Thursday, December 22, 2011

Science Fiction Sermons

Not very long ago, I read and forgot to review George L. Murphy's Pulpit Science Fiction, a collection of science fiction short stories meant to illustrate biblical passages, which Rev. Murphy had preached from the pulpit. I was recently reminded of my fault when Dave Maass, of Syfy's Blastr blog, kindly sent me a post he had put together, rounding up videos of actual sermons using science fiction as illustrations.

Here's his post, and a big thanks to Maass for sending it our way.

I leave you, then, with no comment besides this: I like sermons, and I like science fiction, but I don't particularly like them together. I don't like preachy science fiction stories, and I don't much care for science fiction stories in my preaching, either. In fact, all though a few of the stories in the aforementioned Murphy collection were not bad (none of them were stellar), I thought the short explanations he wrote after them, to explain when he'd preached them and why, were more illuminating than the stories themselves.

You see, the Mass or other church service already contains storytelling: it's in the biblical readings. The job of the sermon is to illuminate the biblical passages and explain what they mean. Storytelling is great, but the purpose of the sermon is to comment on and illuminate the stories already told. Using the sermon to tell yet another story is likely to be obfuscating rather than illuminating. And inviting people to wear sf costumes to church is just kind of stupid.

And as for sci-fi illustrations in sermons, well . . . that might not be so bad, but it stands a good chance of coming across as flip or silly, and may fail to make the point intended.
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