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I’m still receiving “helpful” articles about The Golden Compass from friends far and wide. It appears some of my friends are concerned with my apparent lax on Christian virtues and beliefs and their being attacked by this “atheist heathen”. ~sigh~ I have had more scripture quoted at me in the past two weeks than I have in the last year. I’m talking directly at me – not while I sit in church. It’s hard not to want to throw my hands in the air and scream “give me a freaking break!” I’m trying to hold my tongue and reign in my emotions and come at this topic with probing eyes and not just spout off a bunch of pious platitudes.

I have questions…lots of questions. Deep faith questions that require exploration and examination of what I’ve read, been taught, always believed, and do not fully understand. The only thing this has to do with Pullman is that the controversy surrounding his books and the movie have catapulted me into a place of defining more clearly who I am and what I am about as a follower of Christ. I have begun to dislike using the word Christian to describe myself because it so often shuts down conversations with those who have been hurt by Christians. Part of who I am is being a woman that God has invited in to love on people who have been spit on by the world – including being spit on by Christians, and wounded Christians themselves. It makes me more careful with my choice of words. But it seems my choice of words is also getting me into trouble.

So the conversation continues…not because I want to get everyone on my side and think as I do, but because I still want to get you thinking. So these are some of my questions that I’ve been thinking about. I encourage you to ask yourself the same things. Don’t just give a flippant answer of what you’ve always thought and believed. Ask yourself why you would answer the way you would. Put some thought into it, then feel free to share a few of them here. Ready?

  1. What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?
  2. Does it mean that everyone who is has to have the same core beliefs? If so, what are they?
  3. What does it mean when we can’t agree on what the core beliefs are?
  4. Can two believers be convicted by different things?
  5. Can two believers be convicted by different things when the focus is on the same subject?
  6. How should I handle conflict when I disagree with another believer about a conviction?
  7. Can we still be friends, or have I just made an enemy or lost my witness with them?
  8. Is it my responsibility to make someone choose Christ?
  9. If someone hasn’t made that choice yet, what is my responsibility then?
  10. What does it mean that it takes some longer than others to make that choice – if they ever do?
  11. How should I treat someone that hasn’t or doesn’t want to choose Christ?
  12. How do I show compassion towards others?
  13. Can I choose to look for God and his message in all things?
  14. What do I do if I find Him in something not meant to be about Him?
  15. What do I do if I can’t find Him in something not meant to be about Him?
  16. What do I do if I can’t find Him in something meant to be about Him?
  17. What is the difference between dialog and debate?
  18. Is it my job to change people’s minds if they don’t agree with me?
  19. What is the proper way to handle being told I’m not really a Christian?
  20. Who is my enemy?
  21. What is judgment and how often am I guilty of doing it to others?
  22. What is the phrase, “causing your brother to stumble” really about?
  23. What is the meaning behind the scripture about whether or not it’s o.k. to eat meat sacrificed to idols?
  24. What is fantasy/fiction and is it o.k.? (Fantasy as in characters and situations that don’t exist in our world)
  25. Is it o.k. to think about things through the lens of fantasy fiction that wouldn’t be o.k. in real life? (magic, ghosts, witches, etc)
  26. What does it mean to explore life, human nature, spirituality, and how they are intertwined?
  27. If I’m displeasing to another believer does that mean I’m displeasing to God?
  28. Is it o.k. to have questions about and struggle with faith?
  29. What kind of spirit did God give me and why?
  30. Are my sins covered by Jesus’ blood or not?
  31. Can they be uncovered once they’ve been covered ?
  32. What does it mean to work out my salvation with fear and trembling?
  33. What do I look like to other believers?
  34. What do I look like to unbelievers?
  35. Am I loving as Jesus loved?
  36. Do I have the right or responsibility to rebuke the pharisees around me?
  37. Is that a form of judgment?
  38. Why is it important to me to dialog with other believers?
  39. Am I surface or am I deep?
  40. What am I doing to bring the kingdom of God to those around me?

