I've always had a deep liking for the science fiction and fantasy genres. Recently, a colleague of mine once questioned how it was that I was a devoted Catholic but loved science fiction. In his mind, those two things were contradictory. So here is why I think the science fiction genre is important for Christians.
Dystopia is a type of science fiction where the author depicts a future world where the government is set up to make everything "perfect," but is actually horribly repressive. The dystopias like "1984," "Brave New World" and "Fahrenheit 451" all show us a world that takes the ideas we prize to an extreme to show where they go wrong.
"1984" is George Orwell's harrowing view of the Cold War sacrifices and ideologies, which shows us a world of informants, where children are turned against their parents, and where sacrifices for the perpetual war rationalize all suffering. The "Thought-Police" arrest and torture people who question is established order and political parties. And the politicians seek to limit the use of language in order to limit thought.
In "Brave New World" Aldous Huxley gives the most scarily accurate portrayal of a "perfect" future world. Every person is a commodity, their are no families, only casual sex, all babies are made and raised communally, there is no education outside of class conditioning, people only learn how to do their jobs, happiness is maintained by "feelies" or movies that have sensory effects, people are separated by class and designed to have a specific intelligence that makes them accept and enjoy the job they have without question. Lastly, when anything gets unpleasant, just take "soma," a nice, little hallucinogen that will take care of everything.
And briefly, "Fahrenheit 451" paints a world where 3-D TVs take the place of families, all relationships are superficial, and books are burned because they would make us think and question the type of "happiness" we have where people waste away in front of the TV by day and take too many pain-killers at night. [These are a scant few of the landmark science fiction classics that are more a thought-experiment about societal order than about aliens]
Although "Brave New World" is only one to deal with religion specifically, all the dystopias show us a world without religion, where man is the measure of everything and man-made happiness has come to supplant true happiness. Moral frameworks are out of the picture, and everything is decided by the governing body.
One of the main themes is lack of education. People only know enough to do their jobs and are not encouraged to think or consider the nature of their lives or what their lives should be like.
These are important questions for Christians to think about since we are called to be pilgrims in this world; we have to consider the present order and whether it is good or not. We have to think about how we are called to live our lives, what type of relationships we are supposed to have and how we are to treat people.
Dystopias invite us to consider the prevailing ideas of our culture and where they are headed if taken to their logical extreme. They allow us to look critically at ourselves and what our role should be as leaven in the dough.
What type of world should we live as an example of?Do you think that science fiction and Christianity are opposing forces? What is the role of questioning and philosophy in our society, what types of assumptions have we accepted without realizing it? Are those good or not? Do you have a favorite genre of books?