Thursday, April 29, 2010

Old Testament Social Justice Texts

In connection with the previous posts, I think it's interesting to frame some of Cuarón's truth-telling concerns in Children of Men next to some of the concerns of the God of Israel in the Old Testament. These are hard images I'm pulling from the film; likewise, the OT texts are forceful in addressing injustice towards the outsider, poor, widow, orphan, etc. These texts still speak to us today, in a very different way than do the images. The images raise awareness of injustice; the texts directly enlist us to address the injustice and threaten judgment on those who ignore the call.

Children of Men - Cuarón (2006)

"You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry." — Exodus 22:21-23

"When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." — Leviticus 19:33-34

"For scoundrels are found among my people; they take over the goods of others. Like fowlers they set a trap; they catch human beings. Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of treachery; therefore they have become great and rich, they have grown fat and sleek. They know no limits in deeds of wickedness; they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord, and shall I not bring retribution on a nation such as this?" — Jeremiah 5: 26-29

"And I said: Listen, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Should you not know justice?— you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin off my people, and the flesh off their bones, who eat the flesh of my people, flay their skin off them, break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a caldron. Then they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have acted wickedly. Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry 'Peace' when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths." — Micah 3:3-5

"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am." — Isaiah 58: 6-9


I do not share these texts to say, oh, in light of the injustices perpetrated by those participating in the ruling narrative in the film, that this is a reason for their infertility. Some sort of divine justice. I don't want to go there. To claim that natural disasters, for instance, are the result of God's wrath is a dangerous move. I am, however, wanting to present the alternative narrative that God would have structure our society. It is a narrative that reminds Israel of its time of slavery in Egypt. It is a narrative that would have Israel show care and grace towards the outsider among them.

I am also wanting to point again to the incisiveness of the film in holding up a mirror to the injustices of the present. The film shows us that these Old Testament social justice texts are for us as well. We have to carefully consider, for example, our immigration laws. We have to show caution in how we interrogate those we would label our enemy. We should be careful in labeling people as "terrorist" and "illegal immigrant." We must not let fear rule the way we treat others. The disasters of Abu Ghraib, My Lai, and Dachau are not natural disasters. They are unnatural, horrific events that reveal the worst of which humanity is capable. The potential for another of these disasters is always there, and we cannot allow ourselves to become unmoored in history such that we forget. The Old Testament social justice texts won't allow us to forget.

In America, unless we have Native American blood, we should remember that our forefathers immigrated here, many of them leaving behind harsh circumstances and coming to America with little or nothing of value to their names. This land is not our land. This land is for everyone. We would be wise to heed the truthful speech of the prophets and the film, to show care and concern for those unfortunate among us (or even those not among us). It will be a better world if we do. There would be less violence and hatred. There would be more compassion, more peace, more of a hint of God's fullness erupting in the world. I want to live in that world.

I don't mean to get preachy; it's hard not to get wound up with these matters. God grant us the grace to feel moved to loving, truthful speech and action.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Parrhesia in Children of Men

Children of Men - Alfonso Cuarón (2006)

"There is absolutely no social criticism, of even the most implicit kind, in science fiction films. No criticism, for example, of the conditions of our society which create the impersonality and dehumanization which science fiction fantasies displace onto the influence of an alien It."

- Susan Sontag, "The Imagination of Disaster," in Gregg Rickmann, ed. The Science Fiction Film Reader (New York, NY: Limelight Editions, 2004), p.111

Writing in 1965, Sontag did not have the opportunity to see Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men. If she had, I'm guessing she would not have been able to make the above statement. Children of Men is most definitely a science fiction film: set in the year 2027 in a world staring down impending disaster because women can no longer become pregnant. And yet the film also operates as a mirror for the present in highlighting problems facing society.

Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek relates how the film holds up this mirror to the present:
In Children of Men, there are no new gadgets, London is exactly the same as it is now, only more so— Cuaron merely brought out its latent poetic and social potentials: the greyness and decay of the littered suburbs, the omni-presence of video-surveillance… The film reminds us that, of all strange things we can imagine, the weirdest is reality itself. Hegel remarked long ago that a portrait of a person resembles it more than this person itself. Children of Men is a science-fiction of our present itself.1

What is the present the film is trying to mirror? Compare the screenshots from the film (including the one above) with a couple of U.S. news items that have found significant play recently:

Al Jazeera, Monica Villamizar reporting, Apr 24, 2010

Al Jazeera, Tom Ackerman reporting, May 9, 2009

In Children of Men, in the wake of the political chaos and mass migration caused by humanity's infertility, Britain has shut down its borders and imposed strict penalties on illegal immigrants and those harboring illegal immigrants. The police and military have been given free reign to treat the immigrants as brutally as they wish. And the government is running a propaganda campaign through the media to win over the public to its cause. Clearly, as seen above, the images we get from the film are not unknown to us. We have seen imprisonment, humiliation, and torture of outsiders labeled "illegal immigrants" and "terrorists."

