I read a particularly interesting post at Sci Fi & Fantasy Lovin’ Blog discussing Christ figures in science fiction. Note this paragraph in particular:
So I guess I’m just wondering why. Why is it that science fiction, that is often supposed to be more about the rational mind, falls back on our religious superstitions? Is it simply that the creators of our favorite fiction find themselves going back to their childhood traditions? Even unconsciously? Or is science simply not enough to fill our need to know why we are here?
Well, I’m glad you asked! 😉
Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century French mathematician, philosopher and physicist, suggested that there is a need in Man’s heart for God:
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. [Pascal, Pensees #425]
The Bible makes it clear that God shows Himself through what He has made.
That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made …
-Romans 1:19, 20
I’ve always understood the “through what has been made” part as mountains and stars and photosynthesis—the natural world, in other words. But He also made Man, and something in us also shows God. More than the other stuff, actually, because Genesis says we are made in His image.
What does any of this have to do with Christ figures in science fiction and fantasy? I suggest the presence of Messiah figures is indicative of this part of Mankind made to reflect God. We long for a True Hero, someone so self-sacrificing, so good, so fair, so accepting that we feel completely safe—and so empowered—because we were made for relationship with the Ultimate Hero.
Putting him in our fiction shows what we want in our lives. Some authors do so because they long for what they haven’t experienced and some do so to demonstrate what they already enjoy.
Another blogger, John Brownlee, commented over at SciFi Scanner on this tendency to include a Christ figure in speculative fiction, attributing it to Christianity’s influence on the culture. However, he doesn’t view the inclusion of Messianic characters in a positive light:
These characters are all united in a positively maudlin over-usage of ham-handed Christian symbolism. Their comings were usually foretold in ponderous, badly written “prophesies.” They all have supernatural powers that allow them to perform miracles. And so on.
In other words, he is saying there is nothing “fresh” about stories containing Christ figures (though he later postulates that Christ in outer space fighting against an alien might be interesting).
This statement raises a question—does a story with a Christ figure of necessity have to seem derivative?
If you read J. K. Rowling’s comments about her faith, you’ll find that she purposefully downplayed her Christianity because she thought her worldview would give away the culminating plot points of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and spoil the surprise.
How does a Christian writer avoid “maudlin over-usage of ham-handed Christian symbolism”? (And what IS “ham-handed” symbolism? 😮 )
This article is a reworking of two posts that appeared at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in November, 2007