Wednesday, February 21, 2007

An Unconventional Christian Dystopia Premise

It seems that much of current Christian science fiction focuses on a Dystopic vision of the future. Dystopias are the opposite of utopias. They are nightmare visions of the world of tomorrow. Dystopias are a staple of science fiction, although, they seem to have become popular in Christian speculative fiction in recent years. Perhaps it is the influence of the Left Behind series placed during the "Great Tribulation" period described in Revelation . Maybe it is just a good way to build a heart-throbbing, action-filled story. Whatever the reason, they are big part of the Christian science fiction scene.

Most of these dystopias postulate an atheistic/humanistic government persecuting an underground, relatively united, Christian church. However, with the notable exception of the communism of the old soviet union, it's satellite states and modern day China, historically, most religious persecution has come from state-sponsored religious groups rather than from atheistic groups. In other words, it is from states that are not anti-religion, but pro-religion to such an extreme that any variation from the state-sanctioned religious belief system is repressed, violently if necessary.

Lately, I've been thinking that an interesting spin on the Christian Underground Church of the future story would be to place it in a world where one particular "Christian" group has taken the reigns of power.

The persecuted church would be composed of individuals who initially supported the "moral" reforms which may have started out innocuously enough like posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms. Later modification of the first amendment to allow repression of certain types of "offensive" materials and religions. This could possibly take place under the rationale that certain religious groups spawn terrorism. Since Christians form the majority, repression of these other religions would be easy to condone.

Then Christianity would be designated as the official religion.Again little objection since most Americans considered themselves Christian, whether they actually went ot church or not.

Over time one segment, the most legalistic of the coalition, gains ascendancy. A Ministry of Religion could be established to provide government assistance to religious organizations, but eventually becoming a vetting agency to determine what is or is not a "legitimate religion." Eventually, it becomes an agency of a new inquisition seeking out "heretics." This list of heretical groups grows to include those teaching salvation through repentance and faith alone, and not through works of righteousness, those holding that there is some flexibility in matters of dress and entertainment, those that practice certain rituals rather than those approved by the state, and possibly those who are simply outside the mainstream of Christianity like Charismatics and Pentecostals.

Lest you believe this to be an unlikely scenario, I suggest you read European history. Entire wars were fought over whether to use one element or two in the celebration of the Eucharist. Wycliffe, one of the first men to translate the Bible into English was martyred for that act alone. John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrims Progress, wrote most of that work while imprisoned for teaching a doctrine different than that sanctioned by the English church at the time.

Even in the Americas, our Puritan forefathers, punished variant doctrines with pillories, beatings, exile and death. Indeed, most of us viscerally approve freedom of religion (or speech or the press for that matter) only in so far as it protects my freedom and not necessarily that of those with whom I disagree. So, it is easy to see how a "majority" religion could slowly turn a moral agenda into a legalistic repressive government.

If Christian speculative fiction is part parable, such a story could be not only action-filled and thought-provoking, but could also be an allegory of the constant spiritual struggle between the forces of legalism and grace.

It has been said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Whether that damnation is personal or societal, it is certainly fair game to explore in fiction. Yes, I am working on a story with this premise. When it's finished, I'll let you know how it came out. But, hey, feel free to create your own nightmare theocracy. If it's good enough, it might even appear in a future issue of Wayfarers Journal.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Post them here.

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Blogger Karina Fabian said...

I don't see it happening in America without a fight. However, have you been reading about what's going on in Venezuela?

Karina Fabian

February 23, 2007 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger SolShine7 said...

I think dystopias and even uptopias world well with SF. It's the extreme setting that ignites some kind of rebellion of the main character.

p.s. I found your blog via A Christian Worldview of Fiction

February 23, 2007 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger chrisd said...

I think it's a great premise. Original, at the very least.

Have you thought of doing something with that?

February 23, 2007 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger Terri said...


I'm working on a short story about it now. The main character is the former Secretary of Religion who was part of the "moral revolution" movement at the beginning, but was forced out when he voiced a belief that the movement had gone to far. He is declared a heretic and the Office of Doctrinal Purity (Inquisition) is sent to "purify" the community with his elimination.

He records his story to be broadcast over the internet including a code to override the state filters.

Anyway, that's the basic story.


February 23, 2007 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Terri, fascinating stuff! I'm reading a book that seems slightly headed in this direction, with an antichrist-type character and a rising hero with supernatural strength, sort of a modern-day Sampson without the moral flaws. It's called The Last Reunion. A couple self-published it and are trying to promote it.

I, too, read "The Creation" in high school; in fact, an African American student with a very deep voice was asked to read it to the class, and it affected me profoundly. I love that poem. I'll ask Gail if she's familiar with the poet.

Thanks for your comments on my blog.

February 24, 2007 at 6:52 AM  
Blogger ken ikeda said...

I've been writing a set of scenes placed in a future US centered on a politican's idea to reformulate the bible for the purposes of statecraft, i.e. a set of principles by which federal bureaucrats follow to provide even more dedicated service. But his lark of an idea gets codified then followed assidiously like a pharisee religion in itself. The main character becomes a Christian but fails to reconcile her faith for a long time with the deceptive aims working for the government.

I've been living outside of the US the past 20 years so I really don't know the religious fiber there anymore. Help me on this.

September 7, 2007 at 1:43 AM  

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