It is happening today, due to a climate of fear. Žižek says that fear is the mode of politics, the mode of mobilizing political groups made up of people who are afraid of immigrants, radicals, too strong of a state, and taxation.2 Fear plays a significant role in how we treat one another as populations come into closer contact in light of globalization. Franco-Bulgarian philosopher, Tzvetan Todorov, adds to this point:
This new contact of populations is, I think, dominated by two major passions, and these two passions come out of a reaction to our inequalities. These two passions are called humiliation and fear. Humiliation is experienced by the powerless toward the more powerful. It encounters on the other side, fear, and fear is just as powerful a source of violence. In fact if we think of major violences of the recent times, they all come out of fear. It is because we were so afraid of what will happen that we accepted torture. And if you are really frightened you get accustomed to different transgressions of the rules of normal life between human beings.3

This climate of fear, Žižek says, is the infertility of today's global society which Children of Men is representing literally. What does our theology have to say about this crisis of fear and injustice and how does Children of Men fit into the theological discussion?

When struck down with a sense of helplessness about these matters, when perhaps, the suggestion that the world is heading for disaster does not seem so far-fetched, it is not inappropriate to question humanity's role in the disaster. However, it is perhaps also apt to wonder: where's God in all of this? The question of theodicy will always, to some extent, indict God. If God was God, why would God allow disaster and evil to run amok?

Eschatology might have an answer to this question. Clearly we are in a time of "not yet." Sin and evil abound. Yet God does not impose on the freedom God granted creation. Eschatology points to the future when God will draw creation back into God's fullness. German theologian Jürgen Moltmann says, "God's being is coming, that is, God is already present because his future decides what becomes of the present. But this also means that he is not present in the way of his unmediated and immediate eternal presence. His future is our presence, and his presence will be our future."4 History, then, says Moltmann, is the time of hope.5 Faith is belief that God will be God, and not only that, but that God will be God for us in bringing creation into God's fullness. It is a matter of faith to stand with the Marys at the empty tomb and in fear and amazement, receive the angel's news that Jesus is going ahead to Galilee and that we will see him, just as he told us.

Yet, what does our hopeful expectation of this future have to do with the present? So far, this eschatology seems rather lukewarm on addressing the dire matters outlined above. Moltmann has an answer to this too: one must view together the expectation for the future and the predicament at hand. He says, "Christian eschatology is not an apocalyptic explanation of the world and also not a private illumination of existence, but the horizon of expectation for a world transforming initiative through which 'the renewal of the world is anticipated in this age in a certain sense."6 We are enlisted through Christ's life and death to be "construction workers" in the Architect's world transforming initiative.

The initiative, if we look to the Bible, always finds God on the side of the humiliated, outsider, and immigrant. Insofar as we participate in sinful societal structures in which fear allows us to turn a blind eye to injustice against the "outcast" among us, we find ourselves indicted. Moltmann says that the proper response to this accusation is "through the verum facere of the Christians [and all others] in their various vocations directed to the world of misery."7 The Latin phrase Moltmann uses means truthful action, action that speaks to the truth of God's loving initiative. Part-and-parcel with this truthful action is truthful speech. Truth speech and action can be practiced by anyone in myriad vocations.

Brazilian theologian Vitor Westhelle also has a word for our discussion when he analyzes the Greek word for truthful speech parrhesia. He uses the word in light of its connection to the cross' full disclosure of the unjust nature of societal and human relations. Parrhesia also means: to speak the truth boldly, or plainly saying it all without reserve.8 Parrhesia has a transgressive quality to it; speaking the truth in this way requires one to be unafraid of breaking the boundaries of the ruling societal narrative and exposing the systems of knowledge, convictions, and power that are propped up by the ruling narrative. 9 As such, parrhesia points to an alternate narrative, one full of hard truths but grace as well. Westhelle notes that the cross, in pronouncing the death of the old narrative, the "law of this age," empowers one to truthful action.10 I would add in eschatological terms: in that we believe in God's fulfilling action throughout history, as well as hope for God's final consummating activity, both of which reveal God's transforming initiative, we are freed and empowered to speak truthfully to the sinful structures of this world.

