James McGrath’s Religion and Science Fiction: Chapter 1

OH NO’S, IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD! AGAIN? Yes.

I would like to thank Wipf and Stock Publishers for my review copy of James McGrath’s latest book, Religion and Science Fiction.

In Joyce Janca-Aji’s essay, The Dark Dreamlife of Postmodern Theology: Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children, and Alien Resurrection, she looks at the French science fiction, apocalyticism, and post-modernity as late capitalism. Post-modernity as Janca-Aji sees, makes a way for humanity to get beyond human beings as denatured and towards a more integral view of creation, where human and non-human planetary creatures are seen as all interconnected. Each of the three films mentioned above contain some Christian theological elements, with THE FALL to sin, the collapse of the Garden of Eden is done by the hands of MAN (literally, male human beings); more specifically, the destruction of creation done in the name of phallocentric world views.

Janca-Aji proposes that Gaia thealogy provides “a new model of coexistence and self-transcendence” over and against Christian “apocalyptic views and a mechanistic view of the world” (29-30). It is the use of apocalyptic that I wish to question. For the term apocalypse in the Greek, means an unveiling (in those times, the bride on wedding day– still male-oriented, though), but has also been used with the notion of revelation in mind. For John of Patmos in his Apocalypse, the death, resurrection, and Second Coming of Christ revealed the the wickedness of the Roman Empire of his day. In the book of Daniel, the event of being in exile along with God’s presence with him and his three friends unveiled the arrogance of the Babylonian empire as well as the rising Greek republics.

Apocalyptic thought is not just about “the end of the the world” in terms of destruction, but about the END, the telos, of the world in terms of it’s orientation according to a specific world view. When I think about Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse (the two episode Epitaph 1 and Epitaph 2) or just about every episode of Angel since the world was going to end on a weekly basis, what was exactly the meaning behind it all, especially since Joss is not religious? Perhaps to expose the way the world works, just how powerful are corporations, or how fluid are our identities, or how crucial are relationships to the human soul?

Perhaps the way to go is not through just “coexistence and self-transcendence” since these are the way things are; perhaps science fiction films and books should start to promote a more relational view of the world, rejecting the dialectical thinking inherent in self-transcendence and the multicultural segregationism that can be found in coexistence. Open theism or Process theology could be one way for Christians to reconcile both Tradition and Science.

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