Friday, December 28, 2007

The Power of a Woman's Words

Now that The Golden Compass is quickly heading out of the theaters, I want to weigh in with my opinions on the books. I know that there are a lot of people entrenched on both sides of this issue. Christians are horrified that Phillip Pullman would write a book encouraging atheism among young people, and Pullman fans are angry that the movie was softened to face those charges. Doogie brought home the first book three years ago when he was in junior high; all three books in the Dark Materials series were on their list of recommended books for book reports. He loved it and asked me to read it too. I did and loved it. I had never heard of the series before and therefore had no preconceived notions about it. He soon brought home the second book, The Subtle Knife, for me to read after he'd read it, and I enjoyed this one so much, that I checked out the third one, The Amber Spyglass, on my own and read it first. I was stunned by Pullman's portrayal of the church and God. A climactic battle takes place in Heaven where the angels are willing to kill anyone who is imposing on their plan and try to keep God away from the world. God is a pathetic old man who just wants to die. Lyra grants him his desire and is portrayed as a hero for it. The angels want to keep people from learning, and Satan is good, because he wants to deciminate knowledge throughout the world. The church is on the side of the angels and is trying to keep people from expanding their minds as well. All of this was difficult to swallow, but the scene that put this book over the top for me and placed it on my banned list is a scene later in the book between the two twelve-year-old protagonists: Lyra and Will. They have a conversation with Dr. Mary Malone who shares with them some of her experiences as a young woman (the exact conversations are not shared, just what they felt) that made the young people feel warm and strangely aware of their own bodies. They take a walk alone in the woods, holding hands. The scene cuts as they stare into each other's eyes and lean in close. When they leave the woods, they are still holding hands, and the doctor notices a newfound closeness between them, exchanged glances and smiles, etc. And the magic has been restored to the world. The allusion is that they had sex in the woods which restored magic to the land, molding Lyra and Will as the new Adam and Eve.

When I finished the book, I couldn't believe that no one was talking about this. Why weren't there reports on TV and articles in the paper about this award-winning children's book that promoted not only atheism, but sex among twelve year olds? I started Googling the books and found several statements by Pullman about wanting to destroy Christianity. Now that the movie is out, he is softpedaling his comments, and some Christian leaders are saying that the books are fine because they encourage discussion about religion. I did let my son read the last book, but we talked about it and its themes in depth. I am very anti-censorship, but I feel that it is vital for parents to be aware of what their children are reading. Everyone is talking about the atheism in The Golden Compass, but no one is talking about the sex in the last book (although TIME Magazine did talk about the "erotic encounter.")

I am so glad that this movie was bad enough that hopefully we won't have to face seeing the second and third in the trilogy, nor will parents be encouraged to buy the books. I see God's hand in this.

The Power of a Woman's Words by Sharon Jaynes is a fantastic devotional about what our words can do for ourselves, others, and our relationship with God. Jaynes spends the first couple of chapters demonstrating what our words should be doing: praising God and encouraging others. Then the book dives into how we can change our attitudes and in doing so, change our words. She uses personal anecdotes and Biblical passages to back up her points and does so in a powerfully intimate way. It feels like talking to your spiritually mature best friend. The companion study guide is a must have.

The Power of a Woman's Words Study Guide & Workbook by Sharon Jaynes is the first Bible study I've ever really done. Each chapter has lots of Scriptural look-ups for memorization as well as to illustrate the Jaynes' points about how our words have the ability to lift up or crush other people, bring us closer to God, and help us appreciate each day more. By pairing passages from Job's wife with Abigail, the true power of our words really hits home. She focuses on how we can help our husbands, children, church, and friends in ways that are real. I've read the Bible through three times, but doing this study helped me dig deeper in these stories and see them in a new way. I spent about three days on each study to let each point sink in. I learned a tremendous amount from this book, and the message is one that will stick with me.

I'm giving away the pair of these books next Tuesday, and if you'd like to win them, just drop me an email at and let me know you're interested. I'll accept entries until midnight Monday, Dec. 31st, and hold the drawing on Tuesday, Jan. 1st. It would be a great way to start your new year with a new devotional set.

Today's pic is my nephew Bryce playing Guitar Hero. Isn't he a cutie?