Don’t you hate spurious email forwards, like how Bill Gates is giving away $400 from Macys if we can strike down Madalyn Murry O’Hair’s beyond-the-grave attempt to ban religious broadcasting, and forward it to all our friends? I know I do. But recently the senders have been getting more sophisticated, and doing something that I’ve long suggested that anyone do when faced with email-forwarding temptation: Look it up on Snopes.com
So now Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials novel trilogy is being adapted for the big screen, and because American Christians are borderline illiterate (it seems), now the hubub ensues. The warn-ers are taking us straight to the source. (You’ll have to click the link and read it yourself; Snopes is difficult to copy & paste excerpts from, possibly by design.) In the copy of the email I got, there was a preface:
My friend sent this link to me and I looked the Golden Compass movie up on snopes. Please be aware of the “underpinnings” of this movie before even considering letting your children or yourself see it. The girls & I saw this advertised at the movies recently & thought it looked like an interesting “Narnia” type of movie…I’m afraid a lot of people will be deceived by their advertising. Please read on and keep this in your prayers.
Let me go off for a second, and then be more diplomatic: This week, the cyclone death toll in Bangladesh is at 3500 and will possibly reach 2004-Tsunami levels; Iraqis and Americans continue to kill each other, famine and genocide continue to grip our planet and someone living on your street is probably desperately lonely. But by all means, please keep this evil atheist movie in your prayers–fundamentalist culture-war marching orders trump all else! You’re kinda making Pullman’s points for him…
Wow I’m in a cranky mood this morning. I actually penned something far kinder when I got the email, something I hoped (and maybe still hope) will get counter-mass-forwarded whenever someone gets an email condemning the message and messenger. Here is my original email:
“Ah, well someone on this list is going directly to Snopes.com now to confirm–very commendable! So many spurious mass-emails get sent.
Its a funny thing about this film, and atheists/atheism in general…I don’t think that fear is the best place to come from when responding to them; it should be understanding mixed with compassion. What do I mean? When an atheist talks about how they want to rid the world of ‘god,’ my first inclination is not to think they are slandering the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, nor the God disclosed decisively in Jesus Christ and held (however incompletely) in our hearts–my inclination is to agree with them whole-heartedly!
GASP! Whatever do I mean?? Well, I mean that the god (or gods) that most atheists don’t believe in, I am equally atheistic toward. The god wrapped in nationalist ideology and hate-mongering is a most distasteful deity, and worthy of our mockery. And sadly, this is the only god most people (especially in the West) encounter. This rogue idol god comes wrapped in many guises; Jewish, Muslim, pop-psychological, and mostly Christian–but it is a hollow substitute nonetheless. So when I meet an atheist, I give them a thorough hearing, affirm whatever it is I can affirm with them, and then try, however modestly, to present them with an alternative: the God I am discovering, day by day with my brothers and sisters and in creation.
A couple of postscripts for thought:
1.) I blogged about this some a few months ago: Atheist Worship.
2.) My friend Becky Garrison writes a pretty even-handed response to the current spate of New Atheist authors and advocates (folks like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, et al). It’s called New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail, and it examines both the faults of the New Atheist thinking and the sins of the Church.
So here’s an encouragement: For every time someone has forwarded the other email around, about ostracizing and avoiding atheist authors, artists, and speakers, forward this one about generating a positive response–only if it speaks to you.
I have yet to get any replies–alas.