One of my earliest memories of childhood is sneaking down the stairs and hiding behind the furniture to see what my father was watching on the television. If I could manage it right I could watch for quite a while before getting caught. One show got my attention immediately; (probably because it was in color) Star Trek. Ever since I first saw it in hiding I have been hooked. As I grew and Star Trek reruns were a staple on Chanel 11 in the early evening, I watched daily and developed an affection for the series. Sometimes making fun of the more outrageous speeches by Captain Kirk, laughing at the kitsch of the special effects, and other times thinking deeply about the issues raised. In my middle school years when the first Star Wars film (now supposedly episode 4) exploded on the scene, much of the same process would happen again. In my high school years, I began to explore the literary genre as well with Asimov and George Herbert books.
As boy the action and adrenaline provided by the plots is what peaked my interest, as a man it is the issues behind the action that drive the story. I like the genre of Science Fiction (sometimes called Speculative Fiction by literary scholars) so much because it is probably one of the few places in our popular culture where faith is discussed in an open and non-condescending way. Most other genres either marginalize faith or make fun of it. In contrast since Science Fiction deals with so many open questions, it can explore issues that our current secularist orthodoxy usually declares off limits. Faith is one of these. It is a regular topic in Science Fiction, just think about "the force" if you have seen Star Wars.
The future or today?
Savvy viewers and readers understand that Science Fiction is not about the future at all. Just like Historical Fiction (think PBS's Downton Abbey) it is about the issues that the writers are currently dealing with. The world the writers set up provides a safe space to reflect on the issues and ideas that might be too sensitive to discuss openly. In the Bible the Apostle Paul wrote: But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. (Romans 1:19-20 The Message) Living a normal human life means encountering signs of God in the world in which we live on a daily basis. It is a travesty of our current age that there are so few places to discuss these signs, questions, and observations openly and honestly.
I was inspired to write this article by my recent viewing of the remake of Battlestar Galactica (2004-10). I found it that it contained the best discussion of the differing ways that people can engage faith and navigate the competing ideas of religion that we are currently struggling with in our culture. Its world of spaceships, robots, and clones provides a sanctuary to ask the questions that we otherwise push below the surface. Therefore, I would like to use this as an opportunity. Since God through Jesus Christ provides answers to our deepest questions, I would like to bring these questions out into the open and see what the Gospel of Jesus Christ has to say about them. So each week this Easter Season at church I will show a short Science Fiction clip dealing with a particular question raised, and show two things. The first is that the Bible raises the exact same question, the second is that is also contains an answer to it in Jesus Christ.
If you have long since moved out of your parents' basement and do not resonate with Science Fiction, I do hope you can at least be open to the questions we will be discussing as they indeed have much real world application. So if this is not for you, please know that it will not last forever, and I thank you in advance for extending me some grace to go out on limb to reach some people in a new way. Indeed, if you know a Sci-Fi fan who may be interested please share this with him or her. Please be in prayer for us as a church as we try to reach out to our world.
The questions we will present, and their source will be as follows:
Why do we need to die? From: Battlestar Galactica Season 4 Episode 9, “Guess what’s coming to dinner?”
Why does the Bible matter? From Firefly Season 1 Episode 7, “Jaynestown”
Why do we deserve to be saved? From Battlestar Gallactica Season 1 Miniseries Part 1
How do we live with guilt? From Battlestar Galactica Season 3 Epsiode 7 “Hero”
How much can we forgive? From Battlestar Galactica Season 3 Episode 18, “Crossroads Part 1”
What happens when we die? From Battlestar Galactica Season 4 Episode 8 “Faith”
Finally, if you do watch movies or television no matter what the genre, I recommend you do so through the eyes of Jesus Christ. Your viewing need not be a mindless escape but a way to come to grips with the questions that arising in the hearts of people today. Perhaps the best way to watch is to have a Bible next to your easy chair so that your entertainment can be part of your holy living.
Keep the Faith,
PS. To prove I am not alone, check out the following link from the Radio Program "On Being" for a discussion of faith on TV that borrows heavily from Battlestar Galactica. A download of the program is available: http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2009/tv/