How Dystopian Fiction Expresses the Longing for the Kingdom

v for vendettaIf you know me, you know I love sci-fi and comic books and fantasy. When I was younger, some science fiction took on the elements of how great the future could be, how advancements in technology and culture would lead us to a utopian existence. Star Trek was the most popular of these ideas, on how “in the future” we would get rid of poverty and money and ownership (all that evil stuff!) and realize what is essentially a Marxist dream. Other sci-fi stories did the same to another degree or from other perspectives.

We can understand how one could extrapolate that conclusion. The West, and America specifically, achieved a certain amount of rapid progress and wealth over a short amount of time, and continued to give hope with the advances in civil rights through the 60’s. In the future, who’s to say what is possible? And with fantasy, there was the same hope of an idyllic existence, especially with the Tolkien-esque idea of the elves, who seem to have it all figured out.

There were dystopian views in sci-fi, and fantasy, as well. Social commentary is the root of sci-fi, especially. But over the years, we have few, if any, true utopian stories in science fiction. Even in modern Star Trek, the Federation of Planets suffer corruption and internal conflict. And with the popularity of worlds like The Hunger Games and others, dystopian stories have become the rage, the norm.

That’s not even discussing the Zombie Apocalypse narratives that were once B-movie fare but are now major games, movies, and shows, making millions.

It is fascinating that our culture is more and more comfortable with a pessimistic view of the future – the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket. While our society and politics become even more and more godless and Marxist, the corruption only increases and takes us further into despair about what is to come. We’re chronically disenfranchised … with everything. Religion, politics, philosophy, economics, whatever. It’s all crap. And our pop culture is reflecting and communicating that sense.

And in reality, everyone – conservative, Christian, liberal, atheist, agnostic, everyone – we all connect with that dystopian view of the future, even as we blame the other side for it.

God forbid we blame ourselves. But that’s another post.

We all understand tyranny, oppression. We believe that authority and power has been abused and will continue to be.

While that is interesting, it is not the most fascinating part to me.

What is fascinating to me is that all of these stories, in all of them, the only response is to fight the tyranny. The heroic response is to do whatever we can to throw off that oppression.

This is on the one hand, a very American idea. Our philosophical foundations were a Declaration of Independence due to an extensive list of grievances, of how the big, powerful Empire, the most powerful one at the time, perhaps in the history of the world, had abused their power. The American colonists revolted, formed their own government, and political history since changed.

Also, this is the longing of the human heart. To make our own choices. To see justice done. To feel a sense of unity around a noble purpose. And that longing comes from a Creator who has purpose, and since he created us in his image, downloaded purpose into us.

I take the fascination one step further, however. The end of these stories is always the death of the Emperor, the destruction of the oppressive system. The towers of tyranny are toppled, and the story ends there.

We almost never see anything better replacing it in these movies. So we can agree and connect with a feeling of oppression, a philosophy of self-determination and freedom, and fighting to the death for that right, and yet when it comes to seeing how the world works after the tyranny has been abolished, we don’t see how it should functionally occur.

Take the recent Star Wars movie, the Force Awakens. We left Return of the Jedi full of hope and the death of the evil Dark Side Emperor. What comes next? The struggles of a new Republic to establish a fair and just system in the place of the Empire? (To be fair, the novels did explore some of that, and those stories were pretty good overall.)

Nope. Not in the next movie. In the next movie, we have yet another all-powerful First Order taking over the galaxy. The First Order uses their weapon to take out this new Republic, you know, the one we never even experienced or saw how it worked. This vague idea of a government, a republic, was destroyed in fire. And we’re back again to tyranny and oppression.

So we have this longing for freedom and justice and a government that ensures what is truly right, leaders that don’t abuse power but use it wisely and for good, and yet we can’t even conceive of what that would really look like, or at least agree in our own agendas as to what that would be.

As usual, this all makes sense when you understand there is a Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is that perfect government, that utopia that we all long for and yet imperfectly express. It is a real longing but vague in the details for one reason – it must be revealed by the King.

Even now, there is a freedom, a power, a means of resistance to the oppression and tyranny of the world. Make no mistake, the systems of the world will always devolve into tyranny. It is their nature. Now, however, we belong to and exist within an eternal power over and above all of those temporary systems. If we are disciples of Christ, we are children of the King and heirs of that Kingdom, and we possess the power of that Kingdom.

We also wait for a further revealing of that Kingdom, in a new heaven and earth, where what we know and experience through Christ is realized in the earth around them. We who experience it now long for that even more than the world to whom their longing is vague and misunderstood. We have drunk from the fount and know the sea into which we will plunge. It does not now exist as a government of this world.

But it does exist. There is only one way to see it, to enter it, to be a part of it, be born of it and inherit it, however, and that is by falling in love with and following the King.


