Comments: Saturday opinions

Emails warning me of the dangers of the Golden Compass have been flooding in from my evangelical friends too.
I suspect they haven't actually read the books.
I tend to respond by sending them a copy of Rowan William's comments at the time when His Dark Materials was put on as a play at the National Theatre, and he said the books should be required reading on the RE syllabus and the meanings teased out by well trained RE teachers.
His on-stage conversations with Philip Pullman after the plays were fascinating.

Even if we don't agree with him, he's right about putting listening and engaging before simply boycotting what we think we might not like.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 8:57am GMT

I like the idea in the Pullman article of 'making a new god fit for our age'. Come back, golden calf - all is forgiven.

What happens in the next 'age', then? Hey, we melt down the calf and remould it in our own image anew.

Clearly such a god must have created the universe and all that therein is.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 12:49pm GMT

Laura Miller makes an interesting point on the politics of listening in her piece on "The Golden Compass":

"In America [...] religious groups gain political advantage and rally their followers by presenting themselves as embattled. Actually listening to the other side is tantamount to admitting you're not really being persecuted."

Posted by Mark Bennet at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 12:59pm GMT

This an interesting opinion piece on the HDM books. Having never heard of them until yesterday, I couldn't pass judgment on them, but remember the evo furor over the Harry Potter books a decade ago.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 1:03pm GMT

The only dangerous books are the ones which you drop on your toe. Gout merely enhances the experience, and elicits language you never realized existed in your vocabulary. Every book has some knowledge to impart, even the ones you drop on your toe.

Posted by Frank at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 1:12pm GMT

I might add, censorship contributes nothing.

Posted by Frank at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 1:15pm GMT

And I completely agree with Giles Fraser about my native country. When one turns on the television and can see somebody being maimed or killed within five minutes, but revile at two actors of the same sex kissing one another, those of us in the USA have become very sick indeed.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 1:20pm GMT

"This is what makes the war on terror such a well of moral evil. Americans are fed a constant diet of fear about the outside world. Many of them do not have passports. Local newspapers and TV channels think the story of the local dog caught in a tree is more newsworthy than thousands dead in a faraway land." Giles Fraser

The war on terror extends from the "gated thinking and selective believing" to a everyday, on-the-ground, American life (mostly in Blue States and rural town clusters of loud mouthed bigots)in dangerous DENIAL.

Minority people, sometimes illegal, mostly of color, are feared/ignored or simply "closeted" exploited and then rented/housed in overcrowded/overpriced dwellings of decaying double-standard living that are bearly survivable. You can see OUR invisible brothers and sisters shopping at 24 hour super markets very late at night (usually darting from aisle to aisle) or visit them on the "wrong side of the tracks" most anywhere.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of innocents die abroad because of a war started by a greedy and liar of a bigot, his cronnies. The not-so-quiet exploition by grab-and-run "big business" thugs dressed up as "business men" continues...all the while the on-the-ground exploiters WON'T allow a the new generation of "slaves" (they have cultivated) to become "official" citizens or even holders of temporary "visiting" work visas...official, honorable, would make them "regular" and more visible human beings and regular wage earners/tax payers (besides, the employing exploiters would then have to pay into the Social Security and Disability funds for each one)'s the same for LGBT Christians/other people being denied equal rights under the constitution. There is a price tag for "equal." It is more than simply a temporary "moral threat" that is being preached from pulpits of hate in the "good ol' U.S.A."'s IS "diseased" emotional thinking, acting-out and puritan religious believing.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo, San Juan, Puerto Rico at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 2:19pm GMT

Both Fraser and Miller have accurately assessed the current US milieu, more's the pity.

One other point about Miller's piece: Although no one ever seems to challenge him in the media, William Donahue's "Catholic League" appears to exist merely as a conduit for Donahue to get on TV and complain about how Roman Catholics are treated in the United States. There's no accurate accounting of how many members it has, or what it does beyond giving Donahue apparent backing for his little tirades.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 2:28pm GMT

I read the first book in the trilogy and found it both intriguing and at times irritating. I've not had time to pick up the other two. And yes, the religgious authorities, who appear to be Calvinists on Steroids, are nasty.

If this movie prompts American children to attempt these books, which command a much more difficult vocabulary and a more convoluted plot line than the Harry Potter books, well good.

The title for the trilogy, "His Drak Materials," comes from Milton's "Paradise Lost." Milton, also, was not fan of Calvinists.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 2:47pm GMT

Laura Miller's comments about the rightwing believer alarm concerning Pullman points me towards the whole conservative realignment controversy being pitched so hard among us now.

