“Oh mom please, I wanna go with my friends.” How often do these words ring out through the Christian household? This Christmas, those words may be heard as children regarding the movie “The Golden Compass.” Snopes (www.snopes.com) states that the movie is based on the book The Golden Compass, the first offering in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy of children’s books. This is a “series that follows the adventure of a streetwise girl who travels through armor-plated bears, and sinister ecclesiastical assassins to defeat the oppressive forces of a senile God. The series’ author, Philip Pullman, is an avowed atheist who has averred that ‘I don’t profess any religion; I don’t think it’s possible that there is a God . . .'” This information led me to desire more details.
After I began reading the book, I immediately discovered that this is not a book for me, and neither would I want one of my children to read it. The content was offensive, aggressive, disgusting and dark. My first thought was, why expose children to these dark materials especially during the time of the year when we celebrate Christ’s birth that brought light and hope to the world?
Sue Harmon, South Carolina children’s ministry specialist, states: “They are very well-written books and deserving of writing awards from a strictly literary standpoint, but I was so offended by the anti-religious themes that I could not make myself finish even the first book, which is reportedly the least offensive of the three!”
The movie coming out “will, of course, influence people to buy the books.”
Although described as a magnificent fantasy masterpiece, one must ask how children process fantasy. Children cannot distinguish pretend from real. They focus on the excitement and mimic good or bad. Children begin borrowing ideas from their environment to make sense of their world at a very young age. They try on roles and behaviors of people and characters which are familiar. Even the youngest become “power rangers” and preteens imitate traits and characters they admire in movies and books.
Thus, we must ask, does this material support or introduce children to mean-spirited and aggressive behavior, a belief in other gods and evil spirits, cause children to mistrust and undermine authority, contribute to desensitization and callousness to violence and the suffering of others, or promote inappropriate sexual heroes whom children seek to emulate?
We are the gatekeepers. In Jesus’ day a shepherd knew every sheep-their special habits and traits. The shepherd could predict what each sheep would do before he did it. Today, as the gatekeepers of our children, we have the task of knowing their habits and traits so as to keep them safe, show them love and lead them to become the child God intended. As we guide our children toward God, they find purpose and meaning in life.
As gatekeepers, we must ask: What do we value? What things do we want to keep from our children? How do we evaluate the culture?
First, prepare yourself spiritually. Nothing is more life-changing than a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. To understand how God can change your life, go to www.bgco.org or call 405/942-3800. Your relationship with God is the most important gift you can give your child.
Second, become the discerning parent. Ask: Who/what is this author or movie? What does it stand for? What values will it teach my child? What distinguishes it from other books, authors, movies? From what perspective is the book written or movie made?
Third, be a previewing parent. View movies, read books, check out clothing and be prepared to talk about and lead your child to good choices.
Fourth, stick to your values even when children want something different. Look at your parenting task as being in healthy authority over your child, rather than in control of him. Establish boundaries that are reasonable and firm and hold your child accountable for staying within those boundaries. Say, “Others may be doing that at school or in their home, but that is not a movie or TV show we watch in our home. Let’s find another movie we can see. ”
Fifth, set goals that promote healthy spiritual development and can be used as a tool for evaluating today’s culture. Ask, does it promote children:
_ Knowing they are highly valued by God
_ Seeing themselves made in the image of God not in cultures images
_ Knowing that God is with them to provide strength in standing for what is right and true
_ Discovering and celebrating their gifts
_ Understanding peer pressure and how to deal with it
_ Knowing human sexuality is a gift from God to be expressed as God planned
_ Modeling what it is to be a caring, bold, courageous and gentle man
_ Modeling what it is to be a capable, thoughtful, creative, caring and loving woman
_ Modeling how men and women show mutual respect for one another as they minister to others
_ Strengthening families through activities for families with children
Sixth, immerse your child in a world (worship at home and church, age appropriate Bible study and application, mission in action and music that praises God) that will lead him/her to discover God’s purpose for her/his life.