Adapting


seven_of_nine_speaks_for_the_borgI write fantasy and love the imaginative. It should come as no surprise, then, that when H&I started airing reruns of all the Star Trek programs, I eagerly began watching (except for the original—I’m less of a fan of those). Seeing them one after the other has been enlightening on many levels. One thing I’ve noticed is that the theme of adapting or even assimilation arises over and over.

Assimilation is a result of one species, The Borg, taking over the bodies of those they defeat by turning them into cyber-humans with only a collective conscience, not a sense of individuality. As the various Star Trek crews encounter The Borg, their major goal is to avoid assimilation.

But with considerable frequency a parallel theme surfaces—these space explorers from Earth had to adapt.

There’s a lot of talk in our day about adapting. We need to adapt to the changing technology, to the twenty-first century, to postmodern thought, to a global economy, to the realities of science.

The church in America seems to have bought into the idea that we need to adapt to the greater culture in which we live. So we need to find a way to make peace with feminism, we need to become relevant for the next generation, we need to tap into the way people today consume information.

Some changes are subtle, some innocuous. Some correct error from an earlier generation. For instance, I grew up in churches that looked down on drinking and smoking and dancing. In fact, the Christian college I attended required us to sign a pledge saying that we would not engage in such activities. They apparently overlooked premarital sex, however.

I say that tongue in cheek, but the truth is, while we were trying to hold the line against dancing, there were major breaches of a much more serious nature. Breaches in matters that the Bible stands against.

Change needed to be made so that we were no longer concerned with law-keeping while overlooking the point and purpose of God’s righteous demand for holiness. Legalism is not holy living, and my early church experience didn’t do a good job of differentiating.

The course corrective was not to adapt to the culture, though. The course corrective was to return to what the authoritative word of God says.

Of course, in order to do that we first need to know what God’s word says.

Oddly—I say “oddly” but it’s not really odd because I believe Satan, who hates God and wants to undermine His plans and purposes, is behind it—oddly we are not, as a western Christian culture, working hard to learn what God has to say in His word.

I’m fortunate that my church has once again instituted a Scripture reading program for us. As a body, we read a passage of Scripture together and one member of the congregation writes a meditation on the text. We also have preachers (still no senior teaching pastor, but that’s OK—I’d rather we find someone by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, who God wants for us) who instruct us from God’s word.

Currently we have Dr. Gene Getz preaching, and while he was teaching on Sunday, it hit me that I hardly know the Bible, so much greater was his knowledge and scholarship than my own. I’ve long thought the Bible is an inexhaustible source of wisdom and knowledge, but that idea was strongly re-enforced Sunday.

But I’m getting away from the subject of adapting.

It dawned on me this week that adapting is really a voluntary form of assimilation. It’s slower, though. We decide what we wish to change, and accordingly we move a little left or right. Sometimes there’s a bit of a pendulum movement that swings us from one extreme back to the other. But often, each new swing leaves us a little closer to the ideas and patterns to which we’re adapting.

I’m not talking about the issues of the 60s—boys’ long hair and girls’ short skirts—though things that seem so trivial undoubtedly did have an affect on culture. I’m not even talking about things like accepting abortion or moving homosexuality from the abnormal psych part of our text books to redefining marriage so that gays can be part of “normal society.”

The real adaptations we’re making have to do with our relationship to God.

Israel faced the exact same issue. God gave them His covenant and then His Law. They agreed to both. They would be God’s people and they would keep His Law. But once they settled in to their promised land, once they had some stability and security and prosperity, they started looking around at the nations surrounding them.

Look at their gods, at their religious activity, at their power structure. We want to be like them!

King Manasseh was probably the worst. He ruled for over a half century, and under his rule Judah adapted quite well to the nations around them. They started worshiping their gods, erected idols like theirs, practiced witchcraft like they did, instituted child sacrifice like they did. All the things the Canaanites had done which caused God to kick them out of the land, the people of Judah copied.

They adapted.

After all, worshiping one god was passé. Following His law, observing His feast days, making sacrifice to Him because of their sins was just so yesterday.

In the same we, we adapt today.

Is the Bible really authoritative? Might it not be simply a collection of myths, some infused with good, moral teaching? The rest, of course, is thoroughly forgettable because it is so passé. One God? One way to Him? Certainly all ways are equal. After all, we believe in egalitarianism. How could one way be better than the others.

And so it goes as we listen to “higher criticism” and progressives and univeralists and a host of other false teachers who show us how we can slice and dice the Bible until it says what the rest of the culture says. So of course abortion is OK, and homosexuality, and women preachers, and people ignoring their contractual commitments—in business or in personal relationships. Of course a little pandering to the wealthy is acceptable, a little bribery, a little lying. After all, it’s just business.

What’s more, what matters most is not God and His righteousness. What matters most is that we are not offensive to anyone, even as we push our way to the top. We must love, at the expense of truth if necessary, so that people will like us and accept us and support us.

