way to make Philip Pullman’s stories look like gospel truth is to respond by acting like the villainous Christians in his stories.

The best way to expose Pullman’s lie is to respond like Christ himself: With grace and truth, not hysteria and condemnation.

If we respond with wrath, condemnation, and protest, we play right into Pullman’s naive caricature of Christianity. I’m not saying we shouldn’t point out where he is wrong. His story is deeply flawed, and his religious bigotry is shameful. We should not ignore that. But we also should not ignore the excellence of his artistry. And should speak the truth in love, as Christ commands us. We should respond with truth and grace.

For me, that quote is well worth the price of admission, but Overstreet goes on to compare a bit, the maelstrom that surrounded the Harry Potter books and the near silence about His Dark Materials:

Don’t you find it interesting that there has hardly been a whisper about these books amongst Christians in the last decade, but as soon as the movie starts getting promoted, suddenly there’s a panic? Kids have been reading these books since 1995, and Christian protesters are acting like they’ve only just arrived. What does this show us about the state of Christian engagement with the arts? Pullman’s trilogy has been making the news and winning prestigious literary awards for quite a while.

In the end, I think Jeffrey Overstreet has done what I’ve called Christians to do in reaction to these books. From Fantasy Friday the Second:

Let’s do better. Let’s write better, publish smarter, promote creatively. And if we do, the Philip Pullmans will be relegated to answering our work and not the other way around.

Clearly, Auralia’s Colors is the kind of book that is already getting attention for its quality of writing. Good.

The most disturbing part of The Golden Compass, in my opinion, is the advertisement that this is a tale of good versus evil. As Pullman writes it, the church, god, Christianity are the evil from which good—enlightenment—must save the world.

That position will stand unless we Christians write the stories to show the truth about good and about evil. If we vacate the fantasy field, we miss a pregnant opportunity.

If you’re interested in knowing more about The Golden Compass, another insightful source is Jim Hutson’s article at Culture Defense.

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