A new cinematic offering for the kiddies, just in time for Christmas, 2007, is the star-wrapped. "The Golden Compass." Lost among the special effects and celebrity power is the intent of the author of the literary trilogy on which this film is the first, loosely based, offering.
"I want to kill god," he said.
Some of us lived through the generation wherein God was declared dead. DOA. Kaput. End of the religious era.
Christianity, we were told, like all religions would go the way of the Dodo bird and the dinosaur. Ancient superstitions would be replaced by fresher, humanistic ways of thinking.
Let me be blunt.
I welcome humanism. Christianity has a huge chunk to say about being human, living human, behaving humanly and what makes a human a human.
I have tendencies to welcome secularism. The Knights Secular raided the fat, unhealthy, hateful churches of a particular place and time, removing treasures the Church removed from the world as tribute. They "secularized" the Church’s objects, which were actually no more than Mammon moved into a "sacred" setting.
I embrace pluralism. So do you, or you would be picketing the nearest local congregation that objects to your particular doctrine. This is not Baghad. You do not have to believe like me to be allowed to do business or run for political office. We are not shias or sunnis and we should not be either one.
Americanism, which is not Christianity, is based on the willingness of the majority (all of us at some point) to tolerate the worriesome noise of the minority (again, all of us at some time). Jefferson and the like were not Christians, per se. They were fallen aristocrats who came somehow to construct a social order wherein every one could state their presuppositions openly and all could decide what makes sense for them.
But I digress, as I am wont to do.
Today’s topic is the slick, cinematic anti-god (not atheistic or even level six agnostic) message of "The Golden Compass." We are caught betwixt and between, noisy believers that we are, nailed solidly by the need to reply and the extant wish not to make this the "Number One Movie in America."
Let me apologize for the Faith (my Faith, which historically speaks in its own defense but which uses apology as explanation, not remorse). In so doing, please allow me to range far afield.
The anti-god message of "The Golden Compass" is a direct attack on Christian images. Ergo, it must wallow with us in the usual misimpressions to which we subject our icons and their adherents. For instance, in the literary trilogy, God is a doddering old fool, impotent to act and, at the same time, the malevolent architect of a vast conspiracy. The author holds up a celestial mirror to our image of a good, kind, loving All-Powerful being, who plans only human good and asks us (and God) to put up or shut up.
Madeline O’Hair, with pretensions beyond her powers, said of Noah’s Ark, "When that flood started, everybody not in that boat died. Every baby born that day died. Everyone was killed by a loving god. God killed because god loved. That makes no sense."
George Carlin, the comedian says, "God will send you to hell and let you burn night and day forever and ever. And he will do this because he loves you."
Then, he finishes, "You can’t make up material like that."
To answer, the Christian Realist must most often say, "The story of our Faith is of a race of humans struggling toward God from whom we believe all came. We do not count ourselves as having apprehended all things. In fact, those of us closest to the original facts at best see darkly. However, we are in the struggle."
For instance, Christian (nee Judaistic) Scripture is most clearly understood when one thinks in linear, holistic terms, rather than in the recurring creation/destruction/creation cycles of the ancient civilizations around the early Jews. God is doing something redemptive. God is not destroying for the sake of destroying. Disaster occurs, recurs. God constantly saves out some. Humankind staggers on, headed back to the God from which it came.
A non-observant Jew, cum-agnostic, asked an official of the Church of England, in open debate, why God allowed the Holocaust.
The clergyman replied, "Perhaps God allowed this tragic series of events in order to allow the Jewish people to show the whole world how to be courageous and hopeful in terrible circumstances."
The reply of the questioner was succint.
"May you rot in Hell forever and forever for such an answer," he said, to mild applause.
An even better question might have come in the form of one question after another about divine intent but this is impossible if the interrogator invokes the dislocation of the other to begin. So, if the question begins with the absence of God it cannot possibly end with the presence of God. If God is not there, God cannot be responsible.
We could, as well, ask:
"What is God doing when people suffer?"
"Does God ever take a hand in human suffering, either to cause or relieve?"
"If God is constantly offering to relieve human suffering, is the appropriate way to respond to the divine effort actually to seek ways God is offering humankind relief from our stubborn recourse to racial, sexual and religious prejudices?"
To which we might respond, God not having been ordered off the planet or out of the cosmos:
God moves in a lovely, balanced, linear kind of arc, parallel to and inclined toward humankind, with broad avenues of intersection made possible by divine passion driven by fervent love.
God is, in fact, absolutely crazy about you.
Be careful of anyone or anything trying to remove this possibility.
A compass, after all, golden or otherwise, only points to magnetic north. It is not truth itself. The compass can acknowledge its attraction to truth but cannot generate truth.