Hollywood, God & Mammon
by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship
December 7, 2007 - Today, New Line Cinema releases The Golden Compass, a film based on the first book of British author Philip Pullman’s trilogy known as “His Dark Materials.” The trilogy’s overtly anti-religious (esp., anti-Christian) content has been much discussed. However, according to a recent article in The Atlantic, filmgoers will likely be spared the full force of the novel’s theological malevolence.
When asked about the film’s effort to soften the anti-religious tenor of the novel, Pullman responded, “I think if everything that is made explicit in the book or everything that is implied clearly in the book or everything that can be understood by a close reading of the book were present in the film, they’d have the biggest hit they’ve ever had in their lives. If they allowed the religious meaning of the book to be fully explicit, it would be a huge hit. Suddenly, they’d have letters of appreciation from people who felt this but never dared say it. They would be the heroes of liberal thought, of freedom of thought … And it would be the greatest pity if that didn’t happen . . . I didn’t put that very well. What I mean is that I want this film to succeed in every possible way. And what I don’t want to do, you see, is talk the other two films out of existence. So I’ll stop there.”
Pullman’s reaction to the editorial license taken by New Line Cinema is thick with irony. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Apparently, Jesus’ teaching is true even for Pullman, whose god of Unrestrained Expression must bow at the Altar of the Free Market. For one who seems to despise the ostensibly oppressive nature of Christianity, Pullman ironically seems more than willing to enslave his god of “liberal thought” to control of the Almighty Dollar.
Sadly, what Pullman cannot comprehend is that the same Jesus who aptly characterized the predicament of Pullman’s present enslavement to mammon is the incarnation of Truth itself – Truth that is the very basis for the freedom that Pullman so deeply cherishes (John 8:32).