Theology and Science Fiction

sci-fi fish

It’s confession time again: I’m a sci-fi junkie. I love Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly (my favorite), Doctor Who, Fringe and, to a lesser degree, fantasy tales like Lord of the Rings. One of the things I love most is the fact that there are quite a few excellent theological lessons to be learned from good sci-fi. Every so often, I run into people who don’t understand what I mean. Which is cool because it gives me a chance to tell them all  about it and, like any nerd worth his salt, I love to talk about this stuff. I’m about to do that right now. Don’t worry though, I’m not one of those condescending jerky type nerds who’s hung up on trivialities and thinks you’re a moron if you’re not. Condescension is not an effective evangelism tool.

Reasons I love Science Fiction:

  • It tells great, interesting and original stories. Don’t let all the futuristic, sciencey, wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey stuff fool you, sci-fi is really about stories. If you want your point to stick, tell a good story. Why do you think Jesus told all those parables? Just be sure to make it interesting and entertaining, because no one is going to listen otherwise. I’ve heard more than a few sermons that should’ve taken a page out the sci-fi handbook.
  • At its essence, sci-fi is about people. While the spiffy special effects of movies like Star Wars get all the press, they wouldn’t be worth a bucket of warm spit without the people. Same for any religion worth a crap. Sure, Jesus’ miracles are cool, but without people would anyone really give a damn?
  • It says important stuff. For all its basis in science, sci-fi talks about a lot of things that aren’t quantifiable by science. Look at the following quotes and see what you think:

I wouldn’t say that. The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things… The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things, and make them unimportant.” Dr. Who

“Shepherd Book used to tell me, “If you can’t do something smart, do something right.” Jayne Cobb, Firefly

 “Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived.”  Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek, The Next Generation

“Don’t Panic.” Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  • It’s about the battle between good and evil and, in the end, good wins. In some stories, like Star Wars, the Harry Potter series, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, etc, this idea is pretty overt. In others, like Star Trek and Firefly, you have to dig for it. But, it’s there. The thing is, it’s biblical. If someone asked me to describe the Bible in one sentence, this is what I’d say.

I know this isn’t a conventional source for religious teaching material, but smart theologians know that, sometimes, you have to think outside the box. And, what’s more outside the religious box than science fiction? If you’re a pastor and you’re already doing this, I love ya. If you’re not, what are you waiting for?