I want Christian characters in my books.
If you’re looking for an explanation of why I write stories the way I do, and why they contain the themes they do, there’s your answer. It’s that simple.
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Different readers have different tastes when it comes to religion in the books they read. Some are incensed if there’s even a mention of Christianity. Others are appalled if a character doesn’t “come to Christ” at the end. Then there’s a whole slew who are somewhere else on the spectrum, a rainbow of faithful with varied expectations.
But if you’re reading a space opera adventure, would you expect a character to be a believer? One who isn’t immediately portrayed as a villain?
They’re sorely lacking, because the stereotypes of the future don’t include religion. Humanity is supposed to evolve beyond it.
Fat chance of that.
I recently read a sarcastic comment online, through which one could sense the eye-roll, that you couldn’t have a Christian geek talk without a C. S. Lewis quote coming out. Kind of like mentioning Christians who are fantasy fans who hold up Tolkien as their patron saint.
In all fairness to the geeks and Lewis himself, where else are we to go to find philosophy that mixed faith and rocket ships? Few people indulge in serious thought on the matter.
In the sixties, Russian cosmonauts made what they thought was a clever communist-atheist statement: they’d been to space and hadn’t found God. Lewis, like many Christians, gave a big shrug, and he put his lack of concern this way:
“Space travel really has nothing to do with the matter. To some, God is discoverable everywhere; to others, nowhere. Those who do not find Him on earth are unlikely to find Him in space. (Hang it all, we’re in space already; every year we go a huge circular tour in space.) But send a saint up in a spaceship and he’ll find God in space as he found God on earth.”
It’s that last line that influences my writing. When you pick up a book of mine, no matter how far-future the space opera, you’re going to find Christians in it. Why? Because I have an agenda to push, or a message to preach? In a tiny way, yes, but really, name for me a book that doesn’t carry forward the author’s philosophy and I’ll show you something penned by a robot. The author’s beliefs bleed into a story, no matter how overt or covert he or she chooses to be.
Christian characters are needed, especially in science-fiction, but not to preach a message and not to show them being holier-than-thou. They need to be present to show how the faithful would live their lives in a far-off galaxy, and how their beliefs would be shaped by humanity’s expansion into deep space.
My characters in stories like The Face of the Deep series or the Vincent Chen novellas are Christians who are familiar with persecution. They interact every day with those who do not believe, so theological discussions take place. They read Scripture and go to church or, in the case of the Rescue Ops crew in Broken Sight, have chaplain’s services aboard their starship light-years from Earth.
Why should anyone care about that?
Because books, live movies, tend to strip modern-day religion from their stories as if no one in the future will attend a church or participate in the Lord’s Supper. These are not strange, rare occurrences. These are weekly and sometimes more often events that believers take part in. To leave them out of a story, while emphasizing other aspects of a culture, is, in a sense, lazy.
It’s one of the biggest beefs I have with Star Trek—the idea that within a few hundred years, all organized religion will simply disappear. The double-standard, of course, is that alien religions are treated with curiosity and respect. It’s part of the credo of the United Federation of Planets, this approval of diversity. And yet it’s humanity who comes across as monolithic, in the newer versions of Trek more than in the original. At least the 1960s crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise had some accents to distinguish them. Everyone on the U.S.S. Discovery sounds like they’re from generic America, even though they are a mix of races and cultural backgrounds.
An eye to the future
Christianity will not disappear from civilization, no matter how it may be declining in the United States in Europe—because, for one, it is on the rise in Africa and other nations. This ebb and flow of the religion happens throughout history, during times of persecution and endorsement.
I depict how things could be for Christians in the far-future, in a galaxy of new worlds and cultures. How will the faithful be treated? Where will they go? How will they communicate?
I think it’s important for people to read books in which Christians are depicted fairly and realistically, as true individuals who are as flawed as the next sinner, but who rely on the promises of Christ for the hope in a better life now and the best to come in eternity. To see believers as real, not as caricatures of either perfection or villainy.
Because you love books with characters who are true to life, then reading about people who pray when times get rough or who go to church to worship and commune with their brothers and sisters in the faith will give you a true taste of humanity.
“While The Bloodheart offers a fairly straightforward episodic quest, its sequel The Lightningfall breaks new narrative ground.”
— Lorehaven Magazine
Explore Steve Rzasa’s novels The Bloodheart and The Lightningfall in the Lorehaven Library.
Read our full review exclusively from the summer 2018 issue of Lorehaven Magazine!