That’s a snapshot of Christians adapting.

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Review: Space Drifters By Paul Regnier


cover_SpaceDriftersI’ve been away from blogging for a week, but not actually by choice. I had a health issue that kept me doing little more than eating and sleeping. And reading.

Reading really is a wonderful pastime, but without realizing it, I’ve gotten away from doing as much as I usually do. So it felt great to get back into books again.

I read some good titles—mostly fiction, but I gobbled down one autobiography and am working on a couple more at a slower pace (now that I’m back to writing). Today I want to give my review of a very fun science fiction, Space Drifters by Paul Regnier (Enclave Publishing).

The Story

Glint Starcrost, the captain of an older spaceship, has a bounty on his head. He’s broke, his ship is falling apart, and his computer is going a bit haywire. Add to that, a time traveler from the past has landed on his bridge, and a fleet of Zormian star pirates has surrounded his craft. Oh, and then there’s Jasette, the beguiling beauty who masquerades as a bounty hunter but who is actually a princess with a secret agenda of her own.

All Glint wants is to reverse his ill-fated luck, which he believes he can do if he can find the Emerald Enigma, a treasure he’s only heard about and which some believe to be a myth. Of course, he isn’t the only one searching for it. Hamilton Von Drone, his old nemesis from the Space Academy who stole his rightful place atop the class of space pilots, is also plotting to track down the priceless object.

Fortunately Glint has his faithful friend and right hand . . . well, lizard, Blix, at his side through all these adventures. Technically Blix isn’t a lizard. He’s a Vythian, a lizard-man with shiny copper scales, a brown bandoleer filled with daggers criss-crossing his torso, and charcoal pants over “his muscular reptilian legs.”

Quite the motley cast of characters and quite the story! Can Glint evade the bounty hunters, find the Emerald Enigma, best Hamilton in their latest confrontation, and survive the crash of his computer, Iris, who has a warped view of her relationship with him?

I’ll let you read the story for yourself to discover the twists and turns that develop along the way.

Strengths

As you may have surmised by my story intro, this space opera is a bit tongue-in-cheek. There is lots of humor and a healthy dose of parody. The characters are likeable, to be sure, and the interplay between them is delightful.

Blix reminds me of a character in Donita Paul’s DragonKeeper Chronicles—Rigador, a meech dragon. He’s also a bit like a lizard-ish version of Spock, the Vulcan in Star Trek. He verbally spars with his captain and is right most of the time, and as it happens, is the character who is most intrigued by the Bible. Of course, he’s intrigued by anything he can read. It’s the time traveler, Nelvan, who brought the Bible aboard.

The presence of a Bible, and I suspect, of a Christian, fits in naturally to the story. Without giving anything away, the Bible turns out to play a significant part in the story, but not in the way most people would think. It’s set up perfectly without any suggestion of heavy-handed preaching. In fact, it’s treated with no more regard than any other book, though there’s every opportunity for that to change in volume two of the series.

Each of the characters comes across as an individual, and they each have their own set of problems and goals. Their voices are strong and unique, which makes the story particularly feel like a movie, or at least, a book I can visualize. [As an aside, I think it’s interesting how voice can make a book feel more visual!]

Weaknesses

This first point is related to the parody aspect of the story. I think: there’s a plethora of hard-to-pronounce names of strange places and races. And things. It’s one of the dangers of writing speculative fiction, I think—a danger I may fall into in my own writing. Certainly the strange names can give a story the feel of otherness, which is necessary for worldbuilding, but it can also be a deterrent to some readers who don’t want to wade through so many strange pronunciations.

Secondly, there were a few times when I wanted our fearless captain to treat people differently—with less anger and hostility. Fortunately, this story is related in the first person so we readers are privy to Glint’s thoughts. We know he says a lot because he’s trying to create a certain persona which he thinks starship captains are supposed to portray. His inner musings let us know what he’s really like, and it’s that person I enjoy the most. So I found myself wishing for more “nice Glint” sections, though honestly, I don’t know if “nice Glint” would work as well.

Recommendation

Space Drifters is a fun story with characters that seem like real people. Anyone who enjoys space opera and humor will love this book. It’s a fast read, one I happily recommend.

The Na’vi, the Borg, and the Church


On Sunday Avatar won the Golden Globe best picture award, an amazing accomplishment considering the thin plot and two-dimensional characters. (If you haven’t seen this short spoof on the formulation of the plot, you’re missing a good laugh 😆 ).

Interestingly, writer/director James Cameron put to bed all the questions about the message of Avatar in one of his acceptance speeches (he also received the award for best director):

Avatar asks us to see that everything is connected, all human beings to each other and us to the Earth. And if you have to go four and a half light years to another planet to appreciate this miracle of the world that we have right here, well, you know what, that’s the wonder of cinema right there.

This movie is not the first to depict this interconnectedness. Star Trek: First Contact, a 1994 movie based on the TV program Star Trek: The Next Generation, featured an enemy known as The Borg, which also exhibited a unitary oneness.

