"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
An ostensibly Catholic theologian who previously argued Madonna crucified was wonderful is now trotted out by the Boston Globe to hold forth on the truly inspiring Christian message in the writings of Philip Pullman. (Yes, the dogmatic atheist children's-author who wants to "kill God.") Newspapers do favor the man-bites-dog headline, and if it's sheer counter-intuitive lunacy you seek, you need look no further than the closest college theology faculty.
The anti-C.S. Lewis, Pullman intends his fantasy stories to subvert God, and acknowledges as much. If there were an opposite of the Jesuit anagram AMDG (For the Greater Glory of God) Pullman would readily stamp his writings with it.
Columnist Leonie Caldecott of the Catholic Herald in the UK once wrote that Pullman's books are "worthy of the bonfire":
It was close to Guy Fawkes night, when English children tend to have bonfire parties and let off fireworks, so I joked in a regular column I write for the Catholic Herald that any book-burners out there could find many other stories far more “worthy of the bonfire” than Harry Potter. I went on to use Pullman’s books as an example of something that was far more likely to harm a child’s capacity for faith. After describing the plots of the first two books, I pointed out that, in these books, everything we normally associate with safety and security—parents, priests, and even God himself—is evil, is indeed “the stuff of nightmares.” That is to say, they affect a child’s consciousness at its most vulnerable point.
Now, The Golden Compass, Hollywood's adaptation of the first book in Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials, is set to be released for the Christmas season. You would imagine from the promotional ballyhoo that the picture is in the same vein as The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. But the animating theme behind Pullman's original stories is quite the opposite. Though the producers reportedly have taken out the most blatant anti-religious messaging, The Golden Compass still should carry a warning: Caveat Emptor.
No one complains when children's safety groups release their annual list of dangerous toys – but sounding an alarm over the peddling of spiritual poison to children runs you the risk of being labeled a censorious book-banner. Nevertheless:
If you have children don't take them to see The Golden Compass. And don't give them Philip Pullman's books for Christmas. His is pernicious stuff.