Random Reflections

To Boycott or Not to Boycott

Recently, I’ve received some emails and Facebook invitations related to the upcoming movie The Golden Compass.  The emails have been full of warnings of the supposed motive of the author, Philip Pullman, who is a vocal athiest.  I have not read these books nor have researched the author but I am concerned.  Not about the movie or the atheistic appeal of the literature, but of the Christian movement to boycott the movie.  If you boycott this movie, where do you stop?  If we seek to squelch all things opposing what we believe, what do we have left to be challenged by or to stir up important and needed conversations?  Restricting such things is a slippery slope and a wasted focus of energies and conversations.  Why not see the movie and start a dialogue?  Why not enjoy the imagination of the story and find God in it?  God doesn’t fear this movie and neither should we.

I’m not encouraging you to see the movie.  It is your choice. As it should be. What I am saying is that there are things equally as challenging as this movie all around us and it is the followers of Christ who are called to reveal God in the midst of them.

Below is a blog that I think is helpful.

Warnings about "The Golden Compass"

By Dave Cover, a minister at The Crossing in Columbia, Missouri

My email has been getting flooded the last couple of days with Christians warning about an upcoming film called The Golden Compass, due to be released in theatres on Dec. 7. This film is based upon the first book of a trilogy written by Philip Pullman called His Dark Materials.

I’ve read the book and, personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the film. Yes, the author is a self-proclaimed atheist who wrote his trilogy as an atheist’s answer to C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Like most trilogies, the first book is subtler in its message. And as you get to books two and three, his atheistic message becomes more blatant and “evangelistic.”

So how should Christians respond to this film? We could, as many of the emails I’ve received have advocated, “boycott” this film and “send a message to Hollywood” that we won’t tolerate “anti-Christian” films aimed at families.

But if we were consistent in that, then we should have done the same with other “anti-Christian” films aimed at families, such as the Star Wars movies, which were the highly entertaining products of George Lucas’ desire to bring blatant Buddhism to a young western audience. The same aggressive and straightforward Buddhist message is in The Matrix films as well. I don’t think Buddhism is any less dangerous than atheism. Perhaps it is more dangerous because it is atheism disguised as spirituality. But for some reason I can’t remember any Christian alarms about boycotting any of the Star Wars or Matrix films.

I think most of us want to be Christians who appreciate good art and good literature (which these Philip Pullman books certainly are) and are not alarmed and threatened by the atheism issue any more than we were threatened by the Buddhism issue with Star Wars or The Matrix. Rather, we want to take opportunities like these to have important conversations with people about beliefs about God.

Now, personally, I don’t know that I’d take my kids, if they were young, to see The Golden Compass unless I was prepared to discuss with them the underlying beliefs and why this is such an important issue for all of life and how everyone is responsible to decide one way or the other on the issues of God, Jesus Christ, sin, etc.—that these are issues that are forced upon everyone to decide for themselves one way or the other. I would say something along the lines of “Here’s what the author of this book/film believes and here’s what he’s saying about that. But here’s why I don’t believe that and here’s what I believe and why I believe that,” etc. The film provides a wonderful prop around which to have a more interesting conversation about beliefs.

So these kinds of films can provide a good opportunity for fun entertainment while also getting a chance to have important conversations with our kids about other worldviews and beliefs, and to show that we have thought about those arguments (rather than hide from them), we understand and respect their arguments, and we are not threatened by them, but rather feel we have better reasons to believe what we believe. All in a calm, rational, non-alarmist kind of manner. In raising my own kids, I’ve found these kinds of conversations helpful in inoculating them from the very real anti-Christian beliefs out there that will definitely come their way in life. I’d rather them here about them in a context I can inform rather than not.

I’m not necessarily recommending parents take their kids to see this film, and in that sense I think Christians are wise to warn one another of a need for some caution on that. On the other hand, it can be a good opportunity to help your kids discuss its deeper implications and issues if you’re prepared to do so.

6 Comments

  • Lori Geurin

    Melissa, First of all, your blog looks awesome! Good for you for giving yourself such a great birthday present.
    And about the boycott. . . Like many others, I’ve received 2 of the emails from well-meaning Christian friends warning about the movies content. I’m glad to have a heads up about the film, so that I will be prepared to discuss it with our children (if we were to decide to see it). I think so many life lessons and discussions can be drawn from movies and music that aren’t necessarily “Christian”. Although I do try to monitor and guide our kids media exposure, especially at a young age, I want them to be able to think for themselves and think they would be missing out on a lot if I limited every movie they saw to only include Christian themed ones. Kids (and adults) can learn from situations portrayed in movies. With careful age-appropriate discussion I believe kids can learn so much about life and solidify their beliefs.
    Thanks for starting the discussion and have a wonderful Thanksgiving Melissa!

  • Levi

    i agree.
    you can learn as many things from ‘bad’ movies, books, etc. as you can from ‘good’ ones.
    besides, how can we expect those who don’t agree with ‘us’ [‘us’ in the proverbial sense] to read our stuff, if we refuse to read (or see) theirs?
    history can teach us a lesson on this, too. and i think it kind of fits in with your ‘slippery slope’ note: the library at Alexandria was burned because the people who burned it thought the only book worth reading was the Qu’ran. now all those historical books are gone forever.
    value, in my opinion, can be found in a thing itself… not just because we agree with its author or its content.

  • Angela

    I am so glad people are discussing this topic in a different way! (I love you guys!) I think that all this boycotting crap is not the right response – especially if we are wanting to relate in love to people outside the walls of the church. I mean, if I am solid in my faith, shouldn’t I not mind it being challenged? Wouldn’t I want to know what people are seeing and be able to talk about it with them?
    People who are connected personallly with Jesus shouldn’t let stuff like this – or church leaders- scare them or kept them from thinking for themselves – or appreciating culture and differences.
    Just to be clear, I do think seeing a movie like this should be everyone’s personal choice – I mean, it’s only a movie after all!

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for posting this. While I haven’t read the books (but beginning to feel like I should. . . ), I find the idea of a boycott ridiculous. I’m a big fan of engaging culture — and that means seeing value in things I don’t neccesarily agree with. As you pointed, that certainly doesn’t mean everyone needs to see the film — but the choice shouldn’t be made through a mandate.

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