Surely the false witness against Pullman seems quite familiar, yet another iteration of the too clever by far and not so clever at all false witness of our mischievous conservative Anglican realignment.

First, skewing things and taking them out of multiple levels of context.

Quote: ... taken out of context -- not just out of the context of a particular interview or newspaper editorial, but out of the context of an entire [western and/or global?] culture, a culture of conversation, debate and consideration, rather than paranoia, alarmism and extremism. Unquote. [insertions, mine]

Second, liberal or progressive believers are allies or spiritual friends of the Anglican mixed middles and even of the various rights - broadly and generously speaking - not enemies. Either we can all share asking the same Great Questions of our shared human condition, though we may take different approaches and pass through varied way stations of life long pilgrimage and understanding, or all the Great Questions of our human condition really are nothing but simple conservative middle school test categories of black/white, right/wrong, and true/false.

This light reveals too much of the current realignment as sophomoric, to say the least, in search of equations which are terrible illusions, idols even - i.e., faith=certainty (radical freedom from having to ask bothersome questions?), God’s love=wrath (A Machiavellian view of deity if there ever was one?), Salvation=conformity and obedience (Whew that was a close one, I worried I was going to have to take a risk or two or three in my faith?).

Third, the deep underlying fear of the conservative realignment is the fear of human freedom - upon which mystical foundations human responsibility constantly unfolds and evolves.

The Miller essay calls this freedom, Pullman's democracy of reading. This is so much to the point of our differences in honesty versus deceptions in a whole storehouse of Anglican hermeneutics for reading the scriptures – past and present and future? - that it could stand as the Great Motto of Our Response to Conservative Anglican Realignment:

Quote: ... to read a great story -- at any age -- is not to passively absorb a doctrine, but to begin an imaginative collaboration. It is that freedom, a reader's freedom, that the boycott promoters find so frightening. Unquote.

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 2:58pm GMT

"I like the idea in the Pullman article of 'making a new god fit for our age'. Come back, golden calf - all is forgiven."

Did you actually read the books?

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 4:31pm GMT

Thank God for "Ship of Fools". All of it, not just "Kitschmas".

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 5:14pm GMT

Every year the American Library Association publishes a list of the top 100 books that have been challenged in libraries and pyublic schools. They do this during what they call Banned Book Week. Madeline L'Engle's books were often on the list, the Potter Books, and the Pullman trilogy ... as well as The Diary of Ann Frank, and, yes, Heather Has Two Mommies.

The book banners of course forget that the Bible itself has been banned for sale to lay folk, and that those who, early on, dared translate the Bible into the vernacular risked - and some underwent - burning at the stake - by the church.

Me, I like the ALA's motto for banned Book Week:

Read Banned Books!

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 5:44pm GMT

A new use for books, weapons of torture, particularly to gout sufferers! Chuckles.

drdanfee has already noted something that is coming up. "The deep underlying fear of the conservative realignment is the fear of human freedom - upon which mystical foundations human responsibility constantly unfolds and evolves."

Absolutely. They are trying to claim this is not biblical, but it is intrinsically what God is about.

Percy referred to some feedback from school children "And from their schools the children seemed to have learned that the great evils of the day are global warming, pollution and bullying. And the answers to these vices? Take more care of the world and be nice to other people."

I was actually delighted to see that the children understood these as the great evils of the day. Blessed are the children, they have an insightful wisdom beyond some "mature" adults. They have managed to succinctly identify the three extinction-creating possibilities that are within humanity's ability to influence. (We can't stop God deciding to throw a dirty big asteroid our way, but we can stop being irresponsible with resources or relying on aggression and war to keep the world running).

The millenium of peace includes covenants with both human and beasts. It involves co-operation and respect between all the peopleS of all the nationS, including the diverse religious communities. The millenium of peace will never come about by the global domination of one paradigm - that is contrary to human nature and God's understanding that diverse and complex ecosystems are more sustainable and satisfying.

God enjoys variety as much as what humans do, in that respect our desire to innovate and improve and to differentiate and diversity are traits that come from God and are desired by God.

Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Saturday, 1 December 2007 at 8:38pm GMT

Cynthia Gilliatt wrote: "... a list of the top 100 books that have been challenged in libraries and public schools. ... Madeline L'Engle's books were often on the list, the Potter Books, and the Pullman trilogy ... as well as The Diary of Anne Frank, and ..."

"The Diary of Anne Frank ..." Well, that was the end of Ben W's spin on Deutsche Christen and Dr Bonhoeffer, I am sure.

Or am I really ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 2 December 2007 at 5:46pm GMT

Leonard Ricardo: I think you meant "Red" states.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 5 December 2007 at 9:50pm GMT
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