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.

Peace.

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