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When Christians Vacate An Industry

When Christians vacate a profession, it necessarily takes on qualities that contradict a Christian worldview.
| Oct 24, 2016 | 19 comments |

Roy Rogers was a Christian who was not ashamed to witness for his Lord.

“Roy Rogers was a Christian who was not ashamed to witness for his Lord.”

Shocking as it may seem to some, Christians were once a visible part of the motion picture industry. Christians also peopled state houses and even the White House. And Christians pretty much dominated speculative fiction for years and years.

At some point, Christian involvement in the film industry, in government, in speculative fiction, at least in the general market, faded into near non-existence. I suspect there are a number of other industries we could name that have followed the same pattern. The point here is that when Christians vacate a profession, it necessarily takes on qualities that contradict a Christian worldview.

How could it be otherwise?

The Christian worldview is built on grace and forgiveness. People who have not experienced God’s grace and forgiveness have a different paradigm under which they operate. Sin still enslaves those without Christ, and sin will surface.

As I may have mentioned in an earlier post, I’m watching the H&! All Star Trek reruns of all the Star Trek spin-offs. I love those shows. I love to compare the different Vulcans and different “evil races” and the different captains. I love the character development and the plot twists and the heroic, self-sacrificial attitudes and actions. But missing from the Star Trek universe is Jesus Christ.

Yes, there is a kind of Buddhist pantheism and there is a Hindu like religion, but the primary god of the Star Trek productions is human kind. Sentient beings are revered above all else, as is the right of each to choose for him or herself what he or she is to be and do.

None of this surprises me, and it doesn’t dissuade me from watching the programs. I don’t expect to find Christianity in Star Trek. Don’t misunderstand. I do find truth in Star Trek, so there are times when these different programs say something perfectly in sync with the Bible. But those are more apt to be the exception than the rule.

The point is, for the most part, Christians didn’t write the Star Trek episodes. As a result, Christianity simply isn’t present in the stories. I don’t recall a single reference to a church, to the Bible, or to the cross, and not to Jesus. It’s as if the future world the the Federation the Star Trek creators imagined had outgrown Christianity as it had violence.

The absence of violence is quite funny, actually—the star ship Enterprise roams the galaxy ferreting out new life and new civilizations, all in the name of peaceful exploration, though they’re armed to the teeth with photon torpedoes and phase cannons and all kinds of other weaponry.

So no violence and no Christianity. But weapons and other religions.

beowulf_and_the_dragonThe same is true of literature. After C. S. Lewis we have Phillip Pullman, and after J. R. R. Tolkien we have Gorge R. R. Martin. Why? What happened to the “spiritual atmosphere” of an ancient story such as Beowulf?

I suspect scholars argue over why, but I don’t think there’s any denying the fact that Christians moved out of the storytelling industry, and more specifically, out of the speculative fiction industry. But when Christians vacate, that leaves non-Christians.

All this to say, it’s time believers make a concerted effort to reenter the speculative fiction industry. Christian writers have made great inroads. Enclave Publishing specializes in Christian speculative fiction, for instance, and Bethany House continues to be traditional Christian publisher that produces quality fantasy. Many Christian authors have gone the route of independent publishing, and a few have dipped their toes into the general market.

In other words, believers are pushing open the door to speculative fiction (just as others are trying to push open the door to the film industry). But I think it’s worth asking: what do we hope to accomplish?

Are Christians entering the realm of speculative fiction for no other reason than we like to stretch our imagination?

"Values he embraced thoughout his life – hard work, love of country, love of family, love of community and most of all love of God."

“Values he embraced throughout his life – hard work, love of country, love of family, love of community and most of all love of God.”

I know one school of thought says we glorify God when we write well. Which is fine. But fiction, like other writing, exists to communicate. So what are Christians communicating when we return to our place in speculative fiction? Is our fiction distinct? Do we settle for “clean”—because, after all, what separates a Christian from a non-Christian is that the former doesn’t swear. Or do porn.

Clearly, in life, the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian isn’t sinlessness. So why should sinlessness drive our fiction?

