Fiction and furor

I stopped by our friends at Christian Apologetics Ministries again just to see what was going on, and it was pretty quiet, generally speaking. It seems that most of Mr. Horvath’s attention lately has been absorbed by the children’s fantasy novel (and now major motion picture), The Golden Compass. The last several posts on his blog include:

7 of his past 9 posts, and that’s not including the colorful ad and headline link he now has at the top-center of his web site. And why is that? What is it about a children’s fantasy story that makes it such a compelling issue for a self-designated Christian Apologetics Ministry, to the point that he’s writing a special “Parents’ Guide and Bulletin Insert”? It’s not just the money (though he does have a PayPal link and a mailing list signup). It’s that The Golden Compass series attacks God on His home turf–the imagination of the naive and impressionable–and does a remarkably good job of it.

The CAM response, of course, is hardly atypical. I use the CAM web site as a typical and familiar illustration, but the phenomenon is quite widespread among conservative Christians. Search Google for “golden compass” or “dark materials” and you can find any number of preachers, commentators, and religious leaders up in arms over the story of the girl and the golden compass. Nor is it terribly surprising that they would respond so strongly. While Pullman’s fiction is not likely to overthrow the Christian faith, it does have the potential to weaken its influence over the lives of many people.

By writing a compelling story that engages the imagination, Pullman isn’t just saying skeptical things about the Christian faith. He’s confronting God inside His own castle. Because God does not show up in the real world, it is vital to the success of Christianity that He show up (in some manner of speaking) inside people’s thoughts and imaginations. By carrying his unbelieving world-view into the realm of thoughts and beliefs, Pullman is quite literally breaching the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. God is already absent from the real world. If He is driven from men’s minds as well, He’ll be gone completely.

Not that this will be the end of Christianity, of course. Christians have gotten along without God for thousands of years, so in the long run His Dark Materials won’t do more than ripple the surface of the sea of human credulity and gullibility. But in the short term, and in the lives of many people, it may have a slight but significant influence. And I say the more the better.

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