Better Conversations


Open books

Powered by TypePad

« Golden Compass, Rotten Tomato | Main | A miffed corporate executive protests sand-headedness »


No, Anon, there's no attack taken.

I am sure that a young adult like yourself is more than able to read a book with discernment, and to even enjoy a story whose philosophy is at odds with the faith.

Children and youth are reading/viewing/experiencing all sorts of presentations that are contrary to Christianity, and some of those presentations carry a lot of beauty and meaning. By all means, we will have to discuss these works with them to help them recognize the good elements among the bad.

But there are some presentations which are wondrously attractive, and patently offensive, if not blasphemous. Pullman has distinguished himself, in his own words and in a quite public, deliberate fashion, as an author who is on the offense against institutional Christianity. We should take seriously the fact that at the end, he executes "Yahweh." I realize the fact that this god-character has no resemblance to the Creator -- but Pullman makes the point that there is no Creator, since his god-character is a coalescence of Dust.

I say all this to point out that we have to distinguish anti-Christian works from simply non-Christian presentations, and we probably ought to respond accordingly.

If you mean by "discussion" what used to be meant by "conversation," even "discourse," then by all means I agree that discussion is powerful indeed. Conversation should proceed with courtesy and under the terms of the Faith. I am simply concerned that the faith of children and youth (and many adults for that matter) should not be subjected to such constant discourteous attack.

Thanks for writing, Anon.

By the way, I feel it necessary to say that I am not attacking your opinion on the book at all. I believe you stated your arguments very fluently and supported them. I also agree that there are some anti-Christian tones in the book, and it's hard not to miss them in many cases. I just feel that your view that discussion isn't as powerful as it actually is. I believe discussion is one of the MOST powerful mediums we have as human beings. Things can be interpreted in different ways when they are put down on paper, but when someone is there to explain what the words mean, and what the facts are, there can be little mistaking the intentions of the words.

In response to your 6th bullet point, are you suggesting that the most constructive way to keep us firm in our faith is to keep children blind to these kinds of films and books? I myself have read them 3 times and am a fan of the series. Has this made me any less firm in my faith or less of an Orthodox Christian? Not in the slightest. If anything, it's made me more firm because I went to my father and asked him, "okay, so what's our religion's view on this?" These books and movies CAN be used as discussion pieces as long as someone is made available to the child or young adult to discuss these things with. If you keep them blind to things that challenge their faith, when they're faced with them later in life, they won't know how to respond. They won't know what to believe and what not to, because they weren't raised in an environment that challenges them in that way.

I'm taking an introduction to Western Civilization class this semester in college, and my professor is a devout Roman Catholic. Because I have had discussions about my faith and things that challenge them, I was able to respond to my professor when she incorrectly spoke about the schism. Not challenging a person in their faith is like not challenging them in their academic life. You'll never learn if you never have to defend what you know and believe.

I do not believe that these types of books should necessarily be read by YOUNG children, as they can be easily confused by the fiction status of the book. We don't agree with all schools of philosophy or psychology does that mean that we should be ignorant to what they have to say? Arm yourself with knowledge, not ignorance.

An idea itself is never forbidden: it is to be accepted or rejected insofar as it coheres with truth. It is the image, or "packaging" of the idea that makes the fruit forbidden, because the deception inheres in the image, not in the essence. The advertisement "you shall be as gods" obfuscated the essential meaning of "eat this now and you will know sooner than you are ready."

In my crankiness, I think we should start with being dismissive. I find a great deal of support for such a view in the Orthodox Tradition. I think there are very few movies and other media performances (TV and music) that are worth inflicting on my own weak mind, much less disrupting the minds of my children. At the same time, I know that they will be exposed (by their own volition, or simply by accident)to logismoi/image complexes (i.e., corrosive messages camouflaged by culturally-endorsed images): my part is to catechize my children (and the children and youth in my parish) mainly in terms of doctrine first (rubrics and Bible knowledge secondarily) ... and to also lead my children to great literature and art.

I strongly believe that the reason why most Christian parents fail at indoctrinating their children, so that they are invulnerable to the morass of Pullman's (and others' like him) carnival is mainly because those Christian parents are not confident catechists, and they themselves do not like great literature and music.

My wife and I homeschool our daughters, and I am becoming increasingly not proud of that fact, but thankful. I think in the public school they would have remained Orthodox. But because they were homeschooled, they know who wrote the Illiad, they can recognize Brahms, and they can discuss the possibility that Botticelli's Primavera might really be a scene from Dante's Purgatorio. They had history, not social studies. They did more looking at art and less of doing art.

I say all this to suggest that the education culture is becoming more inimical to the faith of our children. We already know this: I think, however, that it is becoming time to go beyond the knowing of this, and to actually accomplish the paideia of our children apart from the sinking pluralism and militant "deathwork" society of our schools.

When does an idea become forbidden fruit? How do we as parents present engage the spiritual battle?
This might sound simplistic but when the schools and Hollywood package ideas that are antithetical to what we believe and teach in enchanting and engaging ways it is difficult not to be dismissive or to just try to stay away from these books or movies from the outset. This is in the schools and I guess I am seeking perhaps an answer that is very complex.
How do we as Orthodox Christians engage?
asking your prayers,
the handmaid,

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

August 2020

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31