Monday, August 14, 2017

Strange, New Things

I just saw the first episode of Oasis, an series based loosely on the 2014 novel by Michel Faber The Book Of Strange New Things. It's about a "priest" who travels to a far-distant planet in support of a human colonization effort. The premise of a Christian preacher in space is fascinating, though one could ask for a more robust presentation of Christianity.

In the first episode we see the protagonist, Peter Leigh, say goodbye to his wife dying of cancer. A later flashback shows her pushing the plunger for what we can only presume is her own medically assisted suicide. So it's little surprise that Peter is not even a C of E priest in a Roman collar, but an "ecumenical" pastor who, as he puts it, believes in the validity of all denominations. (I guess that pretty much amounts to the same thing.) The book is somewhat similar in the liberalism of Peter's Christianity: though there's no euthanasia, Peter apparently has no problem with contraception or masturbation.

From here, I'll be reflecting on the book as a whole, so there will be SPOILERS.

The plot of the book is pretty straight-forward. Peter signs up to be chaplain to the indigenous inhabitants of the new planet. It turns out they have a keen interest in Christianity. To get them to churn out the food-stuff the colonists need, they have to be kept happy with a preacher to instruct them in this new, fascinating religion.

The creatures are pretty much perfect targets for liberal Christianity, because they have no sins to be saved from. The part of Christianity that really interests them, we discover in the end, is the promise of eternal life. It turns out it's not even supernatural life that interests the aliens, but purely natural life: their bodies can't repair themselves. How in creation is it possible any of them have managed to survive to adulthood with such an incomplete metabolism? Mr. Faber should have studied some biology!

So, when an author has to contrive such an outlandish fictional species to make its interest in liberal Christianity plausible, is it any wonder that interest among very real humans in liberal Christianity is dying?

In the TV episode, the proceedings have to be drawn out to fill the episodes and create more interest. By the end of the pilot, we don't even know we're dealing with aliens yet, and there's more drama with the crew.

As I said, one could ask for a more substantial presentation of Christianity and its unique claims. The problem is that the World/"Hollywood" insists on portraying Christianity in its own image. But maybe we're supposed to take that as a compliment?

1 comment:

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