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.
The 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?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?