I mentioned in a post the other day that we want to get back to the basics of what this blog was about in the first place, which is a place to talk about how Christianity and Science Fiction can fit together. To start that off, I want to talk about one of my favorite Science Fiction series….
It may seem like there are reasons a Christian wouldn’t be able to find much worth watching in this show. After all, it’s created and written by a man who claims to consider himself “a lesbian trapped in a man’s body”, who seems to view prostitution as a profession that carries dignity, and whose shows have always approached Christianity with a somewhat negative slant. The show is violent, sometimes scatological, and not without its morally questionable moments.
So why do I love it so much?
For starters, it’s the kind of Sci-Fi I love – not too much techie talk to make it overly scientific, but enough of a Sci-Fi element to feel like I’ve escaped to a future world. Guns and spaceships galore, oddities that can only happen when you’ve got a society spread across the galaxy, and a certain atmosphere that can only be found when you escape Earth’s gravity.
It’s also somewhat unique and creative – the blend of Old West culture with Sci-Fi is not unique to Firefly, but I think it’s one of the best samples of the blend you can find. It’s artistic, too, in its visual presentation, such that it’s easy to feel you’re immersed in this world, not just watching a bunch of people in silly costumes moving through hokey sets.
But what I really love is what comes at the deeper levels. One of the things Whedon has said about his writing is that he wants to make people feel something. This explains why he’s so fond of killing off people’s favorite characters (R.I.P. Wash…). This is where Firefly becomes a show well worth the watching, yes, even for a Christian. Because in the process of making you feel something, Whedon makes you think deeply about who you are, what you think and believe, and what really matters to you. Many of the episodes do that for me, and whether or not I agree with Whedon’s viewpoint as it comes out in the way the show wraps things up, it allows me to define for myself what I think about things. There are a number of episodes where he deals with morally ambiguous situations, and the character have to make decisions in those situations, some of which you may disagree with vehemently, but this only serves to emphasize what you do think about that situation. That can be a good thing.
There’s also a lot about it I find resonates with me as a Christian. One of the central themes of Firefly is that of loyalty – Mal is fiercely loyal to his entire crew, and considers them his family. He will stop at nothing to protect them, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his own life for their safety (see episode 8, “Out of Gas”). When Jayne tries to betray some of the crew in “Ariel”, Mal makes it clear how deeply he feels this loyalty, stating to Jayne, “You turn on any of my crew, you turn on me!…You did it to me, Jayne. And that’s a fact.” This kind of loyalty should resonate with any Christian. Jesus is the ultimate example of fierce loyalty, willing to sacrifice his life for those he loves, absolutely determined to do what is best for his people, no matter the personal cost. And he says, “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and he who rejects you rejects me” showing that there is a vital connection between all of his followers and himself.
Another central theme is that of doing right, regardless of the circumstances. Once again, Mal, the central protagonist, is always concerned with making sure he’s doing what’s right. Even in “Heart of Gold”, where prostitution is somewhat glorified, Mal’s reasons for helping the women of the brothel don’t really have anything to do with his feelings about prostitution. In fact, the majority of the series demonstrates that Mal actually has a dim view of the profession. But he doesn’t see it as right for a group of men to take advantage of these women, treat them horribly, and then try to attack and even kill them to kidnap a child. He sees that, in a morally ambiguous situation, the best thing he can do is protect against those who would intentionally do harm. He shows real love to these women, even though he doesn’t necessarily believe they deserve it. Once again, this is a concept that fits very well with a Christian worldview.
For as many reasons as there may be to be leery of Firefly, I find that it has as many and more reasons to love it. Firefly is just one example. Over the next several weeks and/or months we’ll look at a lot more. The fact is, there is nothing in this world that isn’t tainted by sin. Even so-called Christian shows that you might watch can be marred by a certain level or self-righteousness or legalism, neither of which are God pleasing any more than immorality is. As Christians, we have to weigh everything and determine what is going to glorify God and what is going to be best for our faith. Can a person watch Firefly to God’s glory? I think so, if they have the ability to be discerning enough to reject what isn’t good there, but also enjoy it for its entertainment value, and look for those thought-provoking points where we can sharpen our own thinking about the world and how our faith fits into it.
Look for further thoughts on Firefly from a Christian perspective over the next few days, as Steph and Luke weigh in.