George Lucas’ Star Wars, Episode VII movie (Disney) has set record sales. You probably saw the movie. The Snowden men all gathered over Christmas and saw it. And it certainly got me wondering if science fiction does more than entertain.
A research project published in Science refuted thinking that literary fiction was a waste of time. The report showed that reading fiction has proven to improve personal qualities such as complex social relationships, emotional intelligence, empathy, ability to handle ambiguity, and being more kind to those who are not like you.
If you read that list again, put on your missions goggles. Those qualities are highly desirable to increase cross-cultural Gospel witness effectiveness.
Some of my favorite science fiction authors are C. S. Lewis (Space Trilogy), Isaac Asimov (I, Robot), H. G. Wells (War of the Worlds), and Jules Verne (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). Their science fiction works helped me understand missions and learn to address people groups.
In addition to the qualities in research, let me add my own advantages for watching and reading science fiction:
- Meeting aliens: We often live in our own bubble. Interesting alien cultures help readers to imagine what other people might be like. Understand your neighbor first by understanding an alien in science fiction.
- Superior cultures: Science fiction does a great job proposing worlds that have superior technology, insights, intellect, and even superpowers. There’s a humbling effect on readers. It helps us stop and think for a few moments what if some other cultures could actually give them an advantage in life? And this has an effect on our lives when we approach new people. We think, hey, maybe I could learn from them!
- Vicarious learning: Research has shown that reading fiction helps our brains figure out if something a reader is facing or might face in real life might have different solutions. By living in the story, readers can see what works and might not work.
- Escaping reality: Science fiction often bends the laws of the physical world. People, especially children, are often drawn to reading science fiction because it helps them get a healthy break and imagine an ideal future they would prefer. After putting down the book, they want to become like their hero and bring change. And, hey, escapism in fantasy beats unhealthy vice-oriented alternatives.
- Faith: The Star Wars series uses elements like The Force to slide in ideas on Eastern mysticism within its plot. The blockbuster, Avatar, included animism worshipping spirits inside living trees. Faith elements from Christian artists and writers are needed that can influence biblically-faithful ideas and themes.
Bonus: Expressing yourself: Writing scripts, books, and other media provides an outlet for self-expression. After waking from a particularly strong dream, my wife encouraged me to write it down. I’m about to publish Canmar Passing, which captures not only the dream, but is peppered with cross-cultural experiences that were certainly alien to me. Canmar is an opportunity for me to convey issues about orality and faith in Jesus.
Science fiction is a genre worth your time however you engage it.
UPDATE: Canmar Passing is now published and available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=canmar+passing