Spinning Yarns That Deceive

Harry Potter books are not as dangerous as ones that directly undermine Christianity.


07/22/2005 12:34:34 PM

It is niave to think that what we read,watch or play does not have an effect. Bottom line..."garbage in/garbage out" whether it be for ourselves or for our kids.


06/10/2004 05:57:33 PM

yes ...i thought it was interesting fantasy stuff .....some comments made me think ..others made me laugh .....im a christian theist who accepts modern science, so i get these silly creationist/fundie gibes all the time ....i enjoyed the story ...as a story


05/30/2002 11:54:05 PM

... by the way, some of my criticism of the article may be reduced dependant on where the article first appeared ... if it originally appeared in a family-oriented Christian magazine then I'm a little less critical of its of its portrayal of the fantasies as "counterfeits" since that's a fairly appropriate critique from within a Christian worldview ... on the other hand Christians have got to get it into their their heads that supporting religious plurality in society does not undermine their faith in the "one true God" .... a legitimate doctrine since at bottom we all believe that our worldview is the true one .. even if the faith we believe in is that all religions are basically the same


05/30/2002 11:22:22 PM

to "hopewithin" : ... thank you in particular for your post ... for proving that teenagers can be smarter than adults ... your point was intelligently considered and stated


05/30/2002 11:16:30 PM

(5) Arthur Pullman has just as much right to promote his Romantic worldview in fiction as C.S. Lewis did his Christian one. If Pullman has stated that he wishes to "undermine the basis of Christian belief" (Colson doesn't state his sources so I'm not even convinced that's accurate) that is no different than the average Christian who, through evangelism, wishes to undermine the basis for every other faith. Mr Colson, wake up! This isn't medieval Christendom! We live in a world where a diversity of faiths are in preponderance. If you wish to continue to enjoy the feedom to practice and express your religion then you had best learn to grant that same freedom to worldviews contrary to your own ... and to the works of literature that they support.


05/30/2002 11:15:29 PM

(4)This worldview is, indeed, contrary to the spirit and vision of the Christian one at heart(not in all ways, mind you - there are overlapping themes)- Christianity has no place for human hubris and believes in a God worthy of service - so insofar as Mr. Colson wishes to warn Christian parents, responsible for their children's upbringing, that herein is an alien worldview, fascinatingly portrayed, I can applaud his efforts. He has every right and responsibility to support the members of his faith. When he starts decribing these books as examples of fantasies that work ill, however, or as "counterfeits" then I take great exception to the presumption behind these statements, i.e., that books promoting a worldview other than the Christian one are somehow evil at worst or inferior at best. It portrays an underlying arrogance that threatens religious pluralism and the peaceful social co-existence of the diversity of faiths present within our society. (cont)


05/30/2002 11:12:20 PM

(3) The institution portrayed in the book does not posess the complexity of an actual human organization but, rather, presents a cartoon villian for "our heroes" to struggle against and win out over in the end (I suppose its possible that Pullman actually views the Church just as he portrayed it in the book but if so it's an area of peculiar intolerance and narrowness of thought in a mind otherwise open to great subtlty of shading). What I love about the books is that they render Blake's flamboyantly individualistic vision with such perfection and obvious love for the subject matter. I can feel the passion of that whole era come alive here - of Beethoven, for example, blind, impoverished, weakened, laying on his deathbed shaking his fist at God in defiance to the end.(cont)


05/30/2002 11:09:28 PM

(2) It's a creation of the author's intended to serve as the foil, the antagonist, in a tale that updates, elucidates, and expands upon the Romantic worldview of William Blake (the plotline itself is an imaginative retelling - and, yes Mr. Colson, even twisting - of John Milton's "Paradise Lost"). In this worldview "Satan" becomes a kind of Hero, a Prometheus challenging the order of the gods, a champion of the Individual against repressive social forces - forces symbolized, in this story, by a hateful, powermongering Church and the vain, mewling God they serve. Pullman is an obvious Romantic - a liberationist (Romanticism originated, remember, out of rebellion aginst the order of Classicism and in response to the French Revolution) - who sees the power of the imagination and the willingness to take great risks as the source of human freedom. I doubt that in real life he cares one way or another about Christianity except insofar as some of its adherents threaten the freedom of choice he holds so dear. (cont.)


