Science Fiction & Black Religion

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.

h00die_R (Rod)

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6 thoughts on “Science Fiction & Black Religion

  1. Pingback: In-Flight Viewing | Exploring Our Matrix

  2. Thanks for raising the issue. You might be interested in my blog and related Facebook group, where I frequently address science fiction and religion, and will be interviewing the author of Horror Noire which discusses black representation in horror films.

  3. I completely agree with your assessment of science fiction and fantasy inspiring the “what if?” part of our human imagination…but I wonder your thoughts on how this relates to religion.

    Dark Matters introduces a paradigm shift from the way things were (for better or worse).

    The Shadow series (O. S. Card) offer a possible glimpse into worlds where genetic modification dictate outcomes of global, even inter-stellar, politics.

    The Ender series (also Card) offer a possible glimpse into a world where humanist ideals dictate what human interaction with sentient species we might be incapable of understanding or communicating with.

    Asimov’s Foundations series reads like futuristic historical fiction that shows us if we don’t remember history, we are destined to repeat it.

    My question, I guess, is what sort of paradigm shifts, or “what ifs” do religious texts offer us, as you see it?

    And after that…does that lend any credence to the truth claims of those texts? I mean, beautifully written fiction is still fiction.

    • “And after that…does that lend any credence to the truth claims of those texts?”

      Um, probably not. But it would add to the notion that we are story-formed beings. :-)

      “My question, I guess, is what sort of paradigm shifts, or “what ifs” do religious texts offer us, as you see it?”

      What if questions undermine religions, and I would say theologies, that say that no other world is possible, that we must accept the world as it is. I think the aforementioned vision of the world is lacking, and sci, as well as religions/theologies of hope help us to overcome that view.

  4. Pingback: Sutton Griggs’ Imperium In Imperio: Black Science Fiction As Social Prophesy | Political Jesus

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