The next question, then, for this post is: in what way does Children of Men fit in with this eschatological truth-telling? I hope I have made it somewhat clear already that I believe the film engages powerfully with the issues of our time, especially in its imagery. When many Hollywood films shirk from provocative issues, Children of Men is set on exposing them for all to see. Cuarón did not have to feature this particular background to his action-heavy, sci-fi foreground. Already well known for previous work, Cuarón could have played the genre straight, the way Sontag would expect. However, Cuarón took the risk that the film would speak to people despite the "downer" factors in play. Indeed, even though Children of Men met with critical acclaim and three oscar nominations, it lost money at the box office. The Hollywood Reporter’s Risky Business Blog called it "another grim dystopian look at our future that simply cost too much money to make a profit."11 In this way, as a risky bit of filmmaking that holds up a mirror to the ruling societal narrative, I would argue that Children of Men is a form of parrhesia.

A couple of points to support this suggestion. One point to emphasize is Cuarón's use of one-shots, continuous shots of a longer duration, the longest of which runs 454 seconds. In response to the question of why one-shots in an interview with Kim Voynar, Cuarón said:
"Another thing is not to use editing or montage, trying to seek for an effect. It is to try to create a moment of truthfulness, in which the camera just happens to be there to just register that moment. So that leads into the long shots. Because then you just register the moments as they go. So what becomes important, then, is not the camera, but the moment. If you are going through life and something happens, you don't have the luxury of going, 'Stop, stop, guys, and let me get a close-up!'"12

In attempting to create these moments of truthfulness, Cuarón allows the material of the film to speak rather than trying to control it. The gritty, documentary feel of these shots (which are also the result of the set design) add a somber air of realism to the scenes; they are unblinking in their portrayal of this future/present dystopia. Holding onto the truthfulness of the moment, rather than cutting away, Cuarón creates a tension that draws the viewer into the filmic world. Perhaps the idea is that, having been drawn into the world of the film, the viewer can more easily become involved with the ways in which this world reflects back on the world off-screen. Thus, accusations of the film being a "downer" betray real involvement on the part of the viewers; the film is hard to watch because it touches a nerve in its viewers. They also reveal Cuarón's commitment to speaking the truth about our times.

Lastly, the film portrays a sensitivity to the underdog (running parallel to God's world-transforming initiative). For one, the film gives special attention to the background characters. The caged immigrants and refugees are not only part of the landscape in which Cuarón's protagonists move; they are the silent soul of the film, driving Theo (Clive Owen) to protect Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and her baby as a hope for all, but especially for the downtrodden. Second, there is the character of Kee, a young woman who comes to be pregnant when no one else is so blessed. Kee and her baby should be the miracle the world is waiting for. Yet Kee is an immigrant, black, single mother, ostracized from society. Even though it is the first birth in 18 years, we wonder whether the government would recognize the baby since the baby comes from ignoble origins. Cuarón plays up this aspect of the narrative as part of his truth-telling; society rarely treats outsiders with respect, and even less so in times when fear rules. The story is as much about Kee and her baby as it is about the anti-hero Theo, who stumbles into the task of protecting them.

It is the baby that gives Todorov optimism for the future of humanity, even as we sink deeper into self-perpetuated disaster:

"If we have reason not to be fully pessimistic, it is because of basic features of human beings. The human child only becomes independent after something like six or seven years. This means that during one-tenth of our lives we are dependent on others, which is not true of other mammals. So for a long time, we all know that our small ones are completely helpless and we have to protect them, to nourish them, to take care of them. This attitude, of which every single human being has been the beneficiary, is inscribed if not in our genes, at least in our minds. This means that we in some instinctive way know that we can only survive if we take care of the weaker ones, of the baby."13

Indeed, one scene in particular points to Todorov's hope. Theo, Kee, and the baby, find themselves in the middle of a war between the British military and rebel forces. All hell is broken loose, as the military fires shells into the apartment building in which the rebels have taken roost. The three are stuck on the third floor. Yet, the baby begins to cry, and everyone in the building is stunned by the sound; they have not heard a child crying in so many years. Calls for cease-fire ring through the building and out onto the broken streets. As Theo, Kee, and the baby make their way out of the building, the buildings' beleaguered residents reach out to touch the baby. The military men and women give way as well, with looks of wonder on their faces. Some, still clutching their weapons, drop down on their knees while crossing themselves. The baby is more important than their war. There are no questions asked of this vulnerable party of three. Yet as they leave the scene, the gunfire starts again.

