Christianity and Science Fiction: Context Me!

Originally published at Thus Sayeth the Lord…. You can comment here or there.

Mormons don’t have a paid clergy. So, instead of the reverend getting up there every week to try our patience (and our capacity for catnaps), it’s our friends up there at the pulpit, sermonizing.

A couple of weeks ago, a visitor to our congregation spoke on her experiences with autistic children. She was mostly excellent. One of the things which she said, however, caught me quite off guard. She was speaking about the utter innocence of children and used the following scripture from the Book of Mormon:

Alma 30:25Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.

Now, she mentioned that she didn’t know the context in which the scripture was said; but that PROVED that children were innocent. Unfortunately, that particular line was spoken by Korihor, one of the most ungodly people in the Book of Mormon; and the context was that he was contending against one of God’s prophets at the time.

Yeah, oops.

I tell this to illustrate an important point about why some people cannot get past the weird in speculative fiction: they lack contextual training. A better example might be the falderall that Huckleberry Finn undergoes– allegations of racism for its use of the n-word. People get caught up in the fact that someone used a term, wrote a scene, was just plain WEIRD, they latch on to that one thing– and the context is lost.

Did Korihor care about innocent children? No, we’re told that he led men and women into prostitution and sorrow. Does Huckleberry Finn endorse racism through use of the n-word? No, quite the contrary.

Context, context, context!

You can tell, by now, that I’ve moved from examining the problems between Christianity and Speculative fiction to formulating the beginning of a resolution to them.

Contextual training is the first step. What’s funny (read: neat :) ) is that Christians, especially Bible-studying Christians, should be all over context like ugly on a camel’s rump. The Bible is a book that demands that the modern reader take the situations presented therein IN CONTEXT. Indeed, all of Christian apologia is half theology, half re-positioning the conversation (whatever it might be) in the context in which it was written. Context should be one of the first things that Christian readers should be familiar with, because so often the faith is under fire by people who take scripture verses out of context in order to attack it.

Context, though, moves the discussion beyond what is merely “weird,” “absurd,” “fantastical,” or “abnormal.” By discussing context, I’m discussing the depiction of morality. It means we’re talking about darkness and light; right and wrong. It means that next time, I plan on discussing how evil is depicted in speculative fiction; and why it is imperative for believing writers to depict it.

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