Saturday, March 22, 2014

#029 - The Old Rugged Blue Box

…in which our faithful podcaster tackles the subject of religion in Doctor Who and observes how The Doctor has been portrayed as a Christ figure at various points in the series. We also find out what happens when you cross- breed an elephant and a rhino. Oh, and by the way, which one's Pink?

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  1. Hey JB! First off - great title for this episode of the podcast! I can almost hear Whovian lyrics in my head: "Far from old Gallifrey, stood an old, rugged box, Type 40 and covered in blue; and that old, rugged box, bigger on the inside, was the vessel of good Doctor Who!" (Eh, maybe not.)

    Second, thanks for sharing your experience with Christianity and your ongoing thoughts about these topics. I admire your honesty with us. I'm glad you have also seen other "brands" of the faith since, like any religion (and any human enterprise, really) it's not monolithic.

    So I answer your very good question --what do Christians think about the Doctor being portrayed, effectively, as a god -- out of a different Christian perspective. My first, too easy answer would be, "It's fiction." I don't demand fictional characters or stories conform to my beliefs. If all stories did that, reading and watching them would certainly be a boring exercise. (And as far as the real science the show sometimes presents, that's not a problem for all Christians, as I'm sure you know. We can affirm faith in a Creator and fully think that Creator used the mechanisms identified by cosmologists, biologists, and so on.)

    A deeper answer might be one that takes seriously why humans long for fictional stories of savior figures. Maybe we know, at some deep level, we need a savior? Maybe (as authors like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien -- granted, both Christians) the best human stories (and I certainly put Doctor Who in that category) cannot help but take their cue from some greater Story?

    I wanted to take a little issue, gently, with your representation of Earth as "purgatory" and eternal life as "the Christian's reward" for faith in Christ. I don't doubt that some Christians believe this; but we all don't. I believe God created the earth good (Gen. 1), and became a human being in Jesus (John 1). So far from devaluing earthly existence and physical life, Christians should value them. Eternal life is a relationship with Jesus that is a gift, and it begins here and now, then continues on after death.

    I should also say I wholeheartedly believe that we should "save ourselves" to the extent that we can. I hear and affirm your contention that we can't always sit around waiting to be saved. I think sometimes Christians (myself included sometimes) have misunderstood salvation as being "saved from" rather than "saved for." Faith should empower those who believe to work with others of different or no belief for the common good. My favorite definition of salvation from the Bible is in Ephesians 2: "We are what God has made us, created created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life" (i.e., not to sit around on our duffs waiting for heaven!).

    Finally, I think it's fantastic that "Batman" and "Star Wars" and "Doctor Who" (and, as you mentioned, some of Jesus' parables - he made up stories, too!) all had parts to play in your moral formation. Who is to say that the Spirit doesn't use any and all stories at hand to help mold us into the people we are meant to be? Who knows? (in my best Tom Baker Curator voice, finger aside my nose)

    Thanks for the shout-out, for taking the time to read this comment, and for another fun episode of your show!

    Mike Poteet (@Bibliomike)

    1. Hey, Mike. Glad you enjoyed the podcast and thanks for writing in. I do my best to keep an open mind and be respectful to everyone's beliefs (or non-beliefs), and I hope that that came thru during the podcast.

      My views of the Earth being considered a "purgatory" were reinforced by the Assembly of God church my family attended. Perhaps purgatory wasn't the best choice of words. More like a bus station, because it seemed that they just considered their life on earth as a layover because the rapture was going to happen any minute.

      I don't know if you've watched any "Buffy The Vampire Slayer", but in the 6th season where *spoilers* Buffy is resurrected from the dead by her friends, she kept from them for several episodes the fact that instead of a hell dimension, they actually pulled her away from (what she believed was) heaven, and she wasn't dealing with being back on earth because everything was too loud, too bright, and too hard. Plus she was free of the burden of being a slayer while in heaven. So I suppose that too reinforced my observations about how others think of the earth as "purgatory."

      Good points about how authors have created saviors in fiction in order to fulfill the need for one. That's why superheroes have been able to keep capturing our imagination for over 80 years.

      Was also curious if you've ever watched the revamped Battlestar Galactica, as that show, I believe, has a very pro-Christian or at least a pro-spirituality message, which by no means deterred my enjoyment of the series, and unlike most fans, I like how they ended the series.

      Thanks again for writing in. I've taken the liberty of adding your blog site to my list of "companion websites" on my own blog page. :)

  2. Hi, JB! Sorry to be so long in responding to your response... I was offline all around for several months, for various reasons. But I wanted to thank you for taking the time to read what I had to say and to affirm that, yes, your open-mindedness and respect shone through. The world needs more of those qualities, I think we can all agree!

    Respectfully, then, I have to disagree with you about BSG! ;) The Cylons may have had a plan, but I don't really think RDM and the creative staff did, at least not past the New Caprica arc. The first three years were really superb, outstanding television -- but then the whole thing became a sort of muddied mess for me. I don't perceive the same pro-Christian/pro-religion/pro-spirituality slant that you do, although I can appreciate why some might see it; if anything, I thought BSG lifted up how much faith can be abused to do harm in the name of God. That's not why I no longer count myself a fan of the show... I just can't bring myself to rewatch a story that I feel ultimately really goes nowhere.

    Thank you also for linking your blog to The Sci-Fi Christian. It's not my blog alone, but I am a regular contributor (well, not so much since April, but hopefully getting back in the groove - in fact, I have a post up today with some theological musings about the Series 8 Doctor Who trailer!) Take care and thanks again.