by Barbara Early
I’m not exactly a sci-fi junkie, but there are a couple of worlds that I follow enthusiastically. I can still recall many of the lines from the original Star Trek series--which we just broke down and bought on Blu-ray. And I’m a devotee of Doctor Who. While I fell for it recently, I fell for it hard. I love that science fiction pushes my imagination out of its normal comfort zone. I marvel at the creativity in creating whole worlds and species.
Now, I don’t really have a problem with aliens. I haven’t spent much time pondering whether aliens fit into the Christian world view. Could God have created other worlds with life on them? He certainly has the power to do so. (Still, I suspect that if He had, He might have mentioned it.)
But aliens aren’t really what sci-fi is all about. Rather, aliens and other worlds are the vehicles through which a story is told and ideas are examined. And a sci-fi story, more than many other genres, has strong thematic elements and may impart an almost allegorical meaning.
Consider, for example, an episode of classic Star Trek called “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.” In this episode, two survivors of a long war are brought aboard the Enterprise. But they are enemies, mainly because, while both are black on one side and white on the other, they are opposite sides. “Well, that’s stupid” is the viewer’s expected reaction. Oh, wait…and the implications start coming. It’s stupid to hate someone just because they look different. That was a timely message, back in the 60s. Still is.
Our world has changed quite a bit from the 1960s, however. Sci-fi still has meanings, but the meanings have shifted over time. We now live in a post-Christian culture. And it’s not unusual to find that the vestiges of Christian culture are either missing from modern sci-fi, or, as is becoming trendy, challenged, defied, and mocked.
Now, I still enjoy Doctor Who, but here are some things I’ve come across this season that made me wince, that I’d want to discuss with any younger children watching.
Gay marriage. (From “Deep Breath”) I'm not talking about the wackos of Westboro Baptist Church, here. It's never right to be unkind or cruel to anyone. But to me, being a Christian involves accepting the whole package, including a lot of ideas that are unpalatable to the world in general, such as holding to a traditional view of marriage. Apparently that makes me a bad person.
Madame Vastra: Jenny and I are married. Yet for appearance’s sake we maintain a pretense in public that she is my maid…I wear a veil to keep from view what many are pleased to call my disfigurement. I do not wear it as a courtesy to such people, but as judgment on the quality of their hearts.
Faith considered archaic. (From “Deep Breath”) One of many quotes that imply if you hold to any religious ideas, you're obviously outdated and not intelligent.
Droid: I will not die. I will reach the promised land.
Doctor Who: There isn’t any promised land. It’s just a superstition that you have picked up from all the humanity of stuff inside you.
Lying. (From “Flatliners”) With the absence of a moral code, everything is relative.
Doctor Who: And what long story are you going to tell Danny, heh? Or haven’t you made it up yet?…Congratulations, lying is a valuable survival skill.
Pragmatism. (From “Flatliners”) And the key to judging an idea is if it works.
Clara: …I was the Doctor, and I was good.
Doctor Who: You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara. Goodness had nothing to do with it.
I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t watch or read sci-fi, but it’s become more important to do so with discernment. And if your children are watching sci-fi, it might not be a bad idea to watch with them, to help them avoid the subtle undermining of the Christian principles you are trying to teach them.
Yes, Virginia, you can be an intelligent and educated person and still believe in God and maintain a moral code--and do it without being a judgmental and hateful person.
Live long and prosper.