05/30/2002 11:06:28 PM

I have read the "His Dark Materials" trilogy (as well as other of works of Arthur Pullman - a favorite writer of mine)and they're brilliant. As a former devout Christian of twenty-five years (who may return some day) currently exploring Paganism, I have some pretty strong opinions on Colson's article. He's absolutely right about the anti-Christian views expressed in the books. The trilogy is perfectly open and unapologetic in its criticism of the Church, its faith and its methods ... or at least, of the institution called "the Church" in his books. One needs to separate literary truth, the world behind the story, from actual truth, the world as it truly is. This is not the Church as it exists in the actual world, an ancient and complex creature more beautiful than its detractors will see and more flawed than its press releases will allow for. (continued)


12/16/2001 10:24:32 AM

No, I have not read them, but as to the Narnia series, I remember that when I was about 12 I decided that I should not read them because I thought I might become more attached to Aslan than to the true God... I didn't find out that's what they were about until several years later! So kids can definitely be influenced by the books they read, and parents should be careful.


11/29/2001 11:52:49 PM

No, but I'm curious as to why this article was included in the discussion on Harry Potter. Reading the teaser led me to believe Colson objected to Potter although he takes no position on the Potter books at all. If I hadn't read the piece I would have come away thinking he had, adding to the impression that all right-wingers hate Potter. We don't.


05/16/2001 05:40:53 PM

I've read the first two books in the series, and gave up because I also was annoyed at the straw man attacks. It's not that he's trying to voice objections to Christianity and the legacy of C.S. Lewis that annoys me. What's annoying is that it's done so poorly. The first book is beautiful and filled with moral and ontological ambiguity. The second book drops most of what makes the main character interesting and just sets up the oft heard argument: "The Christian God is bad because Christians do bad things." Perhaps some version of this argument would have a chance of flying if based on historical events (though I really think it is based on overly simplified theology), but in a fantasy setting, where the author can set up every pseudo-Christian to be a creep, it's just a cheap shot. The books are mostly highly entertaining, but occasionally jarring, propoganda.


03/14/2001 11:46:15 AM

I have almost finished the triology. I don't agree with Mr. Coleson that this trilogy is "dangerous" -- but I can understand Mr. Coleson's desire to protect folks from uncomfortable ideas. My opinion of the Trilogy is that it explores the nature of consciousness, ideas about the nature of the spiritual universe, and it challenges conventional piety. There is nothing wrong with exploration and asking questions. There is much that is wrong with protecting folks from ideas that challenge. Sahaquiel is right to point out the dark underside of "christianity." Seems to me that's what Pullman is doing with these books. I recommend them. I recommend they be used in teen (and adult) discussion groups -- with a Greek dictionary available, along with a couple of folks who are familiar with myth -- especially Orpheus and Eurydice, and the Revelation. These stories are deep and wide.


03/12/2001 04:14:01 PM

Colson wrote: The religion he describes is petty and malicious, not the faith that inspired almost every significant humane and charitable endeavor in Western culture. Such as: The Spanish Inquistion, the Crusades, Witch-burning? We may not be pulling down the statues of other faiths at this time. But when the Christian became the driving force in the Roman Empire, the first thing they did was to suppress all other forms of religion. And don't count democracy as one of Christianity's gifts. The idea of the people ruling themselves was threatening to the Mother Church in Rome (To a certain extent, it still is.) As a Christian I take solace in the vision of God as the kind, loving father of the New Testament. But some Christians embrace the cruel, mercurial master of the Old Testament. It is this form of Christian faith that I find frightening and offensive. As a good Christian I believe it is our duty to admit to the mistakes our church(es) have done in the pass and prevent their reoccurance.


03/12/2001 02:25:48 PM

My-Ring, I see AF Coyote beat me to it. Xtianity is not the oldest religion on earth. The whole, "my religion's older, therefore better, more valid, yadda, yadda, yadda" is a tired old argument. Get a clue, why don'cha? Blessed be. K


03/12/2001 11:50:36 AM

My-Ring, Hindu has persevered over twice as long as Christianity. Therefore, by your logic, it's over twice as true. So why are you not Hindu? - Coyote [AF_Coyote@mindspring.com]


03/12/2001 11:45:11 AM

I have read this trilogy, and I remain a firm Christian. The 'god' in these books is not THE god I believe in. The 'church' in these books is not THE church I believe in. If these books cause you to give up your faith, than it was never there at all. These books are FICTION. Phillip Pullman does not claim that his books are leginimate documentations of current Christianity. They're science-fiction, fantasy, not real. I am a teenager, and all of my my friends who have read the books don't base their religious beliefs on them. Kids aren't that stupid. If someone is going to become a Christian, or give up on Christianity, it's not because these books portray priests as greedy and bellicose, or tells the story of the defeat of God, but because of their own personal growth. Sure, these books may in fact invoke the curiosity and questioning within many youth, but at most I think they would simply encourage them to do a little research of their own, and become a little more informed.


