As the movie studios gear up for a big Christmas movie season, one trailer that looks like a blockbuster is "The Golden Compass," which must be trying to cash in on the "Narnia" movies. It has flashy special-effect polar bears in armor and a young heroic damsel in distress facing off against evil forces. The casting is top-notch, led by Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, the current star spy in the James Bond movies.
But buyer beware: Narnia it's not. It's the anti-Narnia. Instead of a Christian allegory, it's an anti-Christian allegory. The author of "The Golden Compass," Philip Pullman, is an atheist who despises C. S. Lewis and his much-beloved Narnia series. "I thought they were loathsome," he said of those books, "full of bullying and sneering, propaganda, basically, on behalf of a religion whose main creed seemed to be to despise and hate people unlike yourself."
This book and movie is only the first in his trilogy, titled "His Dark Materials," that gets more and more anti-religious in each book. Pullman hates orthodox religion and "those who pervert and misuse religion, or any other kind of doctrine with a holy book and a priesthood and an apparatus of power that wields unchallengeable authority, in order to dominate and suppress human freedoms."
If you hear the ring of anti-Catholicism, you're right. The evil empire in this movie for children is called the "Magisterium," which is exactly the word Catholics use to describe the teaching authority of the Pope and his bishops. The books are more explicit, in which the evil institution is also called "The Church" and the higher-ups are the "Vatican Council."
British columnist Peter Hitchens has explained how our secular thought-shapers would love for Pullman to undercut Narnia's influence on children: "The cultural elite would like to wipe out this pocket of resistance. They have successfully expelled God from the schools, from the broadcast media and, for the most part, from the Church itself." He writes that while Lewis mocked atheists as joyless, Pullman depicts priests as evil and murderous, drunk and probably perverted, and the Church as "a conspiracy against happiness and kindness."
Isn't it a bit perverse to head into the Christmas holiday season hyping an atheist fantasy movie for kids? No doubt sensing this, Pullman and the moviemakers have ventured on a dishonest but energetic public-relations campaign to convince the public that this film isn't really anti-Christian. It's a plea for open-mindedness and spiritual dialogue. The Church is just a metaphor, see.