The Borg … organized as an interconnected collective, the decisions of which are made by a hive mind …. They operate solely toward the fulfilling of one purpose: to “add the biological and technological distinctiveness of other species to their own” in pursuit of perfection. This is achieved through forced assimilation, a process which transforms individuals and technology into Borg, enhancing, and simultaneously controlling, individuals.

Wikipedia

The hive mind rather than individualism. Assimilation rather than freedom to choose. The pursuit of perfection at the expense of others. Add to this their oft repeated warning, “Resistance is futile” and you had one of the truly terrifying antagonists of contemporary fiction.

And yet, fifteen years later the Na’vi show up on the big screen with many of these same components and they are the heroes. Rather than enjoying the “hive mind” at all times, it seems they can “plug in” at will. They also don’t assimilate, but they resist all who are not part of the people. Clearly their pursuit is perfection though they find their path through their connection to nature, not through adopting and adapting technology as The Borg did.

In both these groups, I see echoes of the Church universal. The Borg had a queen with central control over the collective, and the Na’vi had a goddess who was their god beyond the god of everything. Christians are part of the body of Christ, with Jesus as our head.

The Borg had one mind, the Na’vi could plug in and experience a oneness with creatures, and the Christian has the mind of Christ which allows us to be united in spirit and intent on one purpose (Phil. 2:2).

Finally, The Borg sought perfection through assimilation, and the Na’vi experienced perfection in nature. The Christian has regeneration and sanctification with the expectation of glorification—a life free from sin at last.

Are these parallels happy accidents? Could the humans behind the creation of The Borg and the Na’vi be expressing a heartfelt need that can only be satisfied in reality from the relationship God intends through His Son for His people? Could Satan be exploiting this need to do what he so often does—make a poor copy of God’s greater design? Hence, panentheism, a religion that offers unity and peace.

Last week I discussed connection points between Christianity and the philosophy espoused in Avatar. Why wouldn’t there be? Humans all have the same basic needs. The Truth will meet those needs, whereas the lie will promise more than it can deliver (e.g. Satan: “You surely shall not die”).

For a discussion about Avatar from a writer’s perspective, see “What I Learn About Writing From Avatar.”

Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 10:19 am  Comments (3)  
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The Need for Christian Worldview SF/Fantasy


I’ve mentioned this in passing a time or two, but recently the point has come home more forcefully. Speculative fiction is hugely popular in the culture, but for the most part, since there has been little Christian science fiction or fantasy published, the genre is driven by those with an opposing worldview.

But what makes this particularly different from suspense or mystery or literary fiction, movies, or television? After all, CSI isn’t Christian, and neither was Murder, She Wrote. Mysteries have a long history, with few surfacing as Christian, and no one seems to think this is a serious problem. So why would it be for SF/fantasy?

Simply put, because of the required tropes. In a mystery, a crime is committed and someone has to solve it. Justice triumphs. There is little leeway. In science fiction and, more so in fantasy, good clashes with evil. Good wins out. But, and here’s the central issue, what is “good”?

Spec Faith blogger Stephen Burnett wrote in his post yesterday about the British sci-fi television series Doctor Who. From what he says, I thought of the Star Trek: Next Generation or Voyager or Deep Space Nine or even Enterprise. All those showed essentially a fight between good and evil, but good was defined as sentient life that is willing to do no harm to other sentient life. Those wonderful shows primarily said night in and night out, Can’t we all just get along? No matter the sexual orientation or the cultural practices—unless said practices harm others.

I called them “wonderful” because they built these captivating worlds and populated them with interesting people, but I also think the programs reinforced a solid humanist worldview. Certainly, for a Christian aware of this, the shows were informative, providing a basis for understanding our culture. And yet, there was that “reinforcing” aspect.

In some ways, this is the question, Does art reflect culture or influence it? I suggest the answer is, Yes.

Which brings us back to the issue of the need for a Christian worldview in SF/fantasy. While humanists have been defining good and evil for some time, now atheists are beginning to do the same. And New Age writers, Buddhists, Mormons …

Once, even in works by a-religious authors, a good/evil struggle nevertheless mirrored Truth. But with writers shaping good after their own image or in the image of their favorite idolatrous religion, good has been turned on its head.

I was reminded of this just last Wednesday when I saw the Spiderwick Chronicles at our local dollar theater (which charges $1.50 😉 ). In that movie there is a clearly defined evil, but good? Not so easy to spot. The closest representation of supernatural good was actually more concerned with self-preservation than with anything else, even becoming an antagonist at one point to those trying to defeat the evil.

And who was fighting evil? Humans. So, the real good vs. evil struggle was humans vs. supernatural evil, with supernatural good sort of neutral—sometimes aiding and sometimes hindering.

God? Not present.

Is this the Truth we think art should reflect … or the influence on society we would like to see prevail?

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