03/12/2001 10:44:10 AM

An off topic comment to Lore - it seems you have much more of a problem with what happened to Job then did Job himself.


03/12/2001 04:02:55 AM

I have not read the Dark Materials Trilogy. But the Bible itself shows that Yahweh is not the nice guy my well-intentioned Christian friends make him out to be. Take Job, for instance. Nice, religious guy. Minding his own business. Suffers through countless tragedies cheerfully...tragedies brought on, mind you, because Yahweh wanted to prove a point to Satan. Point two: If one is not secure enough in their own belief to question their belief, they will never be secure in their belief. I'm not trying to imply that soul-searching is easy...I did it, and it broke my heart. But in the end I came out with something I could believe in.


03/11/2001 05:50:03 PM

I haven't read either the "Dark Materials" or any Harry Potter books. I pity folks who see themselves as 'searching.' I found mine, why haven't they? Maybe they should quit reading the noxious twisted works of humans, and start reading the Word of God. The way of life I embrace has gone back a lot farther than witchcraft. It was there before me, and it will still be there long after I'm gone. Is witchcraft and its little brother, the New Age movement, going to be so lasting? Of course not. Why not get into what really works, and has for thousands of years? Live according to God's way.


03/11/2001 03:13:31 PM

dbible, I don't see Colson calling this anti Christian . He says that the AUTHOR himself sqays that he is trying to undermine Christianity . Using 'Dark materials" .....Hmmmmm. JOHN 3:18


03/11/2001 10:10:32 AM

chaotica, your post is nice and sincere and all, but it echoes a discussion I had with some old friends about the movie Showgirls. They were pointing out all of the moral the struggles the girl went through, etc, etc. Basically, they listed off everything you did. Am I now supposed to think Showgirls has something to teach me?


03/10/2001 10:49:44 PM

Firinne, I encourage you to read the books. They're not the anti-religious rhetoric Colson makes them out to be. They're a delightful set of stories about a brave young girl (and we need all the strong female protagonists we can get, from Judy Blume's girls to Philip Pullman's Lyra), compassion, discerning right from wrong in the face of pressure, deciding what one believes to be true after considering the options offered, and standing true to one's beliefs. And aren't these things what Christian parents strive to teach their children?


03/10/2001 09:39:20 PM

I've not read the trilogy,but to the poster who was troubled at the suggestion C.S. Lewis smuggled Christian theology into his work, may i say that's precisely what he did, and i'll be forever grateful to the man.He was instrumental, through his space trilogy,in opening my eyes to the "rightness" and wholeness of Christianity, after having rejected it for several years.Writers of Pullman's bent have every bit as much influence in the opposite direction.Spiritual warfare finds a niche in literature--it's always been so. To say that a "book is just a book" bespeaks either an innocence or an ignorance that fails to see the power of the word.


03/09/2001 06:15:57 PM

I haven't read "Dark Materials". I do keep reading that Colsen and other like him consider quite a few products of human creativity to be attacks on Christianity. Perhaps, one day Colson's ilk will declare an armistist against the human brain a realize that sometimes a book is just a book. The sooner Christian conservatives stop their secular humanist and other anti-Christian conspiracy talk the better is will be for all religion in the US.


03/09/2001 06:14:57 PM

Philip Pullman should have spend less time worrying about CS Lewis and more time writing. "The Golden Compass", the first book in the trilogy is fabulous. But the books go downhill from there. "The Amber Spyglass" is long, dull, and unfocused, and very difficult to connect with. Pullman spend too much time trying to make a point and not enough time telling his story. I'm not sure what Chuck Colson is worried about.


03/09/2001 05:25:39 PM

As I said below, I didn't object to my son reading the trilogy, and agree that its heterodoxy shouldn't put it on anybody's index of forbidden books. But I think you guys are way too rough on Colson, who is certainly right that literature matters, and plays a part in forming a child's values. There's nothing wrong with pointing out that a children's book is rather explicitly pushing a Gnostic theology, specifically naming Yahweh as a cruel, failed pseudo-creator. Colson isn't here demanding censorship or pretending to be a literary critic. And surely he has every right, at a religious site, to point out the theological underpinnings of a popular children's series--especially since Pullman himself acknowledges his trilogy as a sort of "anti-Narnia."


