Lately, I’ve been giving friends this pop quiz: “Quick, name one TV show with characters who believe in God in a realistic, sympathetic way and whose faith affects their actions and the plot of the show.”
The usual response is an expression that resembles a horse staring over a fence. And equine silence too.
Change the question slightly, though, to “Name one science fiction show,” and the answers come tumbling out: “Babylon 5,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and “Battlestar Galactica.”
For whatever reason, in order to explore humanity’s spirituality—which guides the day-to-day actions of so many people here on earth—television shows must be set in space.
Unfortunately, science fiction’s reputation for cheesy special effects and bumpy-headed, pointy-eared aliens turns a lot of people off. And that’s unfortunate, because science fiction often contains startling moments of spiritual and religious insight.
“Battlestar Galactica,” which recently ended its four-season run, was filled with such moments. One character, Gaius Baltar, who begins the series as an utterly selfish atheist, ends up acknowledging the existence of God and offering to lay down his life for his fellow man. Another character, Laura Roslin, leads her people through faith to the Promised Land, which, like Moses, she cannot enter. And, in a beautiful twist, humans worship multiple gods and believe in fate, while the robots worship one God and believe in free will.
Almost every week the show touched on big questions: Why are we here? What does God want from us? Is humanity worthy of salvation? The characters wrestled with their belief and unbelief, with notions like predestination and free will. The same character could be guided by the angels of his better nature one minute, and by personal demons the next—a trait you don’t need to travel to space to see, but one seldom explored so boldly in shows set on earth.
This past spring, “Battlestar Galactica” ended with a scene that takes place right here on present-day earth. Two characters talk about God’s plan for humanity, and whether or not humanity will willingly choose to follow that plan.
If only more shows would be so brave.
Look for all four seasons on DVD (Sci-Fi Channel).
reviewed by Ron DeBoer
If you’re still pining for summer and looking for a family movie, A Plumm Summer will do the trick. Starring Henry Winkler and William Baldwin, A Plumm Summer is a quirky mystery about the disappearance of a child entertainer’s puppet during a performance in a small town. Brothers Rocky and Eliot Plumm must compete with the FBI in solving the mystery while dealing with dysfunction in their home. My kids under age 12 were riveted by this film, and on a recent class bus trip to New York City, 45 high school kids loved it too. (Paramount)
by John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge
reviewed by Robert N. Hosack
Two Economist writers, a Catholic and an atheist, show how and why religion is booming around the world and reveal its vast effects on the global economy, politics, and culture. Arguing that “the secularization theorists are wrong to claim that modernity and religion are incompatible,” God Is Back shows how 21st-century religion across the world has been fueled by a uniquely American free-market approach to salvation, characterized by (evangelical) entrepreneurship, choice, and personal revelation. “The most important development is not quantitative but qualitative” as these religious ideals spread worldwide. (Penguin)
reviewed by Otto Selles
You don’t have time for TV but want to know what everyone is talking about? Then go to hulu.com. Founded by NBC Universal and News Corp, Hulu offers easy access to popular shows such as “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Classic TV shows and some films are also available. While the image quality is much better than YouTube, commercial interruptions can be annoying. Registration is required to view “mature” material, but titles are not categorized according to ratings. At the moment, the site is available only in the U.S.
by Immaculée Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
In her sequel to Left to Tell, Immaculée Ilibagiza, Tutsi survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, shares “deeply personal experiences and memories connecting and highlighting the events that most profoundly influenced my spiritual growth.” Warning Christians never to take faith for granted, she worries that Rwandans will reject God because of the genocide. Having personally visited and forgiven her family’s murderer, she has devoted her life to proclaiming God’s forgiveness as the only path to Rwanda’s healing. (Hay House)
by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverburg
reviewed by Wayne Brouwer
Riding the wave of recent fascination with the Jewish background of Jesus and many New Testament writings, Spangler and Tverberg provide devotional essays on lessons they have learned. Although little is new in this volume, the reflections are engaging and thought-provoking. The 14 chapters are long enough to develop ideas about prayer, eating rituals, feast practices, and the like, and short enough to be used in Bible study groups, especially with the helpful study guides following each. (Zondervan)
by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
Cora’s desire to do the grown-up jobs when she cooks with Mama is realized when her older siblings leave for the afternoon. Choosing the menu, chopping the chicken and vegetables, checking the noodles, and listening to stories about her Filipino grandfather (a cook for farm workers)—it all becomes a celebration of Cora and her mother’s love for each other, their cultural heritage, and Cora’s excitement and joy because of her family’s approval of her successful cooking venture. Vibrant, enchanting illustrations enhance this joyous children’s story. (Shen’s Books)
Follow the Yellow Brick Road: The 70th Anniversary Edition of The Wizard of Oz is due out on DVD and Blu-ray this month. (Warner)
Wedding Bells: Archie Marries Veronica Part 2: The Wedding is available this month—will he really marry Veronica over Betty? (Archie Comics)
Get Your Boogie On . . . Your Phone. Dance Praise is now available for your iPhone at the iTunes App Store.
Sound Familiar? The blog “Stuff Christians Like” (http://stufffchristianslike.blogspot.com—note the three f’s in “stuff”) lovingly pokes fun of and shines a light on the habits and experiences of North American Christians. It’s also scheduled to be translated into book form by Zondervan next year.