~deep breath~

That’s a lot, I know. I had a good cry on Saturday while mulling these things over and talking to Benny. Both always make me feel better. Talk about releasing emotion! O.K. play along…it’s your turn.

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If you would like to read the first part of this discussion, click here. As I said I would, I recently finished reading the first book in the series His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman. The movie version of The Golden Compass will be released in U.S. theaters this coming Friday. I’m going to see it sometime in the next few weeks. I’ve already begun reading book 2, The Subtle Knife. My plan is to give a short review (yes, I’m capable of that) as I finish each one.

I was going to give a synopsis of the book, but you can read that for yourself at a number of places on the web. Google is an amazing thing. I think what you really want to know, if you’re a friend or were part of the previous discussion here, is whether or not I give the book a thumbs up or down and why. So here’s my answer with an explanation based on my reading of the first book in the trilogy.

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I give the first book a thumbs up…for teens or older. In my opinion, this book is not for children. Where I don’t believe this book is the evil thing many Christians are making it out to be, I do think there are too many dark elements to the story that could be damaging to little minds not ready to be challenged in that way. It is clearly fantasy fiction and I don’t think it is teaching young kids to be atheists. My children are simply too young to read it. The language alone would be difficult for kids to comprehend. What child do you know that uses words like “sardonic” or would know what “Tokay” is? Yes, mine are way too young. That is my call as their parent. When they are older and ready to have real and serious discussions about the subjects raised in this book, maybe we’ll read it together and discuss it. I’m all for that. Until then I will have to endure their disappointment and comments about how cool the movie trailer looks and how badly they want to see it. We’ve already done that for Harry Potter, so they should be used to it by now. Age appropriateness is important to me, as well as content. It’s more important than any marketing campaign trying to win people over to one side or another. One Amazon.com reviewer spoke it eloquently when they said, “Nothing will shape a child’s philosophy more strongly than their upbringing.”

So here are my thoughts on what I liked:

The concept of the daemon. Though I don’t like the word he chose, it’s probably fitting in the “companion” sense. I find it intriguing that in this story, every human has an animal version of themselves as a constant companion. The daemon represents characteristics of the person it is attached to. It can change shapes until the person (child) reaches puberty then takes on a single form. You can tell a lot about a person based solely on their daemon. For example, Asriel’s daemon is a snow leopard -attractive, powerful, confident, strong, and and a little dangerous -just like Asriel himself. It reminds me of growing up and trying to figure out who I was and what parts of me I wanted to develop and what parts I wanted to forget about, or change. Don’t I still do that? When I was young I was less sure of myself and more willing to reinvent myself than I am now as an adult and a little set in my ways. For all of you wondering, the daemons in the book are not the same as demons in the Bible.

The alethiometer. How cool would it be to have a device that tells you the truth about the past and the future, about people and their intentions, and about yourself? The mystery surrounding why Lyra has the alethiometer and what course it will bring about in her life is half of why I liked this book. There are layers upon layers of meanings and the fact that Lyra learns to understand it when most of the adults in her world won’t even try without the owner’s manual, is intriguing to me. Again, it reminds me how as a child I was willing to believe, try, and work at something with a lot more determination than I have now. That seems backwards, but it’s true.  The “golden compass” works by “dust” which is the conciousness, and culminated experiences of a person, which could explain why there is more on adults than on children.  It’s quite the mystery.  I think the original sin mentioned so often by critics in regards to this dust could be compared to the point at which Adam and Eve realized they were naked and clothed themselves.  Not the actual sin of disobeying God as mentioned in the Bible’s creation story.

Though many of the adults in this story were out to get Lyra for their own personal gain, there were equally as many out to help her on her journey. My first favorite ones, the Gyptians, displayed so well the concept of family. I also liked the intertwining of different clans and species all centered on rescuing missing children and aiding Lyra the best they could with her own mission. I thought there were good lessons on teaching kids discernment in learning who you can and can’t trust. Not everyone who says they’re your friend is, and not everyone you fear is your enemy.

