Why We are Afraid of God in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Part 4

CC image by Barry Silver

If I had a subtitle for this particular blog, it would be “Bubble Syndrome,” but as parts 1, 2, and 3 do not have subtitles, I get to be less subtle and mysterious about it. Yes, bubbles. You’ll understand why; just let me get to it!

CC image by Eric Tastad

CC image by Eric Tastad

As a quick sidetrack, you may or may not have noticed that I missed a blog last month. Shame on me. Life happened. It turns out life happened again this week, so it just goes to show we really have no excuses. You must write anyway! So if you did notice, I apologize for falling behind. If you didn’t notice, don’t worry, I get it. Life happens!

So then, quick refresher: 1. We are afraid of criticism if we include God in our science fiction or fantasy stories 2. Christians are held to a higher standard 3. We must write intentionally and make our writing between ourselves and God 4. The two problem children are science fiction’s and fantasy’s brain children: technology and magic.

There, you’re all caught up. Now, on to the bubbles. Christians always talk about, “being in the world and not of the world.” This comes from verses like John 15:19, John 17:14, James 1:27, and 1 John 2:15 (read ’em; I promise it won’t take long). But this idea is mostly encapsulated by Romans 12:2:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (NKJV).

It is a beautiful verse, its message more so—do not be a product of this world, be a product of God. And yet this concept has created what I am now calling “bubble syndrome.” Christians see something that is a product of the world, and they flee from it. They form their little bubble with which to shelter themselves from the world and to gather their safe things: their historical fiction bonnet books, their Hillsong United music and Focus on the Family radio, their quippy T-shirts, their Hallmark TV specials, their virgin margaritas, their church friends and Christian-run businesses. They drift in the world, their bubble acting as a buffer, pushing away all things that even hint of secular and the people with them. They are afraid that any one of these things could suck them out of their Christian bubble and into sin. Magic and technology (or science) are two such things.

CC image by Don McCrady

CC image by Don McCrady

We have been told that Christianity and science do not mix. For some reason, many Christians forget that it is God who created this world and that science is a fascinating way to explore the world He has given us. We fall for the lie that it is not our place, and we believe it because of our fear. You see, science reeks of Darwinism, and advanced technology is man’s claim that we don’t need God, that we, in fact, are God. To show interest in these things is to show support, and, let’s be honest, the claims science fiction novels make regarding technology are so preposterous, it might as well be magic!

Oh yes, magic. Magic is of the devil. It doesn’t matter that magic is a very broad term that can mean many, many things. The “Magical World of Disney” does not mean that you go to Florida and see people participating in witchcraft and casting spells. It means wonderful, exciting, adventurous, awe-inspiring (kind of like God)! It doesn’t matter that it can be viewed as meaning supernatural, mysterious, or unexplainable (also kind of like God). It doesn’t matter that many of the fantasy worlds are completely separate from our own and that distinctions between good and evil magic are clearly made. It doesn’t matter that it’s often explained as a genetic factor, something you’re born or blessed with, something that’s triggered in the brain, not a contract with the devil. Magic is evil. Period. And reading about magic could make one want magic.

CC image by Xava du

CC image by Xava du

Therefore, God and Christians have no place in the science fiction and fantasy genres.

But wait. Let’s take a step back for a minute. Aren’t we, in our nature, sinners? Didn’t God redeem us, renew us? The Bible verse says that you are “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Look at that word. Think about that word. To renew is to make new, to revive, to recover, to restore. Is this not the world God has given us? Perhaps instead of separating ourselves from it, hiding from it, we should begin to renew it, as God renewed us, for Him.

Because of our fear, or maybe our assumption, that we cannot include God in science fiction and fantasy, we have forgotten what phenomenal tools they are to us as writers, as communicators. Science fiction allows us to explore and sometimes answer questions that would never be possible in a real world setting. Often political, science fiction is an avenue for learning and understanding profound messages. Just think about some of the great science fiction out there. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of them. Even the show Battlestar Galactica, which, by the way, does include God in quite an impressive and thought provoking way, is an excellent example of science fiction that allows us to explore a question and contemplate answers in a way that literary fiction or even nonfiction just can’t because they ask what if questions. You can’t explore “what if” concepts, such as, “What if humanity developed a means to live forever” in literary fiction. Think of the implications of that! What would that do to culture, to human nature? What would happen to civilization? What would that do to our relationship with God? Feel free to use that. I can do this all day!

Fantasy also allows writers to do something that other genres can’t. Fantasy is a gold mine for metaphors (see what I did there? Yes, it’s a cliché, but cut me some slack). Like science fiction, fantasy allows us to communicate concepts that cannot be communicated in real life or literary fiction. For example, fantasy is rife with battles between good and evil. When would you ever in a million years allow a battle between absolute evil and absolute good to fly in 2014 downtown New Mexico? But talking about absolute good is a way to talk about God, just like absolute evil is a way to talk about the devil. Do you see what I’m getting at here? Magic is the most incredible metaphor for power that we have, which is why magic is a powerful metaphor. I’m sorry. I can’t believe I just did that to you. Let’s move on.

Let us no longer miss the opportunity to use the science fiction and fantasy genres for the glory of God. Don’t be afraid of the world, don’t be afraid of criticism. I am having a very Lord of the Rings moment where I really want to stand on top of a building and shout, “It is time to take back what is ours!” But really, I should be less melodramatic. Use the tools that God has given us to explore whatever drives you; don’t fall for the lie that God has no business in science fiction and fantasy.

By Rachelle Clifford