03/09/2001 05:12:38 PM

I read the first of the Dark Materials trilogy when I was 10...I finished the last book after ordering it the day it was up for sale on Amazon.com. If ANYTHING these books caused me to view God in a BETTER light! All of the happenings of the Church within the story reminded me of the persecution and fear of the Middle Ages, and reminded me what Christianity is NOT about. Even at the very end, when God...well,I won't ruin the end for everyone... but when God enters the story line, it made me want to reach out to God, and instead of whining to him about my every want and need, ask what I could do for HIM! These books not only didn't make me view Christianity in a bad light, they probably kept I haven't turn pagan as all of my friends have in past years! These books don't make me loathe Christianity, they make me see it for what it SHOULD be!


03/09/2001 04:59:13 PM

yes, Chuck Colson is paralyzed with fear. I am also terrified that my future children will think for themselves. I know I don't. I also take offense at every suggestion I don't have the full truth.*** ***NOTE FOR THE HUMOUR-IMPAIRED: THIS IS SARCASM


03/09/2001 03:45:10 PM

Clearly Colson stands paralized with fear at the idea that a human being might use their God-given right to inquire, and question, and quest for truth. For him, faith is an ironclad monolith, that doesn't move. As Blake said, the unchangeable mind is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind. He should leave literary criticism to those with imaginations.No I haven't read siad trilogy, but, after this review, I plan to!


03/09/2001 03:30:18 PM

DonJT, Are you suggesting that C.S. Lewis was a theological liberal? That's patently absurd! He had far more in common with John Stott than with Shelby Spong.


03/09/2001 02:49:34 PM

Continuing from below... It also shows that Colson should not be doing the work of a literary critic.


03/09/2001 02:47:45 PM

I've not read Dark Materials, and I suspect, based on the way he wrote this article, that Colson hasn't either. I doubt any book is as dangerious as influential people like Colson forming opinions about books they haven't read. This is a change of subject, but I also am botherd by the suggestion that Lewis and Tolkin (I've read them both) "smuggled" Christian Theology into their work. They wrote literary stories which ended up reflecting the longings of their souls. That's what good literature is all about. To suggest otherwise, I think, is to betray a fundamental misunderstanding about how literature works, and a blindness to the beauty of what Lewis and Tolkin did.


03/09/2001 02:21:33 PM

Just what kind of tiny, terrified version of God is Colson worshipping? Anything that encourages people to ask awkward questions about Christianity should be welcomed, because it forces us to ask ourselves those very questions - and that's no bad thing if it causes us to confront our own fear and prevent it from driving us to control others. God can certainly take a series of thought-provoking and beautifully-imagined children's novels, Charles! Can you?


03/09/2001 02:20:43 PM

These are fabulous books. I recommend them to everyone. I waited impatiently for years for Pullman to submit his third book.


03/09/2001 12:41:16 PM

Which is relatively better: an anti-Christian book presenting itself as an anti-Christian book, like DARK MATERIALS, or an anti-Christian book presenting itself as a Christian book, like LEFT BEHIND? Both are best-sellers and both are written for children of all ages. Maybe I'll just stick with NARNIA and HARRY POTTER myself =P.


03/09/2001 12:13:09 PM

As an employee of a small Christian liberal arts college, I enthusiastically recommended this series for our library. They are thought-provoking, creative, and deeply deeply spiritual. The challenge is not to wipe them from the face of the earth if you disagree with their philosophy, but for parents to talk with their children about what they believe about God and how it reconciles with fiction. Read this series now, and discuss!


03/09/2001 12:03:20 PM

My thirteen year old son finished the "Dark Materials" trilogy just last month. The first gleaning I had that the trilogy had any theological slant was when my son asked me about "Pre-emptive Absolution," a chapter title. I explained that there was an old anti-Catholic canard that the sacrament could be used to "forgive" sins in advance--essentially granting a "license to kill," as I understand is actually a plot element of the books. It was a good chance to talk to him about the fact that many people have very strongly negative takes on Catholicism. Still, I don't think it harmful that he reads such things. And I'd rather he encounter such attitudes now, when we can discuss them, than face them for the first time after he's left home. I still remember how shocked I was by Mark Twain's "Mysterious Stranger" when I was in sixth grade. Today I find the story unreadable, but then it introduced me to a hitherto unthinkable scepticism, which was not a bad thing at all.


