Over the phone one day,I was talking to Joel about what it means to be a scholar of religion nowadays. Joel said something quite interesting: you can’t be a biblical scholar or theologian without being a science fiction fan. That comment took me by surprise.
Yesterday, I remember reading a post criticizing James McGrath for posting on Doctor Who more than New Testament items.
Was that particular criticism fair? I doubt it, and here is why. What makes science fiction so important. Walter Mosely, in his essay in Sheree’s Thomas’s Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction From the African Diaspora suggests that the power behind science fiction and fantasy is the power to ask the question, “What If?”
Certainly, there are forms of religion, particularly in Christianity, which would have us to arrive at the conclusion that this is the best possible of all worlds, and that is a very fine assessment. However, it is not without it’s problems, first of all, and second, let me posit that this conclusion relies on the notion that it is human rationality that separates us from other planetary creatures.
I, on the other hand, agree with Charles R. Saunders, from the same text, who argues that it is the human imagination which separates us from the animal kingdom. Here is a man, who faced racism when submitting his work, for to re-imagine the world being ran by intelligent black people was considered to be a scientific and biological impossibility. In short, to believe that human subjects who were brought forth from the African diaspora had anything to offer Western Civilization was, ahem, irrational and pure fantasy. Of course, in the realm of our imagination is also where we find our socially constructed notions of race. Our very own imagination lands, if you mind the South Park reference, can be both fun and exciting as well as dangerous and hideous.
Fantasy and science fiction genres of literature and film appeal to our religious sensibilities, for human-beings are story-driven to the core. For those who embrace the idea that another world is possible, science fiction and fantasy writings and media can be seen as worthy allies.