Second chances. I loved that Lyra reminds Iorek who he is deep down and who he was meant to be. She provides him with a way out of his current circumstances and a return to his true life, and in return gains a loyal friend which comes in VERY handy later on in the story.

The message of believing in something bigger than yourself and playing your part, completing your role in it all through difficulties, betrayals, and other setbacks and pains.

The distrust of a corrupt organization who was power-hungry and ignorant of some of the happenings under their own direction and control. They sought to manipulate and destroy all who believed differently than they did. I don’t believe it was representative of Christianity as we know it today, but of a corrupt church from ages past. Regardless of the author’s personal beliefs, I didn’t find that it was a church-bashing fest and a railing against religion in general.

What I disliked:

Some of the subject matter. I have a hard time with a story line about children being abducted for horrible, painful experiments. Many of those who were targeted for abduction were poor and thought to be “not as missed” from society. Who would miss a street kid, right? Despite their own involvement in these experiments, Lyra’s “parents” are horrified when they realize she has somehow become part of the target audience. There’s a double standard that it is o.k. for certain children, but certainly not their own.

Parents who are deceitful and would use their children for their own gain. Parents who are abusive and neglectful and don’t know how to parent at all. The flip side being that having parents like this isn’t the end of the world. Though it leads to great confusion and heartache, there are those who will love you and pull you through, teaching you the lessons your parents couldn’t or wouldn’t teach you themselves.

Lyra’s most useful skill is lying. With her parents being who they are, it’s no wonder she’s so good at it. It gets her out of many scrapes, and even saves her life. I just didn’t like it being offered as a useful trait and a good and safe option.

The misuse of power by the “church”, which I’ve already stated is not representative of Christianity in general as we know it today, although there may be churches out there like that. I don’t know. I think one of the best descriptions of the church in the book was given by my friend Deb when she said, “…the church in the books has almost nothing to distinguish it from the illustrious history of the Roman Catholic Church. Note that I didn’t say Christianity. My mental image of The Church of the books was oh.. the Catholic Church (governing body, not the ordinary average person) during the life of Galileo…it does bring into conversation religious issues. For those of you who are Christian, this series *might* be a useful one with older children, to read and talk about religion. Things like- what is the simple message of Christ? Do the religious leaders in the books exemplify that? In the real world, can you think of people or groups of people who are examples of Christ’s message, and ones who are like the Church in Pullman’s books?” To read the rest of her comment, please refer to the previous post.

Overall, I thought this was a good fantasy story filled with people and creatures working together on opposing sides: good vs. evil. It’s an age old theme and this story kept tipping the scale back and forth as to who was winning the battle. Which brings me back to the movie. I’m going to go see it even though I’ll probably be disappointed with it since I’ve read the book. The movie has a PG-13 rating, and though I sometimes doubt our current rating system, in this case I agree with it.

I will post my thoughts on the movie and the other two books after I’ve experienced them. In the meantime, let’s hear your thoughts…

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I want to thank my many friends who have warned me about this movie through emails and their own blogs. I know they wanted me to know the concerns surrounding this movie because they know and love our family and want what is best for us. I am grateful to have friends who care.

I have been wrestling with what to say regarding this topic. I started receiving these warnings last week and they’re still coming. One friend said she sent it to me because she knew I’d check it out. I’ve spent about 6 hours researching the movie, the books it was adapted from, and the author, Philip Pullman. I read websites, blogs, newspaper and in-person interviews, and even watched a few videos of Mr. Pullman answering some tough questions. The reason for my obsession? I don’t like bandwagons. They are overcrowded and smell bad due to a few of their facts being wrong or exaggerated. Since I’m more of the research-and-think-things-through-before-forming-my-own-opinion kind of girl, I decided to do just that. I’m pretty sure I’ve been down every rabbit hole available with the exception of actually reading the books myself. After taking in all of the information I could find, I have some observations I’d like to offer. But before I begin, I want to make a VERY clear statement that I am not at this time endorsing the author, his books, the movie coming out next month, or atheism in any manner. I am a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ and will never be ashamed to say so.

