The struggle is real.
Being a Christian and residing on the geek side of the tracks is hard. We’re constantly surrounded by the culture’s messages, agendas, and morals (or lack thereof). A geek’s1 life can often go something like this:
I want to attend Comic Con…but all the immodest costumes.
I want to watch a popular TV show…but the blatantly agenda-driven lesbian couple.
I want to read this epic fantasy…but all the violence, gore, language, and sex.
Now, I’m not saying these are all default red flags and that, for example, Christians shouldn’t go to comic cons because of what they might see. For some, such a situation may be more problematic. For others, it may be fine. The point is that as Christians in a worldly geek culture, we’re going to face such difficulties somewhere along the road.
It’s also hard because of the sometimes-hostile attitude other believers have toward our fandoms.
“Harry Potter is evil and you should avoid it like the Black Plague.”
“Fantasy stories are nothing more than dangerous escapism.”
“You watch THAT show? What about the language?”
Yes, I’m generalizing, but it’s kind of sad how easily geeky Christians feel the sting of ostracism for enjoying speculative stories. Or stories with content that some find displeasing.
I want to stress that not everyone takes this approach. Rather, that such a judgmental mindset is still alive and well in Christian circles.
This leaves us Christian geeks feeling trapped and wondering how to deal with this whole question of being a geek in this increasingly complicated culture.
A Christian in Geek Culture?
The question becomes, how do we, as Christians, navigate the swirling eddies of the cultural river? It usually boils down to two approaches.
As in, this is all a waste of time, being pressured from both sides makes life miserable, the culture is too far gone to warrant our attention, so let’s just leave it all behind. Let’s form our own little conclave of safety and reassurance and self-esteem. We don’t need the big bad world and it doesn’t need us.
Except, doesn’t it? Is that not part of our calling as Christians. After all, as a smart Paul guy pointed out, it’s impossible to avoid being in the world. If that’s the case, what’s the balance?
Be in the World, Not of It
How can we be in the world and not of it? How can we interact in our geek communities without letting the sludge seep into our lives? Here are some thoughts.
These aren’t hard-and-fast rules by which thou shalt abide or else suffer with anguish and wailing. Because speaking from experience, that sort of legalism sucks. Instead, I’d like to consider them as principles—things to think about and guide us as we wade into geek culture with all its joys and dangers.
- Be rooted in the truth. It’s our foundation, our North Star, our Gandalf guiding us along the treacherous journey. Without knowing the truth inside and out, we set ourselves up for serious trouble later on.
- Use discernment. Yeah, kind of obvious. The more aware we are of the worldviews at play and the more discerning we are in the content we consume, the better equipped we are to orient ourselves in the right direction.
- Know your own limits. This one’s super important, and relates back to the first point and is central to the whole issue of Christians disagreeing about what’s appropriate. Because everyone’s standards fall in a different place on the Christian Standards Continuum. Some things may be blatantly out of bounds, which is where knowing the truth comes in. Other areas are gray and require personal monitoring to know when you’re entering the danger zone.
- Determine if it glorifies God. An excellent litmus test for knowing where to draw the line, and something we geeks should always keep in mind, whether we’re just fans or creatives.
- Enjoy your favorite stories and fandoms. Yes, it’s perfectly fine to enjoy a great story, and there are plenty of excellent ones out there.
- Avoid assimilation. This is where the “not of it” piece comes into play. Sometimes it’s easy to go with the flow, keep silent because voicing your opinion will stir the controversy waters, or not stand up for what you believe. Bad idea. I’m not saying be intentionally belligerent, but that we need to pay attention for those warning signs.
- Know your reasons for “being in the world.” Beyond the obvious answer of, “Because fandoms!” we should ask ourselves the purpose. One of the clearest I can see, especially for those of us who create stories, is to bring shafts of light into the shadows. To let the deep truths of life—such as redemption, mercy, sacrifice, and grace—illumine our work.
How do you think Christians can effectively live in the worldly geek culture without become part of it?
- For the purpose of this post, and generally in life, I’m defining “geek” as: someone who enjoys speculative stories (comics, fantasy, sci-fi, etc) to an extensive degree. ↩