Unity and Diversity are Kingdom Ideas

unityThe Bible tells the story of how the world was corrupted, through the sin of man, through disobedience, and left on our own, humanity divided itself through violence and then was divided even further by God because their unity was to worship themselves and not the Creator worthy of their worship. And of course that was His love, just like a father who sees his child hurtling toward a cliff, he will do whatever he can, even clotheslining the child in the process, to avoid a sure death.

But God did not stop there. He called a man, Abram, and made him a promise. If he would leave his family, his father’s house, and go where God led him, then God would make a new family out of Abram, and from his descendents would come a SEED, and through that SEED all nations would be blessed. “Through you and your seed, every nation will be blessed.”

Paul in the New Testament clarifies that the SEED wasn’t the Israelite people but their Messiah, Jesus Christ, the one that would bring all the diverse nations into unity once again.

“Through you and your SEED [unity] all nations [diversity] will be blessed.”

The Gospel of Jesus, of King Jesus and His Kingdom, is the way by which the diverse nations of the world will be unified again in truth and reality.

That Jesus is the unifying catalyst is clear. He was born of God, fully God and fully human. He is called the “firstborn from the dead” and the “second Adam,” a unifying reality back to the Creator and away from the corruption of division based on sin and disobedience.

And there are different peoples and cultures and languages all around the world. The growing sense and promise and prophecy of the Old Testament was that all nations would come to the “mountain of God,” that the nations wouldn’t have to come to the Israelites to know God, but that they would each have the opportunity to know Him. The nations retain a sense of identity, of individuality, even within the unity.

A primary example of this is the Day of Pentecost, which is coming soon, a day in which God filled the disciples gathered in Jerusalem with his very Spirit, his essence, his power. The New Testament, by the way, says that there is ONE Spirit. There is not one Holy Spirit in me and another in you, like they are divided. They are not. They are one in every way imaginable and ways we cannot conceive. When the disciples expressed the works of God by the Spirit, they did so in different languages, to each gathered there in their “home” languages as they were gathered from the scattered corners of the Roman Empire.

After that moment, they all stayed. They lived as one family. Oh, there were issues – the Greek Jews felt discriminated against and unity had to be reestablished – but God drew them back into unity. It took persecution to scatter them, not internal division.

That unity was voluntary. This is important. That unity was by their choice. They were called and chosen, but they also chose. No larger worldly government had to force that unity or manufacture it. It was organic and voluntary.

The world, as usual, has attempted to appropriate these ideas without the source of them. The ideas are attractive and inspiring, and should be since we all recognize the corruption in the world systems, no matter what your beliefs, and so the modern progressives or other philosophers have attempted to incorporate or identify with ideas of unity and diversity as humanistic ideas. There are two problems with this.

First, to claim these ideas as something that originated with humanity, or is human in its character, divorces them from the one Person that can realize them. God, as creator and designer, is alone qualified and able to unify and maintain dignified diversity in a voluntary way. Since humanity does not have this ability, then that leads us to number two.

Second, since humanity doesn’t have the ability to maintain diversity voluntarily, then it must manufacture it by force – taking away rights to be different, ironically, and oppressing into a form of unity that is firmly held by fear and violence. You know, like the original corruption. Because without God’s help, that’s all we have left. And there you have the history of socialism, communism, and bad governments throughout the world.

So why do we try to do it without God’s help? Well, because we want that “diversity” to include our sin.

Whether that sin is economic or sexual or religious, we don’t want to give up our pet sins. It was sin and disobedience that divided and caused the corruption. Do we really think we get to keep the sin and be brought back to unity?

Well, for some reason, we do. As the Apostle John says, we reject the light and embrace the darkness “because their deeds were evil.” So we call it “progressive” and “enlightened” while falling into the same trap of the Garden.

Do we not see that it was Abraham’s obedience by faith that was the spark of this redemption? It must only continue with obedience.

Also ironic is that the one chance for unity and diversity, being under the rule and reign of Christ, is increasingly hailed as the most divisive tool of all. Any religion or way of life is acceptable, no matter how abusive and damaging in practicality, as long as we don’t give validity to the true.

As a final thought, I will admit that it is problematic that “Sunday mornings” are one of the most segregated times in our culture. We have denominations (which means “division”) and we segregate the Body of Christ by whatever suits our fancy and then make excuses for it. I agree it is sad and not the design.

But to leave it there would be intellectually dishonest. You see, as I said, this unity must be voluntary. It cannot be forced like in a public school setting or with some sort of government program. That, as we’ve seen in history, only breeds more division and oppression, ultimately. Since it must be voluntary, we don’t see it as we should.

However, we do see it, though. I have been around the world and met other disciples of Christ and I can give witness to the same Spirit, the same God, despite cultural differences and linguistic limitations. There are many churches that boast a very racially and culturally diverse congregation. One of the largest churches here in the Atlanta area boasts people from over 100 different nations.

The amazing thing is not that it doesn’t happen … but that it does. And it is voluntary. And therefore, more powerful and real than anything our modern, intellectual progressives could achieve.

Because it’s of God and His Kingdom.