When Benny and I saw the trailer for The Golden Compass in the theater, we decided it would be our family Christmas movie this year. The effects are spectacular, having children has warmed us to talking animals, and we love a good mystery/suspense/fantasy story. It seemed like a Narnia-ish kind of movie, which we loved. Benny bought the book so I could read it before the movie came out, but it has been collecting dust on my bookshelf. Fast forward to last week when the warnings began to arrive by email. I was very surprised. I talked with Benny and we decided not to see the movie. I threw the book in the trash bin of my office because I wouldn’t want to support anything anti-Christian. Throwing a book away about killed me. Books are my friends. 😉

I didn’t have peace about it so as the emails kept coming, I kept reading. I noticed that all of the warnings were pointing back to the article on snopes.com. So I read the article. I followed all of the links and resources and found that in several places the author was mis-quoted or someone’s opinion about the books were stated as fact. I read a lot of people’s comments that began with “I heard”. Not very many of the people commenting and interviewing had actually read the books. I started to get the same feeling I got a few years ago when this very thing happened with the Harry Potter books. I actually read the words of someone that said J.K. Rowling was a witch and promoted witchcraft because she wears pointy shoes! So it was time to dig deeper. What I found was disturbing. Lots of Christians persecuting this man and his works because he’s an atheist. Atheists yelling about New Line Cinemas catering to the Christians by removing the religious elements from the film – the “church” in the story is corrupt and they want that portrayed. People saying Mr. Pullman hates God. And everyone pointing back to snopes.com which was largely a collection of emailed opinions from readers or people who “had heard” something and wanted to pass it on.

Snopes is A reference, not THE reference. Even Barbara Mikkelson, half of the snopes team says, “The moral of the story is that you should never take anyone’s word for anything, including ours. That is why we list our references at the bottom of our pages, so that you can independently verify our work. We are the Urban Legends Reference Pages — we provide references so that people can do their own research. We do not claim to be the ultimate arbiters of fact.”

The snopes claim was:The 2007 film The Golden Compass is based on a series of books with anti-religious themes. After all that research I have to agree with them. But I also have to agree with the author regarding a few of his “anti-religious beliefs”. One of the most informative interviews I read was this one in which Mr. Pullman does in fact confirm some of why I won’t jump on HIS bandwagon. But I think he is right in railing against a corrupt church. I do too. Does that make me anti-religious? He says he doesn’t hate God – as has been reported by many. He hates the horrible things believers/the church/organized religion has done in the name of God. It has happened throughout history and we see that happening today not just with “other people”, but in some of our own churches.

I was in turmoil over this post because I have been frustrated a long time with how to address the ignorance and prejudice I see in a lot of religious circles. I’m annoyed by the hateful things Christians have been saying and the knee-jerk, angry, and fear-filled reactions from the people who haven’t verified their facts or read the books. By the time the FWD button has been hit, there is an emotional build up. That passion then fuels ignorance in warnings, insults, and discussions.

In several of the interviews I read, Mr. Pullman seemed to take issue with believers not walking our walk. We just talk like we do. Ouch. Mr. Pullman said it’s too bad we as believers don’t live like the Gospels say we should. I can see where he gets that. We are usually uncomfortable with major differences of opinion over anything spiritual. Those we disagree with are sometimes shunned or persecuted themselves. We forget the love we’re supposed to be treating each other with. We don’t allow for much exploration and examination of faith. We tend to expect people to just accept and when someone has deep, serious questions that beg for answers, we get frustrated that they don’t just “get it” and join our cause. Could this be where he is coming from?

Mr. Pullman has a very humanistic take on life. I believe he’s more agnostic than atheistic. Either way, he doesn’t share my values as a believer. I understand that. Does he still have something to offer through his writing? Probably. I have read a few articles by Christians who like his books and saw a spiritual message in them…not the one he may have intended, but good lessons none the less. Pullman has been called the male J.K. Rowling. As far as my research has led me, Rowling wasn’t trying to write the Potter books with Christian themes, but they are there anyway. I’ve read them. Is Pullman dangerous? Are his books dangerous? I don’t think he’s any more dangerous than he was in 1995 when his books were first published. 12 years ago. That’s a long time. Where were the warnings then?

