This past weekend I attended the Spocon, Spokane’s science fiction and fantasy convention. Nearly every decent-sized city has at least one, such as MisCon for the Missoula and RisCon for the Tri-Cities. Seattle has several of them, and I’m sure everybody's heard of the big one, Comic-Con.  Attendees dress up as their favorite sci-fi or fantasy character, and there’s even a masquerade contest for the best costume.  Tracks included a dystopian wars tournament, steampunk, and scientific apocalypse theories. There were also more serious sections on string theory and the Higgs boson discovery taught by the retired dean of physics from Eastern Washington University. 

On Sunday morning, the convention hosted the First Church of the Bean with Bishop Timothy. The service came complete with its own creed, “It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.  It is by the Beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed. The hands acquire shaking: the shaking becomes a warning. It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.”  The bishop served French-pressed Coal Forge coffee around a sacramental table covered with white cloth saying, “May the bean be with you.”  The attendees responded, “And also with you.” 

The First Church of the Bean was meant to be fun, but many within science fiction fandom do not hide their disdain for religion. The enmity is reciprocal. A good example is Frank Peretti’s talk at Real Life Ministries, where he made a point of ridiculing science, evolution, and philosophy. Amazingly, at one time Christianity and science were under the same umbrella of the church. Isaac Newton, often considered a father of modern science, was also a theologian. But today the two couldn’t be further apart. 

A few years ago I had thought to publish Christian sci-fi. I approached a prominent agent but was told there was no market. Christians don’t read science fiction, he said. There was a magazine, Gateway S-F, that tried, but with no interest it folded. More recently, some are attempting to publish religious themes under the guise of speculative fiction. One good example is the magazine, Residential Aliens.  But whether it succeeds or not, the chasm between science and religion within the greater society continues to grow.

8 Comments

  1. ….and? Kind of an abrupt end to an article. You have brought up a point, then left us hanging. Do you still support the idea of science fiction in Christian novels? Are you looking to publish something, do you have an example of how Christian science fiction looks?

    Church of the bean may be a joke for some, heretical to others, and serious for others.

  2. Thanks for bringing up that point!

    I echo the words of Augustine when he says science and religion are the two wings by which we fly. They are both necessary for humanity. The problem as I see it today is that neither has much respect for the other. Many science fans think science will answer all questions and do not admit to its limitations. Many Christians think every answer is in the Bible, and believe it to be infallible. I think the church fathers would say they are both overstepping boundaries.

    I think Christian science fiction would be very useful, especially to demonstrate Augustine’s perspective above. I was at the conference last weekend because I won an award for science fiction, and I am working on putting some of it together on my website, dominsions.com.

  3. I keep saying this to everyone I know, so forgive me if this sounds repetitious, but the Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a documentary (available on Netflix!) about the Lascaux cave paintings http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascaux is pretty much required watching for anyone interested in the roots of human interest in science and religion. I think it is a beautiful demonstration that, before anything like a religious institution as we know it today began to emerge, that humans have expressed a unique desire to commune with an “other realm” of the mystical and spiritual. No, it’s not tangible, or objective, and it’s extremely likely to be different person to person, but I think it’s a mistake for rational people to attempt to amputate that part of themselves that’s so primal and forceful.

  4. The Rev Deb Conklin

    I think the alleged chasm between science and religion is a sad side effect of fundamentalism. Ironically, Christian fudamentalism was not even possbile before the “modern” world view (post-enlightenment, pre-postmodern) caused us to confuse ‘not a scientific fact’ with false. It is only within a modern philososphy that churches were able to begin misconstruing Genesis as an attempt to describe the how of creation, rather than a story about who God is and why we exist. A postmodern world view restores the deep truth of scripture, and allows it to take its proper place in our lives. The millenials I know – especially my children – have no trouble reconciling faith and science.

  5. Sam, that’s a great point about the cave paintings. I see it as the same principle as what Blaise Pascal and C.S. Lewis called the God-shaped hole or vacuum in each one of us.

  6. Deb, I agree! We don’t often think of how our precise scientific society has changed our view of the Bible. The way the fundamentalists read the Bible is completely different from the ancient world in which it was written. I’m glad to hear the millenials have a different understanding.

  7. The rebooted Battlestar Galactica was deeply explorative of faith, religion and science. A brilliant science fiction series that ended with a reverberating primordial scream of all serious thinkers and dreamers.

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