03/09/2001 10:37:44 AM

I love these stories---I'm an adult with a 5 year old & I can't wait for him to read them. I enjoy thinking about the implications of quantum mechanics. I can't see how anyone can characterize an idea or story as "dangerous." As I recall the books were very antimaterialistic, for example. The fact that a fundamentalist Christian doesn't like them is a very good reason to read them all, to my mind. A fundamentalist and I prepare our children for the world in very different ways--he seems to think they need to get ready to defend themselves at all turns, while I'd rather my son grew up openminded and curious. Who will adapt better? Probably my son.


03/09/2001 10:31:56 AM

OK so it's ok to "slip misinformed prejudices into the minds of unsuspecting--and uncritical--readers"-as long as they're reading them from the bible. I get it. Does everyone else?


03/09/2001 09:45:52 AM

Why doesn't Colson just stop whining and limit his children to the Bible and leave mine out of it. Admittedly, at 9, my son knows more about the Iliad and similar works than Colson, and is probably better-read, but the issue here is, and has always been censorship. Just because some Neo-Christian thought police can't control their kids minds doesn't mean they should turn to ours. There are bigger fish to fry than any book, and the danger from colson's kids (and those raised in that style) worse than close-mindedness. Rather than censoring what books these neo-Christian children read, could you please take their guns away so they can STOP shooting at ours? Thanks.


03/09/2001 12:29:40 AM

I read these stories last year, as a 21 year old college junior, and I would have loved them as a youngster of 11 or 12 reading at the college level. The protagonist is a girl who learns to think for herself and trust in allies and friends over what the clergy and authorities of the dreamy fantasy setting tell her. These books are rich and detailed, and I enjoyed them for a much different reason than the Potter books - which I also loved, more for their whimsical stylings - and understand exactly why our author doesn't approve. It's 'cause he's afraid that the author's ideas (rejecting convention, striking out on one's own) will destroy his profession. And well he should be afraid. ;) Give your kids good stories - don't think about the "lessons" or "morals." Don't dumb things down for them, and make sure they get a broad range of experiences and ideas. I know when I decide to have children, that I will. . . Chao


03/08/2001 09:30:00 PM

Words are words, and people will not go to hell or become possessed by reading stories. I don't care what Pastor So-and-So says, you will not go to hell for reading Harry Potter, R. L. Stine or even H. P. Lovecraft. I read tons of Lovecraft in the 1970s in junior high, and I am a successful professional now. Go figure!


03/08/2001 09:02:57 PM

Instead of sitting our children down and confronting the "evil" of these books,.. why don't we teach our children (and some adults) about vocabulary. "Fiction" for instance, is a word this author may need to learn. As most Christians see it, not every God called "God" is, in fact the One-True God, so why does the God in this fictional story matter? Here is the hypocrasy: If you smuggle in Christian methods and morals, books are ok,.. but have any other religion/belief (real or made-up) be an underlying thread, and all "hell" breaks loose. (Pun intended)


03/08/2001 08:09:51 PM

>>Just as writers like C.S. Lewis used stories to "smuggle" Christian theology into readers' minds, secularists like Pullman slip misinformed prejudices into the minds of unsuspecting--and uncritical--readers. Having read some of your articles here on B'net, Chuck, I'd have to guess that you got your distorted world view from CS Lewis? Naw. His works don't teach the kind of bigotry and bible idolatry that you spew.


03/08/2001 11:46:32 AM

I've read & enjoyed these books. And though I agree that Pullman's vision is dark - and that these are not entertainment for Harry Potter-age kids, I don't agree that they are dangerous. I'm an enthusiastic fan of Tolkien & C.S. Lewis's fiction, and I think it's because of the bleak and somewhat muddled value system at the center of the Pullman trilogy that these probably won't be the same kind of classics - despite the beauty of the writing. But they are a fascinating exercise of imagination. And, despite the author's efforts to turn conventional religion on its ear, the fact is, the story ultimately affirms love and loyalty and sacrifice and the worth of individual lives -- all while holding a fun-house mirror up to our world in a way that makes you think. I say, bravo for Mr. Pullman.