This past summer, Sarah and I listened to Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” fantasy trilogy on CDs. It was probably the best book-on-CD I’ve ever listened to partly because it had a full cast acting out all the parts, but mostly because Pullman’s imagination is just amazing. Pullman’s first book in the trilogy, The Golden Compass, came out in 1996 – so they’ve been out for awhile. However, since we are living in a post-Potter world now, His Dark Materials is taking its place in the world of popular fantasy literature. Of course that means it’s the “next big thing” for conservative Christians to rail against. Unfortunately, it’s even easier for them to put up a stink about these books, because the underlying premise is that a war is being waged against The Almighty (read a short review from Sarah here).
Killing the Imposter God
The books are amazing, and could provide some really great insights for theological and philosophical conversations. As with the Harry Potter series, be looking out for all sorts of books that both praise and condemn the books. One book I received a few weeks ago is “Killing the Imposter God” by Donna Freitas and Jason King. King is a professor of theology at St. Vincent College and Donna Freitas is an assistant professor of religion at Boston University and author of numerous books. Freitas writes regularly for Idol Chatter, Beliefnet’s religion and pop culture blog, and had the chance to interview Philip Pullman for Beliefnet. She posted about why Christians shouldn’t fear Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” here and about meeting Pullman here. Beliefnet also posted the video interview of Pullman by Freitas here. In the interviews, Pullman discusses his agenda with the books, advice to parents, his cutting-edge theology, and gives some answers about what this “dust” really is. They are fascinating videos and I’d encourage you to watch them. I’ll be reading “Killing the Imposter God” over Christmas and will be posting a review of it then.
Finally, some additional resources for you. Princeton Seminary’s Institute of Youth Ministry website offers some helpful materials for interacting with Pullman’s work. On the website you’ll find articles by Stephanie Paulsell (Harvard Divinity School professor) comparing Philip Pullman’s work with that of C.S. Lewis, MP3s of Princeton Seminary professor Richard Osmer discussing fantasy literature and stories that challenge conventional Christianity and a lesson plan for college-aged youth by Christine Lang. Check all of these resources out here.
Again, I’ll post that review of “Killing the Imposter God” after the holidays and until then, start reading the books for yourself or check out the movie The Golden Compass opening in theaters this Friday, December 7th.