“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortably, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
—C. S. Lewis
My first and favorite fandom growing up was Warhammer 40,000. Judging by how much trouble I get in with my wife by leaving miniatures scattered throughout the house, it’s probably safe to say I’m still a pretty big fan.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the setting of 40k, I will do my best to summarize it in one sentence: It is the year 40,000, the God-Emperor of Mankind is a rotten husk in a vegetative state who is kept alive only through the daily sacrifice of a thousand souls, and everything is pretty much horrible.
To put things into further perspective, the tagline for their products—“In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war”—is where the genre grimdark got its name.
In 40k, Mankind is overwhelmingly united by one thing: unwavering faith in the Emperor and strict, non-negotiable adherence to the cult that worships him. It is an over-the-top caricature of medieval Christianity. Witches and heretics are heaped upon the pyres with no tears shed. In fact, if one were to shed a tear for their lost loved one, they would soon find themselves next to them in the flames. Entire worlds are eradicated and populations snuffed out at the first sign of mutation or treachery. It is, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out,” but the body is a galaxy-spanning empire and the eye is a world full of a billion lives. It is a universe that no sane human, let alone a Christian, would want to live in.
There’s just one problem in the 40k universe: the cruel enforcement of the Emperor’s edicts and adherence to his faith are the only things holding back a galaxy of bloodthirsty aliens who seek to conquer or slaughter mankind. The righteous fervor is the thin, precarious phalanx that holds back an alternate dimension full of demons and laughing gods1
If you’ve read Myke Cole’s recent novel (warning! spoiler) The Armored Saint, you probably rooted against the Order in the beginning. Then you found out something horrible: they were right, and all the cruelty and bloodshed seemed a small price to pay to keep the demons at bay.
Now, what does all this have to do with the above C. S. Lewis quote?
In 40k, regular humans are given meager weapons, meager armor, and ordered to near-certain death against armies of towering horrors. When they march against alien hordes and legions of demons, their most potent weapon is the indomitable will to fulfill their duty to a God-Emperor they’ve never seen and have never known. That is certainly no easy task.
When you and I wake up every day, our duty to God is to be the light in a world of shadows.
We don’t have to face off against demons and monsters. No, we wouldn’t be so lucky. Instead, we must fight a war with our souls and our hearts. The only weapons we have to hold back the darkness of this world are our charity and kindness, and in our every failing, the shadows encroach on us more and more.
There is no front line to which we can go and fight against sin. That battle follows us every minute of every day. It seems even most prevalent when we are running late and overworked. When our own lives seem to be spiraling is when it seems God always sends us a stranger that needs a helping hand or a relative who needs our time. And we must fight these tiny battles, for what other choice is there? To give in to our apathy and selfishness is to invite into ourselves the wages of sin: death itself.
But there is one weapon we as Christians have that Mankind’s soldiers in the 41st millennium do not: Christ himself. When our lines break before the devil’s assault, he will strengthen us and rally us to his cause. When we fall, wounded by the wickedness that surrounds us, he will heal us and send us back into the fray.
I live in Las Vegas. We don’t have a seedy underbelly of sin. It’s part of our namesake. The part of our city that no one talks about, that receives little recognition, are those that go our every day to feed to hungry, shelter the homeless, and ease the pains of the suffering. Yet every day they go out do God’s work, armed only with the faith in their hearts. They keep back the shadows, battle against demons, and prepare for the day our Lord returns. For what other choice do they have?
“No army is big enough to conquer the galaxy, but faith alone can overturn the universe.”
—A quote I saw once in a Warhammer 40k rulebook
“Aidan Russell creates action-driven fantasy of all the good old things.”
— Lorehaven Magazine
Explore Aidan Russell’s novel Road of the Lost in the Lorehaven Library.
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- For any 40k fans out there, I know how I spelled “demon” and I’m sticking to it! ↩