It’s sad that it sometimes takes something like this to hold a mirror up to ourselves to see where our faith is. Do we support the film or don’t we?…and why? We need to use that mirror when we are considering ANY entertainment – movies, books, and T.V. shows. So here are my questions: Why is our faith challenged by atheism more than inappropriate sex, violence, and some of the other things we accept as normal in our T.V. shows and movies? Why haven’t I received warnings about shows that promote a lifestyle God wouldn’t approve of? I can give some examples of the shows I like that fit that description. I’m guilty too. One of the shows I’ve loved the past two years features a bunch of surgeons who sleep with each other every chance they get. yikes. That’s not the main focus of the show, but it’s a pretty big one.

I know sometimes it’s hard to know what to speak up about and what to remain silent on. I like to think believers have good intentions when they do jump on these bandwagons. I just wish it wasn’t so selective. Since I don’t know a single person who has read these books, I’m going to read the books myself over the next few weeks and blog about what I find. But right now, here’s what I want us to think about:

  1. We usually find what we’re looking for in books and movies. Good or bad.
  2. Sometimes we get what we don’t bargain for. Good and bad.
  3. There are spiritual lessons to be learned all around us – in both the good and bad. We shouldn’t go looking for the bad, but we shouldn’t assume everything is bad either.
  4. We need to know the facts then make an informed decision.
  5. We need to love and not judge those who come to different conclusions than we do. That is the way to walk our walk. There is only one judge and our role is that of the sinner. Sinners don’t get to judge other sinners…and we all are.
  6. We need to pray for Mr. Pullman. Like my friend told me yesterday, he could very well be a Prodigal son.
  7. What is it in us that wants to warn others? Is it true concern, or is it slacktivism?

As for the questioning of the faith of children, or the molding and shaping of that faith, (a concern that has been raised in this discussion), that’s for tomorrow’s post.

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Congratulations Michelle!

She is the lucky winner of a signed copy of The Restitution!  Thanks to all who played.  I’ll be doing more give aways in the next few weeks on my blogs, so check back often for more free stuff!

It’s Family Movie Night at the Nowell’s, so Zoe and I are off to Redbox to pick up our flick.  We’re going to use our coupons for free pizza, and a new friend from Friday school told us to try a new popcorn topping : Equal parts coconut oil and agave, with a sprinkle of sea salt.  Sounds yummy!

Friday Family Movie Night is a big deal at our house.  We were invited to a family game night at a friend’s church tonight and the kids voted to stay home and carry on with our tradition instead. 😉  Here’s how it works.  Each week we take turns picking a movie and choosing what’s for supper.  After a light supper we all get in our pajamas, make popcorn, get our fuzzy blankets ready, gather in the livingroom and stake out our territory and settle in for the night with the chosen movie.  After the movie we end up cuddling on the couches and/or wrestling around.  Bedtime is a little later on Fridays, but usually Benny and I watch another movie after the kids go to bed.  It’s a great way to wind down from the activities of the week.

Tonight’s movie is Barbie as the Island Princess.  Guess whose turn it was to pick? 🙂

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August Rush

I LOVE going to the movies. Finding just the right seat. Sitting in the dimly lit theater playing the film trivia on the screen. Sipping a cold drink and munching on a good snack. Our theater lets you bring in food from restaurants in their complex. You keep the popcorn -Italian Nachos from Johnny Carino’s is MY favorite movie snack. One of my favorite things about going to the movies is watching the previews. I love knowing what’s coming and looking forward to new flicks with great anticipation.

The people who make movie trailers are geniuses. They suck you right into their web of images, music and quippy lines and you just pray they saved some of the good stuff for the actual film. It’s happened before. I’ve absolutely loved the preview for a movie and then when I paid good money for a ticket (or a rental fee), I’m disappointed and feel let down by the previews. Just the opposite has happened as well. I’ve watched a preview and thought, “rental”, and then when I finally got around to watching it, I loved it and wished I had seen it on the big screen, or at least a lot sooner than I did.

