Monday, December 17, 2007

Ronge Now On Right Track In Terms of Compass' Direction

Last week I posted an article on this blog raising an eyebrow at Barry Ronge's review of The Golden Compass. I was surprised in that review because Barry Ronge had downplayed the anti-Christian statements made in this film, probably because it's the sort of delightful fantasy that seems appropriate for a Christmas flock. It's also the sort of uncomplicated populist view that is easy. Except that Pullman conceived his stories with an explicitly anti-Christian intention, employing an anti-control ethos. And knowing the Christian community, it was probably a little naive to think that this film wouldn't create a storm.

‘Why should Christians sit back and meekly accept these attacks on their faith? When Muslims think their religion has been insulted, they take to the streets, but when Christians speak out, they are called bigots’

Just so: in today's Sunday Times Mr Ronge set things right with this article:
Movie sparks a virtual jihad for Jesus. This made the front page of News & Opinion.
In my review of the movie and Barry's review I said:
I think Barry is trying to say that it's a flick that can be enjoyed without getting drawn into religious bickering. This is confirmed in this second article of his. Although audiences ought to enjoy the flick for its superb story, its creative exposition of courage and loyalty, and enthralling special effects, it is just too much of stretch to expect Christian audiences not to screetch foul and add poster burning to carol services all over the country.

Barry Ronge calls the brou ha ha erupting the biggest storm in a tea-cup since Harry Potter. Well, for sure Christians are going to object to the nomenclature involved: witches and demons, and the church/Magisterium itself is represented by very Dark Lords. It does demonstrate how silly and precious the Church is about itself. If I want to stir, I can write a story and call my pet dog, who is supremely loyal and good, Demon, and my dad, Lucifer, and basically subvert all the mythology. Does that make it evil? Evil stories essentially encourage malevolence, they have an anti-hero, and they often lack virtue. Most movie stories never eschew courage, and courage is a form of standing by one's beliefs. The Golden Compass is essentially about this, and this is a very encouraging and heartwarming trait in a young person. Harry Potter does the same, so does Jesus, Robin Hood, Hercules and Luke Skywalker. More important than names is intent, motivations, and actions. That's why telephone books don't inspire, but stories about virtue do.

Christians forget, when you criticise their faith, that you are not always attacking morality. You're more often than not attacking dogmatism (the same thing Pullman drives against). Blind morality isn't moral. In Christianity you are revered all the more for accepting something on the least amount of evidence. Sometimes this doesn't work. The pastor of a church I once belonged to went to Mozambique and died of malaria. He died because he refused to take anti-malarials, and made it a faith issue. He left behind a wife and four children. It's that sort of dogmatism that is dangerous and scary.

Christians and atheists ought to be able to agree that what is important is that community is preserved. We ought not to find reasons, take out licenses, to attack one another because the fine print doesn't match. Our intentions, our basic moralities ought to be enough. We ought to find those things that affirm, that we can agree upon. The rest is silliness.

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