The lamb lies down with the armoured bear

A small chuckle the other morning, listening to the CBC news report that the Halton Catholic District School Board has yanked copies of Philip Pullman's splendid "His Dark Materials" trilogy off school library shelves. Parent or parents unknown had evidently raised concerns that the book is "apparently written by an atheist where the characters and text are anti-God, anti-Catholic and anti-religion."

Two other area school boards since then have initiated reviews of Pullman's books to determine whether they could possibly be having a corrupting influence on our poor innocent kids. What happens if they find for the prosecution? Does that mean all copies of the offending books will be burned? (Paging Dr. Bradbury...)


The entertaining irony (in the Alanis Morissette sense) of this whole kerfuffle, for me, unfolds in three quick parts:

1. For reference: I'm Catholic. Not a terribly good one, perhaps. But Catholic by birth and upbringing. We still go to Mass most Sundays and the kids all attend the local left-footer's school.

2. In anticipation of the upcoming blockbuster movie, I'd remembered that Charlie (our 10 year old) had a copy of The Golden Compass knocking around somewhere. I borrowed it a few weeks ago. Loved it. Raved about it in my mini-review on Facebook and have been recommending it to friends ever since. I'm now reading the second volume. Also excellent.

3. On a brief trip to the U.S. earlier this week I happened to find myself in a giant Barnes & Noble bookstore. Wandering aimlessly, I arrived in the Religious Books section, at which point it struck me that we don't actually posess a copy of the Bible. I've always meant to read it one day - just, well because. They had a rather nice little gilt-edged, leather bound King James Version on sale for $9.95 so I snapped it up.

So, for the last week, I've been commuting with Philip Pullman's apparently anti-Christian "The Subtle Knife" nestling comfortably side-by-side in my briefcase next to The Bible.

I'm happy to report that they have not burst into flames, and nor have I sprouted horns and cloven hooves.

Also entertaining to note, amongst all the dust being kicked up, this lovely little snippet in the CBC story:

However, in the U.K., the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams reviewed Pullman's trilogy for the Guardian newspaper in 2004.

Williams praised the books and recommended them to young readers.

"This extraordinary theatrical adventure sets a creative religious agenda in a way hard to parallel in recent literature and performance," he wrote.

A question, then: if we're to start pulling books out of Catholic school libraries because the authors happen to be atheists, what other works of literature should we be adding to the bonfire? No more George Bernard Shaw. No more Shelley. No more Douglas Adams...?