Onward Christian Spacemen

Robert Short. The Gospel from Outer Space. Harper and Row, New York, 1983.
This book is based on a slide show that uses quotations from the Bible and cartoon strips to show that films like ET, Star Wars and Superman have a Christian message. The unconditional love of E.T. is compared to that of Christ. The 'force' in Star Wars tells us that through humble prayer we can unite with God. Superman tells us that "what we're really looking for, whether we realise it or not, is God's revelation in Christ", and Close Encounters reflects man's searching for religious knowledge and the ultimate revelation.

Such meanings can be found in these films but it's annoying to see them interpreted in an exclusively Christian fashion. For example, the 'force' in Star Wars could easily be regarded as a Buddhist concept. Short accuses 2001, a Space Odyssey of being "a good example of humorless, humanistic, self-important intoxication" that denies the existence of God”. Yet one could interpret the black monolith that guides man on his path to becoming a Star child as a manifestation of God (surely no worse that E.T. as Jesus Christ?) In fact the film can be seen as a damning rejection of technology and materialism in favour of unity with God.

Basically this book attempts to use the current popularity of SF films to get people back into the pews. If you wish you can interpret any film as as embodying a religious message just as you could interpret any film in a psychological or sociological manner. Ultimately people like a good story, well told, and in this sense the Bible and these films share those characteristics. Unfortunately, I don't have such faith in The Gospel from Outer Space.

Nigel Watson, from Magonia 23, July 1986

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