Youth Culture Window

Is That Compass Pointing South?

Do you smell the ink of the freshly made picket signs?

A couple weeks ago Christians began forwarding emails to each other about a new film arriving this Christmas season. I’m not talking about Will Smith fighting for the existence of mankind in the sci-fi thriller, I Am Legend, or the re-emergence of a geriatric Rambo (yes, that’s right, John Rambo) in Rambo. The most intense heat coming out of Tinsel Town this winter may be fueled by the onscreen conflict between Nicole Kidman and a little girl named Dakota Richards in New Line Cinema’s children’s movie, The Golden Compass, to be released December 7th.

Several Christian groups are up in arms over the movie that’s based on Philip Pullman’s first work in the trilogy “His Dark Materials.” It tells the fanciful story of a young girl named Lyra (Richards), who is on a mission to discover why children are disappearing from her school. Her quest introduces her to the beautiful but powerful, Ms. Coulter (Kidman), who leads the Magisterium, those responsible for the kidnappings. Little does Lyra know that she stands at the center of the Magisterium’s plot to rule all mankind! Aided by an army of bears, a handful of really strange characters, and a golden compass, Lyra must rescue the children that have been stolen by this evil group.

So, why all the controversy over a seemingly simple, good-versus-evil plotline, where a cute little blonde girl and furry friends get to save the world from impending doom? Maybe it’s because the author of the book-turned-movie is an outspoken atheist. Perhaps it’s because the books have been labeled by many as anti-Christian. Possibly it’s because the movie employs the use of the word “Magisterium” in the negative context of trying to dominate the world (Magisterium is the teaching authority of the Catholic Church). Or maybe it’s because the movie is just another in the litany of those using a “spiritual” overtone to make a buck. Perhaps it’s all of the above.

Bill Donohue, CEO of the Catholic League, claims, “It’s a deceitful, stealth campaign.” His criticism is that the trilogy is not only anti-Catholic, but anti-faith as well. Mainline protestant groups have also been outspoken about “His Dark Materials,” although more so about the books than the upcoming movies. Some fear that kids who see the movie will want to read the books which, apparently are far more “anti-Christian” than the film. Interestingly, not all Christian voices are crying foul. Craig Detweiler, of Reel Spirituality, hails Pullman’s efforts of crafting “more imaginative expressions of faith and doubt.”


It’s evident that many have lots to say about this movie. The books have already attracted large numbers of young readers, and the movie couples incredible special effects to the already exciting story line. Make sure you don’t get lost navigating this compass.

So where do you go from here?

DO your own research. Note that the movie is not yet rated. It is in the post-production stage now. Christian-based websites like our movie review pagewww.pluggedinonline.comand will offer you a wide variety of thoughts to help you make a sound decision concerning this movie (as well as other films).

DO see the movie first if you plan on making any recommendations to your students. They trust you. Keep it that way by being able to truthfully say to them, “I saw the movie and here is what I think….”

DON’T forget that God can use anything, including this movie, to reveal His love to your students. Hollywood’s job is to make money…lots of it. Your job is to make disciples…lots of them.

DON’T get caught up in the hype to “ban” this film. Banning this film will only give it publicity (can you say, The Last Temptation of Christ?). When it comes to films, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

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David R. Smith

David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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