SOMETIMES an article like this requires a disclaimer. I am an unabashed follower of Jesus Christ and an unashamed lifelong Science Fiction junkie. You heard me right. From before the time I could walk I heard the old old story of Jesus and His love. And from the time I could pick out my own books from the book mobile I devoured anything about the stars.
By the time I was ten I had already read every word of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series and Edgar Rice Burroughs was a friend long before his stories made their way to the big screen as John Carter. And in more recent times I even confess to having watched the 14 episodes of Firefly more than once (okay more than three times). Should anyone care about why these stories captured my imagination you can read more about that in Fiction and the Story of Life.
With that out of the way (unless you younger ones are still trying to figure out what a book mobile is) I turn my attention to a report issued by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. It seems the Pentagon spent $100,000 on a workshop that included a session entitled “Did Jesus Die for Klingons, Too?”
The session was part of the 100-Year Starship Symposium held last year in Orlando, FL. That event was hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA is the advanced research arm of the Pentagon that’s known for sponsoring way-out-there research. The seminar focused on the implications for Christianity if intelligent life were to be found on other planets.
To lend authority to the symposium a couple of theologians along with Lavar Burton (Lieutenant Junior Grade Geordi La Forge) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) of Star Trek fame were called in. From there attendees discussed and debated what effect the discovery of alien life would have on the tenants of the Christian faith.
What this had to do with defense is a mystery to me. But then again I feel the same about the swimming patterns of gold fish which received its own chunk of Department of Defense change.
In light of recent revelations in the CIA and elsewhere however, Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post may be right that considering Jesus and Klingons makes more sense than a lot of other things connected to the DoD. He writes:
“After all, we are but dust. Man’s life is but the blink of a gnat’s eye. We are but the weird, whitish substance that appears at the corner of the cosmos’s lip when the cosmos is yelling. Why should we not, while we remain here, try to gaze into the deep, to answer the questions whose fulfillment will enable us to know our own souls? In fact, why do we build tanks at all? Let us have more workshops instead, where we untangle questions like … How does God feel about George Lucas’s recent sale of Lucasfilm to Disney? Does Ecclesiastes affect the crew of the Serenity in any way? Can tauntauns become Calvinists?”
But in all seriousness, there is a reason I like Science Fiction. Too often Christians who write fiction turn their stories into a polemic to persuade. In other words they preach a sermon. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s just not the best medium for it. Fiction is far better suited at asking questions. And no genre asks questions better than Sci-Fi.
A couple of years ago I had a chance to interview Stuart Stockton and Kerri Nietz, both Christians who write outstanding Science Fiction. They agreed that the kind of fiction they write provides a perfect platform to ask big questions that leave people searching for big answers.
So why not give the answers in their stories? My guess is because if they tried we would end up with “Did Jesus Die for Klingons – The Sequel.” The better thing is to just tell a great story, weave in a theme if it fits, and send readers off with questions that are best answered in a different forum: like a sermon, or the Bible, or the life of a true believer.
So, “Did Jesus Die for Klingons, Too?” Check out Ephesians 1 and see what you think. Odds are you may still have a question mark or two. Perhaps some answers are reserved for the final frontier. You know the one beyond the veil of this life.