I was recently having a discussion with my husband’s family about the upcoming movie, The Golden Compass. My brother-in-law informed us that his eleven-year-old daughter would not be allowed to see that movie because it has an “anti God” message, and that the book the movie is based on was a response to C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series. I had been unaware of any controversy surrounding this movie; I thought it was just a new fantasy movie.

But fantasy, I’m realizing, can have a negative connotation. Where do lines of fantasy and reality intersect? It seems to me that most people are supportive of encouraging imagination and are OK with the genre of fantasy as long as it doesn’t contradict any of their Christian beliefs.

The Lord of the Rings series and Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are heralded as great movies by many Christians in part due to their Christian message and symbolism. The Harry Potter movies and presumably The Golden Compass are similar as far as genre and special effects, but some, because of their “anti-Christian” message, deem these movies inappropriate.

The Golden Compass is based off Philip Pullman’s first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. The author was recently on the Today Show and when asked to respond to claims that the book has an underlying message for atheism, he had the following to say:

    As for the atheism, it doesn’t matter to me whether people believe in God or not, so I’m not promoting anything of that sort. What I do care about is whether people are cruel or whether they’re kind, whether they act for democracy or for tyranny, whether they believe in open-minded enquiry or in shutting the freedom of thought and expression. Good things have been done in the name of religion, and so have bad things; and both good things and bad things have been done with no religion at all. What I care about is the good, wherever it comes from.

I hope that all people (including myself) would want to be kind, to act for democracy, to be open-minded, and to feel encouraged to think and express themselves freely. I would of course also want them to love the Lord and develop a deep and long lasting relationship with Him. Christians, however, do not have a monopoly on good values. People do good things everyday. Not all of those people believe in God. Yet I believe that God is good and God is in all good things. I believe God can use people, even if they aren’t Christians, to further His Kingdom.

We should read books and watch movies that show what it means to be good and kind, to be brave and courageous and to love others without judging or condemning them. Therefore, I’d be more inclined to see movies like Harry Potter or The Golden Compass than I would some of the other movies that are released.

I also feel that if you want to encourage anyone’s imagination (especially a child’s), they should be allowed to see films like these regardless of if there is an underlying message or not. Children are not looking for religious or political undertones like adults are. They are looking for great films with a great story and cool special effects.

There is so much programming out there that really isn’t appropriate because of sex, violence, and language, so when a movie like this comes out we should get together and watch it, then discuss it afterwards; people should give it a chance. I, for, one am looking forward to seeing The Golden Compass.

There has been much debate as to whether the media influences culture or whether culture influences the media. I think it is both. This is the information age, and we as a society are constantly being inundated with images and messages—some good and some bad. So when there is good, as Phillip Pullman said, it shouldn’t matter where it comes from. Our God is good, and He has a hand in all things that are good. So when we see or hear messages of love, kindness and freedom, we should embrace them and encourage others to do the same.