But the opposite, which seems to be gaining traction—show the world as it is—brings us back to the question: what is the distinctive of a speculative story told by a Christian? Is there a difference? Should there be a difference? If so, what is that difference? If not, isn’t that simply just another way of vacating the industry of Christian influence?

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Bethany A. Jennings
Member

Love this!! I was just telling someone the other day that Christianity is largely absent from the artistic/literary world…the church is not involved with those things and doesn’t care about them much. I would love to see more and more people pushing into the mainstream arts as Christians…not just hanging out in the Christian artistic sub-culture.

Tamra Wilson
Member
Tamra Wilson

I agree. The problem is that the church doesn’t support the arts as we once did. My church is (thank God) different in this matter, but the problem still exists. I want to write books like C.S.Lewis did which entice non-Christians as well as shore up believers, I have a church that has joined me on this mission and in every mission that I have brought to them and I pray that other churches will change to reflect that the arts matter.

Michael A. Bowie
Guest
Michael A. Bowie

Technically, the brick and mortar church never did. It was up to individual believers to act according to their gifts.

Lisa
Guest

Not sure you are entirely correct there. The Pope sponsored Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel, for example. Much of medieval art would not exist without the sponsorship of the church.

Rachel Nichols
Guest

Tamra said, “As they once did.” That would include art from Europe in the Middle Ages where almost everything was religious.

Steve
Guest

I think it was CS Lewis who once said that what the world needs is not more Christian writers but writes who are Christian. I tend to agree.

Steve
Guest

Uhhh, that’s “writers”.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest
E. Stephen Burnett

I also agree with that quote. But it’s often used to argue against enjoying stories or artworks within a distinctly “Christian” culture. If so, then I would disagree with that. As a Christian, what I need is often a “Christian writer,” not just a Christian who writes. Sometimes “the world” also needs this.

Audie Thacker
Member

–I suspect scholars argue over why, but I don’t think there’s any denying the fact that Christians moved out of the storytelling industry, and more specifically, out of the speculative fiction industry. But when Christians vacate, that leaves non-Christians.

I’ve come across this type of thinking before, but this time I want to kick against it a little.

I’m simply not prepared yet to accept the notion that “Christians moved out of the storytelling industry”, at least until some kind of solid evidence of this moving out can be given.

Since Jimmy Stewart’s picture is prominent at the end, what about looking at what is likely his most famous movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. True, the movie has angels, it has a star-like being that could have been God talking to another star-like being called Joseph, it had some praying.

I would say that “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a movie that was strongly influence by religious and even Christian views and ethics, but I’d have a harder time accepting the notion that it is a Christian movie, no matter how loosely one used the word Christian.

Other examples could be given. What about a much-beloved TV series like “Little House on the Prairie”? A series that had a lot of religious stuff in it, but can it really be called Christian? To put that question in a few other ways to try to clarify what I mean, what was shown to be mankind’s problem in LHotP? What was the solution? When God is mentioned, or Christ is named, how does that happen? Is Christ portrayed as our savior who sacrificed Himself for our sins, or our friend who gets us through difficult times?

Rachel Nichols
Guest

American churches attract one Type of person and don’t seem to know what to do with others when they darken the doors.

They attract predominately extroverts, high in conscientiousness, low in openness, low in sensitivity to painful emotions. Most artists are the exact opposite of this Type. (Like me. Only I’m an ambivert.) No wonder there are so few Christian writers and artists.

When you fail to fit the mold going to church can be lonely. C.S. Lewis disliked going but forced himself to attend. I do the same.

Travis Perry
Editor

Well, there was a point where there were two really prominent Christian writers in fantasy, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. That might allow us to imagine that Christians once dominated the genre of fantasy, but that’s not true. There were plenty of other writers of fantasy who were not particularly Christian or who were even anti-Christian.

And in science fiction, the situation was even worse. Jules Verne was not especially Christian and H.G. Wells was very clearly an atheist. While there have been some Christian writers in science fiction for a long time, the genre was almost completely dominated by non-Christians from day one.

So yes, I think Christians should be more involved in writing, but the idea that Christians vacated speculative fiction is simply false. We were never that much involved with speculative fiction in the first place–though we can and should be.