Redeeming Little Green Men
James A. Herrick's cover story, "Sci-Fi's Brave New World," [February] understated the major role dystopian themes have played in science fiction from the beginning. H. G. Wells's best-known tales, The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, hardly celebrate the development of man or the hope of alien-inaugurated redemption. Childhood's End and 2001: A Space Odyssey might project a magical future, but hardly a redemptive one, since both conclude with the destruction of everything recognizably human about our descendants. And the cold warera authors nearly unanimously warned against science run amok and the threat posed by technologically advanced races.
Even if many science-fiction authors tend toward atheism or agnosticism, it is clear that they also fear humanity's potential for destruction, what we Christians call "the flesh." The more that science and technology allow us to do, the greater evil we will do to each other.
So how should Christians respond? As Herrick suggests, paying attention to what our neighbors are watching and reading, and preparing to live like Christ before them, is our job. But we should also keep in mind that the second word in "science fiction" is fiction. It is a novel; it is a movie; it is entertainment. As for those who seriously guide their lives by such themes, the best we can do is try to reach them before it is time to board the ship to rendezvous with the Hale-Bopp Comet.
Being an amateur astronomer and lover of fantasy and science fiction, I resonated with Herrick's essay on many levels. From my standpoint, it seems that science fiction, used wisely and judiciously, can be an apologetics tool for comparing scientific humanism and Christianity in ways that are comprehensible to believers and nonbelievers alike. Take Star Trek: The Motion Picture, for example. In one scene, Spock says to Captain Kirk and McCoy, "At some time in our lives, we turn and ask, 'Why am I here? What was I meant to be and do? Is this all that there is; is there nothing more?' " What a great soliloquy to lead into how the biblical story of redemption addresses such questions.
Francis H. Geis
Like the book it draws upon, James Herrick's essay rightly recognizes the significance of science fiction in Western culture, but unfortunately takes a defensive posture for Christianity. As a result, readers miss the opportunity for a deeper appreciation of myth and science fiction (and the related genres of fantasy and horror), reflecting a stunted theological imagination frequently found among evangelicals regarding speculative fiction in literature, television, and film. This approach will not inspire the next generation of C. S. Lewises or J. R. R. Tolkiens to engage the West in its journey toward reenchantment.
John W. Morehead
Director, Western Institute for Intercultural Studies
Salt Lake City, Utah
Anchoring Teens in Christ
As an American teenager, I was encouraged by reading CT's editorial "Who Do You Think You Are?" [February]. Over the years, I have watched many of my peers fall away from God, and am appalled that my generation has become so detached from Christianity. Although I agree that the church's message needs to be one that teens can relate to, I must also warn against becoming so "teen-friendly" that the message loses all substance. We need to be equipped so that we can apply our faith in the real world.
A Small Kvetch
John W. Kennedy did an excellent job detailing Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein's efforts to build bridges with the evangelical community ["The Ultimate Kibitzer," February]. But I feel he overlooked the good rabbi's ardent opposition to Messianic Jews and those who toil to bring the gospel to the Jewish people. Some of the money that well-meaning Christians donate to his International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is funneled to rabbinic Orthodox groups who fight vehemently against Jewish believers, especially those in Israel. Rabbi Eckstein exhibits a familiarity with the New Testament; thus, he should be aware that Jesus did not come for the lost sheep of the house of Denmark, but of Israel.
Van Nuys, California
Praise Turned Up to 11
John Stackhouse, I do indeed hear you! ["Memo to Worship Bands," February]. Thank you for speaking from the viewpoint of a musician. Now from the viewpoint of a biologist: The human ear is a marvel of intricate and delicate design. I cannot believe that the One who designed it is pleased when hearing is damaged for the sake of cultural compromise. I love and support my church, carry earplugs in my purse, and worry about my brethren.
Anne K. Streeter
We received a wave of letters echoing Streeter's hearty "amen" to Stackhouse's Speaking Out column. Here are some other perspectives on the volume of worship music. —The Editors
Stackhouse seems as offended by the mediocrity of worship bands as he is by their volume. But mediocrity is hardly unique to worship bands. The typical local church, God bless it, is full of sopranos past their prime, rhythmically challenged pianists, and yes, overeager but undertrained worship bands.
Like Stackhouse, I fear that worship bands take away the congregation's voice, and in some cases have observed a "priesthood of the praise band" rather than a priesthood of all believers. On the other hand, worship bands are one of the better examples of shared musical leadership since the West Gallery musicians of the 1700s. Though worship bands sometimes create a performance atmosphere, they have also done much to encourage the congregation's role in worship. Certainly this genre is more participatory than the choir anthems, special music, and church musicals of recent decades.
Sure, they can be too loud. If that's the case, someone needs to talk to the sound operator. Once a service starts, musicians can do little to change the volume. The deeper issue is modern musicians' overreliance on sound systems, but the same issue is true of modern preachers. Now that amplification is a given, musicians and preachers have adapted their styles to fit the technology.
Every generation's worship has its beauty and its besetting sin. I worry that finger pointing from old to young (or young to old) will only widen the generational divide that plagues evangelicals' worship.
Minister of Worship, Church of the Servant
Grand Rapids, Michigan
I am a worship pastor in a blended musical environment. In yesterday's offering, I received an anonymous envelope with "Memo to Worship Bands" enclosed. I suspect that my offering- with-an-agenda friend has complaints about the volume of our music. But rather than follow God's Word to express a concern to me upfront, this person chose the way of a coward and served only his or her interests.
Here is one small reason to praise loudly: God's Word demands it! At least three times in the Bible's songbook, we are called to praise God loudly. Certainly there are times when quiet reflection and meditation are more appropriate. But when 800-plus people are gathered to shout praise to the God who has redeemed them, please give us 20 minutes to declare his grace — loudly.
Pastor, North Hills Community Church
Taylors, South Carolina
The Sharpest Political Weapon
In his co-written essay "Political Exile" [February], Charles Colson writes that I advocate "forget[ting] the idea of changing culture through politics and just be the church; help the poor, visit those in prison, and so on." Well, since it was the direct command of Jesus to do those things, and by doing them to have a bubble-up effect on culture, I am mystified by why Chuck would think politics a better route, especially since he knows the success of Prison Fellowship's ministry in transforming lives. Real power doesn't reside in Washington. Real power is Christ within you. Surely the gospel is a more effective tool than the Republican or Democratic Party. Just one example: More babies are being saved through pregnancy help centers than through anything Washington has done. Chuck cites no Scripture to support his argument. Anyone who has read Ed Dobson's and my book knows we are not calling for disengagement. We are calling for engagement on a far more effective level with far more effective weapons that are able to "tear down strongholds."
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