It is refreshing to find a film that doesn't flinch from portraying the challenges facing our society. Children of Men does not have easy answers, yet there is hope portrayed in new life. The sound of a baby crying can remind us most viscerally to put aside our worldly concerns and care for the least among us. Christians remember the beginnings of another child of questionable origins every Christmas. Throughout the rest of the year, we trace the child's adult ministry. We note that Jesus was never afraid to say and do the things that would bring about a better world. Truthful speech and action become more attainable in light of the fact that Jesus and God go before us to show the way.

1Slavoj Žižek, “The Clash of Civilizations at the End of History,” 2006.
2Commentaries by Slavoj Zizek, Tzvetan Todorov, Naomi Klein, Saskia Sassen, and Fabrizio Eva, “The Possibility of Hope” bonus feature, Children of Men, DVD. Produced by Alfonso Cuarón et al., Interviews by Riccardo Romani. Universal Studios, 2006.
4Jürgen Moltmann, "Theology as Eschatology," in Frederick Herzog, ed. The Future of Hope: Theology as Eschatology (New York, NY: Herder and Herder, 1970), p.10.
5Ibid., p.21.
6Ibid., p.36.
7Ibid., p.47. Brackets mine.
8Vitor Westhelle, The Scandalous God: The Use and Abuse of the Cross (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006), pp.84, 86.
9Ibid., p.90.
10Ibid., p.91.
11"Children of Men: Brilliant But Expensive," The Hollywood Reporter Risky Business Blog, November 19, 2006.
12Kim Voynar, "Interview: Children of Men Director Alfonso Cuaron," Cinematical, Dec. 25th, 2006
13“The Possibility of Hope” bonus feature, Children of Men, DVD.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An Objection

"Our self-transformation into androgynous cyborgs is not a prospect to be celebrated and blessed, for it marks a callous disregard for the embodied particularity that defines us as finite and temporal creatures, created in the image and likeness of God."

- Brent Waters, From Human to Posthuman: Christian Theology and Technology in a Postmodern World (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006), p.121.

In the above referenced book, Brent Waters is responding to what he sees as a failing of much post-modern theology in regurgitating posthuman discourse in a Christian dialect without offering an attractive, alternative moral vision. The above quote highlights a caution he gives to consideration of human transformations through technology. It would appear that Brent Waters would have some objections (from a theological standpoint) as to the breakdown of gender dualities (and other "particularities") that are definitive of the molecular conception of an individual. Bukatman's terminal identity is also in question here.

I realize that I didn't properly address in the last post the prospect of terminal identity being amenable to a Christian faith. To what theological resources would Waters point to argue against embracing a terminal identity that would lead to the breakdown of embodied particularities (if he were indeed to do so)? I want to know more about what Waters means by embodied particularity in the phrase "the embodied particularity that defines us as finite and temporal creatures, created in the image and likeness of God." Is the embodied particularity of keeping the following dualities intact - male/female, human/non-human, organic/inorganic - necessary for remaining creaturely in the manner intended by the Genesis creation texts?

In two films I've seen recently, Videodrome and The Man Who Fell to Earth offer images of bodies losing gender specificity in a technologized, sci-fi space. In the former, Max Renn develops a massive, vaginal slit in his stomach to receive the Videodrome program's videocassettes. In the latter, the alien Thomas Newton and earthling Mary-Lou are captured in a gender-neutral image that recalls the melding of Alma and Elizabeth in Ingmar Bergman's Persona. In both of these films, these visuals are backed up by other narrative and thematic elements (which I won't get into) that emphasize the androgyny of the male protagonist.

Videodrome - David Cronenberg (1982)

The Man Who Fell to Earth - Nicholas Roeg (1976)

A third film that I will spend a little more time with - Tron - at times paints a similar confusion over gender and sexuality visually but in every other way tries to erase this confusion. Taking place for much of the action in a cyberspace world in which computer programs find representation, it is curious that these programs are anthropomorphized in a distinctly homogeneous manner: "Computer programs are human - in fact, computer programs seem to be white, heterosexual, and chaste."1 Visually, there is the androgyny of the programs in their appearance (common uniforms, the lighting) as you can see below.

