We’re supposed to write about religion in the genre of SFF, meaning the use of religion as a device in books, but I’m going to take my post in another direction.
There is an accepted prejudice in the SFF community and it’s against religion.
Now I might be a wee sensitive, being that I am Christian. No disclaimers today, except to mention that I might not be your run-of-the-mill Christian. One of my favorite “church ladies” used to say she loved to imagine me sitting in a low-rent bar drinking whiskey and discussing Christ…Imagine?? Ha! I can’t tell you how often that’s actually happened to me with like-minded folks. He’s an odd bird and an endlessly fascinating character, to this writer’s mind.
As a Christian and a social liberal, I never really feel the need to get all preachy. But for my purposes here, I’ll mention Christ sets a high standard for behavior which a lot of folks, believers or not, could learn from.
I’m not wanting to call out anyone in particular. But I’ve heard statements about Christianity and Christians online, at conventions, and gatherings of writers and readers that would be offensive if it referred to any other group of people (including, oddly enough, people of other faiths). These range from calling the faithful idiots, yes–I’ve heard someone say that in person at a professional event–to blaming all war on religion. Just as many faithful are intelligent, thinking people, religion can also be a convenient vehicle for hatred. But clearly, if there were no religion, people would find some other damn reason to kill each other. Take The Game of Thrones as a literary example. Religion doesn’t much come into play as a motivator in GRRM’s sprawling stories and yet the hatred and killing certainly feels true to life.
Now. It’s not like anti-Christians don’t have a leg to stand on with their criticisms. Trust me. I know. I have studied the Crusades at length and also many of the horrors Christians—true believers—have caused in His name, so I don’t need a lecture about the damage religion can cause. Don’t even get me started on the recent crimes of the Church. (Or the recent crimes of Wall Street, the government, or big business. I don’t have that kind of time.)
My point? Prejudice goes both ways. I put forth that degrading Christians as a whole (or any group with a vocal, ugly few) is just as bad, as prejudiced, as degrading any other social group. Most people in the industry would never accept a blatantly offensive comment about homosexuals, for example, but religion seems fair game.
Some folks might say, Well, Bets, the difference is that Christianity is a choice… but not for this Christian, and trust me, I’ve tried. The only real choice is our behavior. Other people behaving badly and/or personal bitterness don’t excuse rudeness and hatred. We’re each in charge of ourselves. It’s time someone (and it might as well be me) stood up and called bullshit. SFF folks pride ourselves on acceptance of all people, of tolerance and mutual respect, as well as facing humanity’s struggles with acceptance in our stories. But that acceptance apparently only extends so far. It’s entirely fair to take on religion’s corruption, but do so with the same respect you’d show any other group where one of these is not like the others.
I think we can do better as a genre, as an industry, as professionals, as people.