There is a movie coming out on November 21st that I CAN NOT wait to see. It was slated to release in October, so I’m a little disappointed I have to wait longer. I saw the preview for it when I went to see “Becoming Jane” – which I loved. Saw it twice. Yeah Jane Austen! Ahem…anyway. Here is the preview for you and a link to the official website which is incomplete but still draws you in. I might save my fun money and make a big chick flick date out of this one. If you’re in the Denver area, let me know if you’d care to join me! Leave a comment and let me know what you think of the preview for August Rush…or about previews in general. Ciao!

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The Incredibles!

As a woman and mother, I wear many hats. Today I am a movie critic! Our family went to see The Incredibles yesterday afternoon. What a movie! Action & adventure family style. Max was so excited to finally see it. He’s been salivating over the commercials since the first preview came out. Thursday afternoon is a great time for families with small children to go to the movies. We were 5 of the 9 people there.Our theater is even equippd with a cry room, which turned out to be a good thing for Pete. Without giving away too much of the movie, I’d like to share a few of my observations. It’s about a family of superheroes that live a suburban life and deal with some of the same issues we deal with in real life…Dad hates his job, Mom’s at home with the baby, son gets into trouble at school, daughter feels awkward with other kids and “hides” from them when she can. They aren’t allowed to use their powers because they live in a lawsuit happy world, and all of the “supers” in the world were forced into a relocation program. They have to live undetected in society. Maybe I’ve just been in youth ministry so long that I can’t help pulling out spiritual applications from everything I watch and see. Are you with me so far?

This movie was full of scenarios and topics to discuss with my son, some good and a few bad. I was thrilled that this movie portrayed family in a positive light. Yes, they had their faults (the husband lies to his wife, the son is mean to his sister, family communication needs work, etc.) but when it came down to it, the family members were fiercely loyal to one another and came together to work as a team. The characters did learn their lessons about honesty, loyalty, consequences, and identity, some of them the hard way, and I loved that! Aren’t we just like that? I especially liked Violet, the daughter. When she doesn’t have to hide who she is anymore, she really blossoms and her confidence level skyrockets. Even the baby at the end of the movie bands together with his family to help defeat the bad guy. I do wish they had chosen a better example of transformation for him though. Several times during the movie Max and I turned to each other to say, “Whoa! That was cool!” Pete and Zoe slept through most of it, which was fine by me. They’ll have a chance to see it again – when we buy it on dvd. For those of you who really know me, you’ll know I’m a list lover. Here’s my list of what I loved about our family date yesterday, and the movie itself:

  • I got to spend time with my family while doing something that all of us love -going to the movies…yes, it was passed down through our genes!
  • I was entertained and challenged as I picked apart the film’s “lessons”.
  • Max and I shared a Pepsi with two straws.
  • The wife did her best to love and encourage her husband and be a good parent. It wasn’t just about her own agenda. ( A good lesson for me!)
  • She rescued her children when they were in danger, but also told them the truth about the dangers of the world – some people will not stop just because they are children – they would hurt them anyway.
  • Mr. Incredible had a good friend to share his frustrations with – a friend who really knew him – secret identity and all.
  • I already mentioned Violet. It was interesting watching her hide who she is, only to gain confidence and strength when she was finally able to be & show her true self. (I have watched this play out in countless teenager’s lives in the past 10 years.)
  • The bad guy didn’t start out bad…he started out wanting to do good, but when his jealousy overtook him, he became someone none of us wants to be, a vengeful person.
  • My favorite lessons? In the end, this family learned that there are ways to live in society and blend in a bit without compromising who you were made to be. They also learned that sometimes you have to work together with other people to fight the evils of the world.
  • There are five family members – Dad, Mom, daughter, son, and baby…sounds like my family, which is pretty incredible too!
  • For the rest of the day, Max ran everywhere we went, and he and Zoe called Pete “Jack Jack”. HaHaHa

What a great movie…did I already say that?

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