Tron - Steven Lisberger (1982)

However, in many other ways, there is an emphasis on the division between male and female (it is no small wonder that the film is a Disney film) and the establishment of the heterosexuality of the main characters. For instance, there is the love triangle that is awkwardly set up between Tron, Yori, and Flynn in the virtual world to parallel that of Alan, Lora, and Flynn in the real world. In no scene is this more apparent than in the scene where Flynn is introduced to Yori (at around 1 hour, 12 minutes in). Flynn recognizes Yori as Lora's corollary in the virtual world and steps towards her to be cut off by Tron, who, playing the protective and domineering boyfriend, is wary of Flynn's approach. The rest of the scene involves a series of dialogue cuts between the Flynn on the right of the space and Yori and Tron on the left. In the film world, the three are still standing right next to each other; yet, the way the scene is shot, the scene explicitly captures and separates the three in their heterosexual roles. Flynn is the charming lone ranger desiring a woman who has been deemed "hands-off" by Tron.

Yori is captured as stereotypically feminine in her submissive lower positioning on the screen in the shots with Tron. In the image below, she looks fawningly at her masculine lover. In addition to Tron playing the possessive boyfriend, Tron is clearly in control in this relationship: he is the one that does the talking in the scene. Thus, there seems to be the distinct attempt to represent these traditional stereotypes of the male/female duality (and traditional male/female roles in a relationship) to overcome any potential element of terminal identity that might be expressed in the virtual representation otherwise.

Returning to the original objection of Waters, I do share his questioning of what it might mean for dualities such as gender to crumble in future human becomings. To the extent that we occupy a terminal identity in engaging with films that feature these gender-neutral human becomings, for a Christian skeptic of such matters, viewing such films could be seen as a dangerous activity. However, and perhaps this is my critique of the idea that engaging terminal narratives comprises a significant factor of human becoming in the direction of terminal identity (my last post), I think it's quite possible to establish a reflective distance from these narratives such that we consider them but don't embody them in such a way that they dictate our becoming.

I do see the benefit for Christians to take a reflective stance on the traditional ontological dualities. When viewing the shattering of these dualities, we ponder the way in which many aspects of these dualities are socially-constructed. For example, male-ness and female-ness are often defined in crude terms by society, such as in Tron, and to laugh at these representations is one step towards freeing ourselves from oppressive societal definitions. Establishing a distance from these gender distinctions, we recognize that we are beloved in God's eyes even if our personalities and bodies don't align with societal expectations about gender. We recognize that others are also beloved and we treat them lovingly.

There is, of course, the matter of God creating us biologically male or female, human, and organic, and perhaps this is more precisely what Waters is concerned about. These particularities could be seen as what God intends for us. It might be undesirable, then, for our bodies to in any way be changed. Certainly, a sex change would be a radical example of this, but a tattoo, or glasses, or a piercing could also be seen as distortions of God's original creation of our bodies as these foreign objects become a part of our bodies in some way. What is the line at which we say that we are sinfully altering God's design for us? Is there a line? If there is a line for us personally, should we hold others to the same standard? Should we condemn films that portray individuals crossing it?

1Scott Bukatman, Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), p.222.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Science Fiction and Human Becoming

Tron - Steven Lisberger (1982)

"We cannot get rid of our technology, for we can no longer survive without it. We depend upon the existence of technology, as much as our technology depends upon our cognitive abilities. Our relation to technology has become one of symbiosis between humans and machines."

- Taede A. Smedes, "Technology and Evolution: The Quest For a New Perspective," Dialog: A Journal of Theology 44:4 (Winter 2005), p. 359.

Starting out this study with the question "What does it mean to be human in a technologically-driven society?" presupposed a consideration of technology. However, it's become apparent to me that even if I were to ask the question without the qualifying second part - "What does it mean to be human?" - I would still have to consider technology. For example, a theological anthropology without reference to technology's impact on human beings and becomings would be unpersuasive. However, simply because we have to consider technology does not mean that there is not a place for legitimate struggle with Smedes' conclusion of symbiosis between humans and machines. Scott Bukatman, drawing on Freud, makes the suggestion that confronting this proposition of symbiosis is an ego-smashing moment on the level of Copernicus declaring that the earth is no longer the center of the universe or Darwin situating humans in an evolutionary process of descent from the animal world.1 I hope I have been demonstrating and continue to demonstrate the way in which sci-fi film and theology offer spaces to grapple with these issues. In this post in particular, I'm going to look at the way in which science fiction embodies this struggle.

Bukatman has a great deal to say on this subject. He says that science fiction is able to give us this wrestling space through "the narration of new technological modes of being in the world."2. Let's pick up on the narration part of that phrase first.

