I like weird stuff, and I used to think I was alone. Then I met all my awesome Realm Makers friends (shout out to the Realmies!), and I didn’t feel so strange anymore.
That being said, the prevailing culture of Christianity skews to the “normal,” whatever that is. Maybe nobody has a definition for normal, but I can tell you what it isn’t: The Nerdy Stuff.
Granted, I think things are better now than they used to be. You can actually find really good Christian fantasy and sci-fi stories now, which is different from when I was younger. But there’s still a bit of a stigma attached to it; if you aren’t J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis you shouldn’t be writing speculative fiction. And if you aren’t going to load every paragraph with passive aggressive Bible verses and heavy-handed allegory, you shouldn’t even try to call yourself a Christian writer.
Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but that’s how I see it. That’s how it feels.
So as a Christian artist, I had to make the decision to embrace the weird stuff, even if it meant loosing my relevance to other Christian artists.
So as a Christian artist, I had to make the decision to embrace the weird stuff, even if it meant loosing my relevance to other Christian artists. But that was okay, honestly, because I don’t want to write for Christians. I just want to write a good story, and it doesn’t matter if you’re Christian or not, you can still enjoy it.
But here’s the fact, people. Geeks are here to stay, and it’s more popular to be into geeky stuff today than it ever has been. Comic books are more than just in right now. With the mammoth success of ever Marvel movie that’s been released since Iron Man in 2008 (8 years ago? How did that happen?), geeks and nerds have overrun the entertainment industry.
Sure, Batman has always been successful. Various comic book superhero movies have made waves. But never like this. Now even Star Trek is popular. Star Wars is even back. Steampunk is becoming commonplace, where it used to be a fringe genre. Think about it. Marvel made a movie with a talking raccoon and a talking tree, and it made millions of dollars.
So of course when Marvel released their latest installment, Dr. Strange, it was going to do well. It would have done well without starring Benedict Cumberbatch. And Chiwetel Ejiofor. And Rachel McAdams. And Tilda Swinton. And everyone expected it to do great, but it blew away everyone’s expectations.
Dr. Strange is a sorcerer. He learns how to use magic at first in order to heal himself, but he chooses in the end to save others. It’s the story of an arrogant man who learns the value of people and the responsibility of power. It’s the story of how we think we know everything, yet we truly know nothing. It’s about humility and willingness to sacrifice.
Oh, and by the way, the director Scott Derrickson, is a Christian.
Does that surprise you? It has surprised a lot of people. But if you think about the themes in Dr. Strange, it’s not as surprising. The movie Dr. Strange is the best recent example of a biblical worldview in a general market movie.
Sure, it’s got magic in it. Sure, you can pick apart and teach yourself how to be a sorcerer. But you could probably do that with some of Tolkien’s work too. What matters is what you do with it.
The main message in Dr. Strange is that there’s more to the world than what we can see. That we are spiritual beings. And that we don’t know as much as we think we do.
Tell me, Christian, is that a lie?
Another story that’s been making waves recently is the Netflix-only horror/thriller, Stranger Things.
The latest trend in entertainment is the on-demand television shows, produced by Netflix and even Amazon and Hulu now. If you subscribe to their services, you get instant access to the whole season the moment it releases. Let me tell you, guys, I’m a fan.
Daredevil (Netflix) is one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. The Man in the High Castle (Amazon) is also really great. And existing shows that used to be on other networks like Longmire and Gilmore Girls get new life breathed into them. And while Stranger Things is definitely in a different genre than any of those, it’s no less excellent in spite of being creepy.
The biggest name I know in the show is Winona Ryder, but every cast member puts in an award-worthy performance. It’s twisting and complex and complicated, equal parts terrifying and utterly charming.
There are two worlds—the world we know and the Upside Down. Stranger Things is the story about how those two worlds collide and the consequences of trying to control something that’s too powerful for us. It’s about the bonds of family and friendship, and after you finish watching it, you’ll never look at Christmas lights the same way again.
The directors, Matt and Ross Duffer, aren’t Christians as far as I’m aware, but they crafted a beautiful, captivating story about friendship and never giving up and forgiveness, and they realistically portray the danger of messing around with things we don’t understand. Sure, it’s creepy. Really creepy in spots. But it’ll make you think.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Christian movie or read a Christian book that made me think, because Christian books and movies aren’t designed for that. They’re designed to agree with other Christians. They’re written, many times, to make Christians feel good about what they already believe, rather than challenging it.
The truth is, if your faith is never challenged, it will never grow.
I’m a big believer in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). Before He returned to heaven, Jesus instructed His followers to go out into the world and spread the good news of salvation. That’s our job. That’s what the Church is supposed to be up to. To me, that means I am supposed to engage with the world and the culture within the world.
That doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything they say or do. That doesn’t mean I have to even participate in any of it. But I can understand it. I can study it. I can appreciate it for whatever value it might have. And then I can connect with others outside my safe little Christian bubble. I can make friends, and maybe through me, Jesus can make a difference to someone else.
It doesn’t give us permission to do what we know is wrong. Even if we’re trying to relate to someone else, wrong is wrong, and if you’re a Christ-follower, you know the difference. Engaging with the world isn’t a hall pass that allows you to sin. Trust me, we all have enough sin on our own without looking for more of it.
But I know what I believe, and there’s a whole world out there that’s searching. So how can I stay silent? Sure, this is strange stuff, and it’s only getting stranger. But if strange stuff can open the door to talk to someone about Jesus, sign me up.