Hell On Earth?

If you were to watch many science-fiction movies, you’d think Americans are the most pessimistic people in the world. Think of Blade Runner, the definitive futuristic film of the past two decades. It portrays Los Angeles as a decayed ruin. The glamorous movie stars are gone, replaced by swarms of wretches who speak an unintelligible street dialect. Billboards urge people to flee the wreckage of earthly civilization and join more civilized settlements on other planets. In theological terms, the vision of the world one gets from sci-fi films is of a place devastated by human sin and offering no hope of God’s redemption. Los Angeles seems to be the favorite setting for these grim visions, because LA is where the future arrives first. In another example, Demolition Man is a darkly shot film that shows LA as a war zone. Mass murder and arson have become commonplace, and the police resort to military tactics in an attempt to restore order. Another futuristic film, Strange Days, describes LA as a chaotic, out-of-control dystopia with zombie-like people escaping into drugs and virtual reality games. These violent and depressing movies may not appeal to many of us. But Christians need to be aware that there’s more going on in these films than mere entertainment. Like other elements of pop culture, science-fiction films convey a worldview—one that is absorbed by many of the people who watch them. The good news is that the worldview of science-fiction films includes a realistic view of human sin and evil. The people who populate the cities of the future aren’t viewed as innocent victims of some malevolent force. Instead they are people who willfully engage in evil and suffer the tragic consequences. In effect, they’re punished for their sins. But at this point, science fiction and Scripture part company. Christianity teaches that sinful humans are offered redemption through faith in Jesus Christ. But in most futuristic films, redemption is not an option. Naturalism—the belief that nature is all there is—permeates much of the science-fiction genre. It’s a philosophy that denies the existence of a personal, loving God Who can save us from our sins. In the place of a Holy Savior, science-fiction films offer an antihero—a protagonist who is scarcely more sympathetic than the films’ bad guys. Rogue cops, drug dealers, rock musicians—these are humanity’s last, best hope against the forces of darkness. But instead of leading people out of the chaos, these antiheroes simply fight their own battles. As the credits roll, LA remains a hopeless dystopia. This pessimism is dished out to viewers who are often just kids, easily depressed by the complexity of the adult world they are entering. If your kids are aficionados of science fiction, you ought to sit down with them and watch a few sci-fi films on video. Help them to grasp each film’s underlying message and contrast it with the biblical teaching on sin and redemption. We need to remind our children that if they accept Christ’s redemption, their future won’t be a crime-ridden dystopia, but a heavenly home—one filled with glorious hope.


Chuck Colson


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