Indeed, it is apt that we would find a space for struggle through narration as story is a primary place for human meaning-making. For example, Christian biblical stories contain the primary myths and symbols relevant to the Christian faith. It is not a huge leap then to follow Philip Hefner's statement that "we are dependent upon story for the meaning of technology, or, we might say, of human meaning in a technological culture."3. Science fiction, according to Bukatman, remains the genre that has represented "the most sustained attempt to identify and narrate the ambiguities that mark the technological contours of contemporary culture."4 Sci-fi films frame an imaginative moment in our vision of technology through which we have the opportunity to engage in the filmic space to construct meaning.

However, the consequences of such an engagement are potentially much more explosive than I've been suggesting. Bukatman and Hefner might want to go further. One could look at the meaningful narration as a significant aspect of not only hypothetical, fairy-tale, technological modes of being in the world, but our potential technological modes of being in the world. In other words, referencing my previous post, such story-telling could be seen as part and parcel with a molecular conception of individuals: a conception of individuals that focuses on human becomings.

Terminal identity is the term that Bukatman uses (coined by the sci-fi author William Burroughs) to describe science fiction's role in human becomings. In terminal identity, "we find both the end of the subject and a new subjectivity," constructed by engagement with the wide range of media in which the sci-fi narration finds a home.5 In establishing a terminal identity, we construct a worldview in which traditional ontological understandings of body, mind, and memory are challenged and destabilized. Science fiction narrates this in part through a breakdown of dualities: male/female, organic/inorganic, image/reality, artifice/nature, human/nonhuman.6 Bukatman points to the symbiosis of humanity and machines when he concludes, "Terminal identity is a form of speech, as an essential cyborg formation, and a potentially subversive reconception of the subject that situates the human and the technological as coextensive, codependent, and mutually defining."7 It seems that through engagement with science fiction, we take on the speech of the cyborg's terminal identity, spurring a transformation in us. Perhaps, though, the transformation has already taken place and sci-fi terminal identity narratives reflect and consummate this fact.

Hefner has a somewhat similar notion of our becomings being connected to imagination and story. Imagination gives us stories about what the present could be like, and we construct technologies to make our imaginings a reality. Hefner says, "Stories are inseparable not only from the conception of our technology, but also from the uses we imagine for these technologies."8 Thus, in that stories help us realize technologies that become integral to who we are and who we want to be, stories are linked with our potential technological modes of being in the world. It is apt that Hefner engages with such sci-fi films as A.I., Blade Runner, and Gattaca to demonstrate his points about technology and human becoming. He is aware of the implications of this choice: he asks, for example, whether A.I.'s director Steven Spielberg has, "recounted the trajectory of human becoming that everyone of us, in fact, must say is our journey?"9 Implicit, I think, in his question is the idea that the sci-fi story is instrumental in this journey.

Can this journey of struggle and becoming through engagement with science fiction be a Christian journey?

Although there are good reasons for some level of skepticism, I believe that the kind of journey outlined above can be part of a faith journey. The reality is that we are dependent upon technology and must define ourselves as persons of faith in a new way as a result. Science fiction narratives give a space for struggle and redefinition, and persons of faith can use this space as well. Engaging with the space with others (as a community of faith, for example) can be especially helpful as dialogue brings fresh ideas and challenges.

We are dependent upon technology but not captive to it. By actively engaging with stories about our technology, and by making meaning out of these stories from a perspective of faith, we outline desired human becomings that are essential to Christian life. These becomings do not neglect traditional sources of theology - scriptures, for example - rather, the traditional sources are assumed as foundational for the community in which the person of faith participates. The suggested becomings outlined above are not the only aspect of human becomings sum total. They are an important aspect to consider in light of a highly technologized context.

Hefner offers an example of how this might be done. As he engages with the questions posed by the science fiction narratives (and other writings, art, and cultural artifacts), he notes the theological nature of these questions. He asks what all this means for God, creation (us included), and God's relationship with and intention for creation. These questions are essential for one's faith journey. No narrative has all the answers (not even the Bible!), but through our engagement with science fiction narratives, we can address these theological questions that are inevitably raised for us in struggling with the idea that our relation to technology has become one of symbiosis between humans and machines.

1Scott Bukatman, Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), p.8
3Philip Hefner, Technology and Human Becoming (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 65.
4Bukatman, p.6.
5Ibid., p.9.
6Ibid., p.10.
7Ibid., p.22.
8Hefner, p. 61.
9Ibid., p. 19.