Just as a short preface to this post, I think I should mention that I’ve edited and rewritten part of this several times since I first mentioned the topic. First off, I’ve been busy, and I simply haven’t had the motivation nor the mental strength to post. Secondly, at Halloween a reader of this blog, upon meeting me in person for the first time, said that I wasn’t anywhere near as angry in person as I was on the blog. I do use this as a location for complaining, hopefully in a humorous way, but she was right, and I don’t want to seem like a curmudgeon.
So I rewrote this.
And rewrote it.
And after several goes at a rewrite, try as I might, I sound like a curmudgeon. Oh, well.
If you haven’t seen the trailer for the new movie “The Golden Compass,” take a second to watch this clip.
Looks pretty cool, right? There’s swords, magical items, the always attractive Nicole Kidman, and talking bears, which, except for Boo-Boo, are always welcome in any movie or TV show.
The Catholic League of America (which, other than the member being Roman Catholic, has no affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church) has called for a boycott of the film, as have many other Christian organizations in the U.S. So what’s the problem?
Philip Pullman, the author of the books the movie is based on, is an Oxford graduate who went on to teach at his alma mater, a winner of the Carnegie medal for children’s literature, and an atheist. It’s that last bit that has William Donahue, the pit-bull of the Catholic League, all in a tither.
Pullman has never denied the fact that his books are atheistic in nature. The books that comprise His Dark Materials trilogy are about a corrupt and oppressive Authority, which can be seen as an allegory for organized religion. John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” served not only as an influence in naming the trilogy, but as a thematic influence as well.
Typically, Bill Donahue and his ilk have called for a boycott of the film, and by proxy the books, without ever having seen nor read either of them. Donahue and his emailing campaign has been so successful that at the time of this post “The Golden Compass” is the number two entry over at Snopes. It blows my mind to think of boycotting or banning literature, much less doing so without ever having read the “offending” texts. To quote the good Dr. Jones, “Goose-stepping morons…should try reading books instead of burning them.”
Donahue seems to think that Pullman is out to “bash Christianity and promote atheism,” and the movie is simply the secular media’s way of stealthily converting your children to atheism. Donahue seems to view atheism, and all philosophy not his own, as some kind of virus, able to infect and corrupt children simply through proximity.
Let me quote the Elder Brother in Milton’s other great work “Comus”: “Virtue may be assail’d but never hurt, / Surpris’d by unjust force but not enthrall’d” (11. 589-590). To paraphrase, the truly virtuous should never worry, because the unjust may surprise the virtuous person, but the unjust will never subjugate the virtuous. In other words, if your child’s Christianity is destroyed by a movie starring Nicole Kidman and James Bond, or by a book written by a dude named Phil, then your child wasn’t a very good Christian to begin with.
There is always something to be learned from the foreign, whether that be race, religion, gender, or nationality.
Here’s something else Donahue and other fundamentalists never seem to realize: this is a religiously diverse society. Some people are very religious, and others are not, and that’s perfectly okay. I don’t expect a religious pluralism, but let’s all try to understand one another, shall we? There is no better way for your child to become tolerant of other races, religions, and ideologies than to expose him or her to them and then discuss them. Do’em a favor, and give them the intellectual tools needed to operate as a rational being on this spherical melting pot we call Earth.
Or, by all means, cloister your children. Hide them. Protect them from the evils of the “secular” world. Only subject them to the principles and ideologies that you personally believe in. That way they’ll either completely resent and deny you the moment they realize you’ve sheltered them all their life, or you’ll bless the world with another intolerant and ignorant bigot.
Either way. I’d always enjoy a tolerant society, but bigots are fun, too.