Monday, November 3, 2014

Sci-fi, Aliens, and the Christian World View

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.


  1. I think Jeff Gerke's new book about UFOs and the Christian World View looks interesting. Have you seen it?

    1. I haven't see it!

      If I wrote sci-fi, I'd be all over it. He's one of my favorites at writing conferences.

    2. Oh goody! I'm glad to hear that, because I'll see him this weekend in Denver for a mini-conference!

    3. ooh, sounds interesting! read the book and tell me what it says

  2. I'd like to see more Christian writers pursuing science fiction and suspense and thrillers, because they provide such diverse themes for exploring a Christian worldview.

  3. That's probably a good idea, Niki. I should read more sci-fi.

  4. Excellent post, Barb, and so true. Story, especially in the guise of something new and wonderful, is very powerful. More than ever, we need to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.

    I remember an animated Star Trek episode from when I was growing up. This society was obviously a Puritan one (Thanksgiving-type outfits and everything), and a Satan-looking creature called Lucien was there trying to change their laws or something (it's been so long, I don't remember why he said he was there). Anyway, the "mean" Puritans were resisting him, and the "good" people of the Enterprise were helping him.

    And then one of the Puritans said, "What if we told you his real name is Lucifer?" And still the captain and crew were trying to help him and wouldn't help the Puritans.

    Gah!! Talk about "In your face, Christians!" Not that all SF is that way. By no means. But we do have to be discerning.

    Great post.

    [Forgive me if I don't remember the details exactly, but that was the main idea of it. Scary.]

    1. Hmm. I never got into the animated Star Trek. I don't recall too much that was offensive in the classic, but I know there was a reason I stopped watching the Next Generation after a few episodes. I just don't recall what it was. But there are subtle--and not so suble--issues in so many things.

    2. Well, it's not like ALL forms of entertainment don't have a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle jabs at Christianity and/or the Christian worldview.

      I pretty much don't watch TV anymore because of it. There are so many good forms of entertainment out there, it's not like there's not still plenty to choose from. :)

    3. I remember watching an episode of Star Trek: Voyager in which Janeway and Cute Guy were stranded on a planet that, I think, had rapid evolution. They turned from humans into human-size salamanders. I always thought the point behind the theory of evolution was life adapted and improved. How is becoming a slimy salamander improving? Stupidest episode of the series.

      I also remember an episode of Star Trek: NG. The doctor fell in love with a "worm" emissary. He had a human-ish host. Well, the host was attacked and subsequently died, so a substitute host was brought in. Only this one was female. The doctor still loved the "worm" but wasn't comfortable with being in what basically was a homosexual relationship. The episode interestingly didn't end with an easy good/bad answer. Instead it let the reader ponder. To me, that's what good sci-fi does. It doesn't give the answers. It makes you think and reach answer on own.

  5. nicely put, Barb. So often entertainment makes me wince but I'm not ready to give up on all movies, tv, music and art. :) and by the way, that Star Trek episode gave me the creeps.

    1. I think I watch more TV now than when I did before I started writing, and I think it comes from that constant examining of story. When you're a writer, you're not just being entertained. You're evaluating character development and plots. Constantly analyzing. It's hard to turn off.

    2. Barb, I totally agree.

      Last Saturday child #3 was having a slumber party. I left hubby home to provide adult supervision and took Jerah to the 9:55pm showing of John Wick. Lots of movies has been made about hitmen/assassins coming out of retirement, and it's usually to protect someone they love. In this movie, the hero had lost his wife. His grief, and need to grieve, is what motivated his actions. It's really a great movie to watch if one wants to study motivation as part of character. I literally cried three times. Fair warning: Extreme graphic violence and usage of f-bombs.


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