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Will the church survive space aliens?

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A literary essay from David Randall at First Things:

Yet three notable works of science fiction do address themselves to the power of that old promise against the secular infinitudes of time and space: Cordwainer Smith’s “The Dead Lady of Clown Town” (1964), John Morressy’s The Mansions of Space (1983), and R. A. Lafferty’s Past Master (1968). These novels share a Christian preoccupation—a theological preoccupation—with the survival of faith threatened sometimes by oblivion, sometimes by annihilation, and sometimes indeed by the gates of hell.

The three fables vary on an important particular. The survival of faith may or may not be identical with the survival of the Church—and the difference between broadly Christian and specifically Catholic science fiction may be measured by the varying interest in the Church’s survival. So Smith’s “Dead Lady” tells of the miraculous revival of Christian faith, sine ecclesia, and it is no surprise to discover that Smith was a China specialist who shifted toward a denominationally fuzzy Christianity late in life. Morressy’s Mansions makes the survival of a quasi-Catholic Church an important theme of his book, and Morressy was a devout Catholic. Lafferty’s Past Master makes the survival of the Church itself central, and Lafferty was fervently, even flamboyantly Catholic.

Science fiction’s ambition to evoke the immensely long and strange history of the future gives these three works peculiar power to meditate on the promise that the Church will survive. More.

This came up around here because of the “strange history” of NASA funding studies of how religious people would react to the discovery of life outside of Earth. The illuminating essay above demonstrates, by omission, what we’ve noted before: There is no evidence that religious people who are not already interested in space exploration, etc., would take much notice one way or the other. It is the subject of film night discussion groups and literary essays, not of any particular angst.

See also: Suzan Mazur: NASA, tax dollars, space aliens, and religion…


NASA cares what your religion thinks about ET

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