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Bishop David shares his Thought for the Day 13/05/24

Good morning.

Aficionados of iconic TV received a double treat this weekend, the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest plus the debut of a new Doctor Who. I’ve followed the travels of the good Doctor, through time and space, since the first episodes aired, in November 63. A couple of years later, a kind librarian introduced me more generally to science fiction and fantasy. Long before Star Trek arrived on British television in 1969, the year of the first moon landing, I was hooked.

For all that their adventures may be set in distant times or on far off planets, sci-fi and fantasy are essentially about ourselves. The strangeness of the setting, and the peculiarities of the characters, serve to provide a particular depth of perspective, one from which the author can invite us to explore aspects of human society and our own familiar world, whilst entertaining us with a good plot. The stories may be fiction, but many convey deep truths.

At university, I was taken to task by more conservative Christian friends, for admitting that I learned more about the tenets of the Christian faith from the Narnia stories of CS Lewis, set in a mythical world of talking animals, lions and witches, entered through the back of a wardrobe, than I did from many of the books of the Bible. Lewis, a devout Christian, was adept at using both fantasy and sci-fi to explore themes as central to Christianity as the death and resurrection of Jesus.

That crossover between theology and fantasy runs both ways. I wasn’t surprised when Neil Gaiman plucked the four horseriders of the apocalypse from the Revelation of St John, the book with which the Bible concludes, and made them central to his hit TV series Good Omens. Conversely, John’s book is best read not as predictive history but as fantasy fiction, unfolding deep truths about God and humanity. Read it that way, and his message of hope, to Christian Churches seeking to remain faithful in an age of persecution, emerges powerfully to comfort those facing oppression today.

True to form, in Saturday night’s opening Doctor Who episodes, Russell T Davies gave us first a group of refugees, close to safety, but with no safe and legal route to make the final short step, and then imagined how our world would be if all music had been sucked out. I don’t know if the latter was a deliberate reference to the Song Contest due to follow, but it left me reflecting on where music has influenced both my life and my faith, for good.

So let me sign off with a shout-out out particularly to fellow sci-fi and fantasy fans, this Monday morning. Whatever the day ahead holds, may God, and the force, be with you.

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