As Christians across the USA gear up for a campaign against the atheism of The Golden Compass, SWNID urges gentle readers first to read the backgrounder on the movie's production by the esteemed journalist of American religion Hannah Rosin in this month's Atlantic (full access requires subscription, well worth the money in our SWNIDish opinion).
Rosin notes that market concerns motivated the movie's producers from the beginning to reduce, modulate and even obliterate the overt anti-theistic themes of the blockbuster fantasy books. Author Philip Pullman, who is unrepentant about his aggressive atheism, cooperated in the corruption in order to get the books to the silver screen (and presumably to get his royalty checks deposited).
The result, says Rosin, is the usual Hollywood religious mish-mosh: a bland, quasi-Buddhism akin to Star Wars that will probably offend few. In fact, Rosin judges that the movie that will mostly anger only those who liked the books' original message but will probably flummox wider audiences who try to understand it beyond its flashy special effects.
More broadly, we scold our Christian siblings for their obsession, positively and negatively, with media messages. For years, we've protested the messages that the media gives our impressionable minds, imagining a better world in which movies and television reinforced positive values and even the Christian good news.
Then we got The Passion of the Christ and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
And massive revival broke out.
No, wait: it didn't.
We therefore opine that media messages, with us or against us, have relatively less impact than we sometimes hope or fear. Not to deny the effect that worldviews embedded in entertainment and news reporting have on the consciousness of many, we nevertheless conclude that the media largely gives people what they insist they want and help them think what they think already.
In the case of The Golden Compass, what many people want is spectacular fantasy, but what only about 14% wants is anti-theism. So Hollywood is giving the former while minimizing the latter. And we expect a religious impact about equivalent to what we got from Lord of the Rings.