In the interest of a prelude, before Christmas I wrote a piece called Inherently Religious, in which I argued that some events and symbolism are by nature religious, and, therefore, they cannot properly be used in any other way – thus, to secularize Christmas is to make Christmas not exist. In its place we have the deification of Saint Nick – poor god as he may be.
I offer that entry as something as a reference point so this one won’t seem totally off the wall. For those who don’t know or remember, I’m a late-comer to this entire genre. It’s become something of a comfort to me, because the speculative genre allows me to stand in the doorway between the spirit world and the flesh world and peer at both, lift the veil and gaze in wonder at the greater reality that surpasses our mortal senses. That’s the draw, for me. Not so much aliens or elves as much as making tangible that which is intangible–that which is no less real but just beyond my ability to hear, see, touch, and taste.
So I find it a little odd when I see the speculative crowd getting hammered…for speculating. Maybe I’m an overeager audience, or simply undaunted by halftruths in fiction, or care more about the treatment of a concept than the concept itself, but I can’t help but wonder: Shouldn’t our genre, the speculative genre, be the safest place in the world to explore every possible “what if”?
What-if games are dangerous, to be certain. It’s a fine line between exploring the thing that isn’t and promoting it. But of all people, spec-fic writers should be unafraid to treat the dangerous questions.
For instance, I really don’t think people really realize how good we’ve got it, how much worse things could be. The guy who asks “How could a good God let X happen?” clearly doesn’t understand the nature and character of God. And in this culture of illustrations and visual learning, it may behoove us to engage the ramifications of such a question. How different would the world look if God were malicious? What would he be like? What would life on earth be like? Or what if he weren’t completely sovereign; or what if he were a tyrant? What if he didn’t know the future?
What if he carelessly left us to our own devices, the whole lot of this human race? (Amplify Bruce Almighty by about 6 billion and that might be a start.)
They wouldn’t be pretty books, that’s for certain. Yes, I very much prefer God’s character drawn as accurately as possible or left off the table. But what I’m suggesting is that part of being made in the image of God is that we still have something of his thumb print left on our souls.
As a result, unless our consciences are seared, something in us recoils against injustice and oppression–even if we only recognize it when we’re the victims. And either we reject it or embrace it as a weapon to dominate.
I can’t help but think that a dark world with a cruel god would be a morbid one indeed. Truly Heaven would have become Hell.
Like I said, my former entry contains the frame of reference. In it, I surmised that Santa was, in effect, the “god” of various Christmas movies. (For those who didn’t like my poke at Elf – please note that really does mean we should all strive to be Buddy: A true man of faith and an evangelist who comes back with converts. Of course, it also means that the Naughty List is the equivalent of Hellfire and Damnation. ) A deistic, karma-based religion, but hey. Flip it around and you’ve got a very real idea of what the world would be like if God were little more than something out of someone’s pantheon and in the end it was up to us to get back in his good graces. On the Nice List.
Makes me think of a song a friend of mine wrote:
Die every day
Some did not
Find their way
And yet so far
But no cigar
Went to church
All the time
Commit a crime
Had no time
To kneel and pray
Put it off
For another day
Another day may never come do not count on your good deeds
Because no one is perfect and no one is worthy
Do not think that you can slip on by
Let me tell you the reason why
Hell is for good people just like me
My sin nailed God’s son upon the tree
Hell is for good people just like you
And all who said one thing untrue
All the time
To the blind
Went to church
Twice a year
You said you listened
But did you hear?
For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son
He hung upon the cross and bled for all your sins / every one
He rose again on the third day
So that you might; you might be saved … because
Hell is for good people….
[Hell is For Good People © 2005 Midiboy Music
Music / Lyrics: Gregg Hart]
Speculate what God is not, in other words. Imagine the world as it isn’t.
I think on some level there has to be some separation between what the author believes and what the characters believe. I don’t, for instance, believe that if I don’t pray every three hours God will kick me out of heaven. I have a character who does, though. I don’t believe we lose our salvation, but I have a character who is convinced that if he commits one sin he’s out – forever. And that belief is never challenged. I’m sure someone will point out to me that that isn’t true. I suppose I should set up a canned response that says, “I know.” 0=)
It’s just a thought. I know many who won’t write certain things because they’re worried about promoting heresy, but I think unless those things are adequately explored, people are less likely to understand why those things are false.