The best science fiction (and fantasy) stories are often essentially an examination of moral actions and associated conversations about what is the right thing to do in a given moment. The author has the freedom to tweak the setting and situation in a way that allows the moral conflict to be both heightened and focused in ways that typical fiction doesn’t.
The result is a body of literature that imagines a different world, a different set of values and dreams of a different way of living. That ability to dream of what might be is what makes the genre so fascinating.
It’s also, according to Julie Clawson, something that church should be doing, and more compellingly.
“In many ways these fictions take up the task that the church has nearly completely abdicated. Churches don’t use their collective voice and energy to challenge the existence of a world where God’s ways are not allowed to reign. Oh, churches fight for their rights, but rarely are the ones helping build a better world for all. Churches instead help people feel fulfilled, spiritually connected, and generally as comfortable as they can. The church is often nothing more than a support group or vendor of experiences to help us feel like we belong. God is tacked-on to make our experiences feel meaningful, but not to challenge us to subvert the constraints to the sovereignty of the kingdom of God. So we go to church to feel connected to a tradition, we go to get an “I’m okay, you’re okay” affirmation, we go to hear why we are right and everyone else is wrong, we go to feel safe and secure amidst like-minded people — but rarely do we go to imagine how everything could be different. Dreaming of better world is apparently only for those sci-fi/fantasy geeks.
But it was the role of the biblical prophet to imagine alternative ways of living in this world that reflected the ways of God. As Walter Brueggemann wrote about the prophetic, it is “an assault on public imagination, aimed at showing that the present presumed world is not absolute, but that a thinkable alternative can be imagined, characterized, and lived in. … Thus, the prophetic is an alternative to a positivism that is incapable of alternative, uneasy with critique, and so inclined to conformity.””
It’s a fair point. So what should we be doing differently exactly? Something to ponder on an August weekend.