Written by Ben Zornes on July 31, 2017
Stories are a DNA test for a culture. They show a culture’s its ideals, its perceptions of the world, its hopes for the future. Our stories reveal the marrow of our faith. That being the case, our increasing godlessness has resulted in stories of dystopia.
Our postmodernism has left us disillusioned and distrusting of truth, meaning, authority, order, and beauty. The all-out attack on objective truth has resulted in a dismal view of the future. While utopia literally means “no place,” dystopia literally means “a bad no place.” Many cultures throughout history have told stories of forgotten glories of lost cities (e.g. Atlantis, El Dorado, Numenór, Arthurian Britain), or else invented legends of kingdoms full of what-if’s and could-be’s. Ancient stories of lost kingdoms shows our memory of Eden lost. Stories of what could be are our longing for Eden restored.
But the cold gears of a Darwinian view of nature, the dingy, gray orderlessness that Marxism leads to, and the frustrating impotence of humanism have brought this generation to largely tell stories of dystopia. In these stories, alien forces collide with mankind, and vast battles tear through our cities with purposeless destruction. How many movies have we seen where the skylines crumble beneath the unfeeling ruination of some unconquerable force?
Cities destroyed by outbreaks of zombie-like disease, spaceships from another multiverse, totalitarian governments, realms warring for a throne. For all the vast scale of these stories, and for all their attempts at epic grandeur, they attest to the fact that destruction of civilization is what haunts our thoughts.
Notice that there is no Shire to save, no Aslan to rescue, no Wallace to stand for virtue and liberty, no forgotten king who will come to reclaim the throne of Gondor, no clue what we are fighting for, no Green Gables to preserve. The dystopias we tell of is the dystopia we are in. A society running from Eden can only tell about dystopias. If Snow, Megatron, or name your villain is overthrown and the rebels actually win, what in fact have we been saved from? Are the good guys so good? What even distinguishes them from the bad guys?
We know that we have been banished from Eden. We feel it in our cultural bones. We sense that in this universe we are on the outs with the Creator. We know that our father Adam sunk the earth into a pale shadow of the glory it was before sin. Our dystopian stories are the pained cry for deliverance from postmodernism’s meaninglessness. The evolution myth always leads to despair, because it makes civilization out to be merely our species’ attempt to survive the dark nothingness of the ever-expanding chaos of this universe. Is it any wonder that we speculate about multiverses, in the hope that evolution might have made something better out there, in another dimension?
Rather than acknowledge that Adam’s race is responsible for the dystopia in which we live, we tell a false myth about a big bang that let’s us justify our destruction of this earthly kingdom God gave us. The dismal ruins of the Babylon we’ve made ought to bring us to the feet of King Jesus, rebels though we are, and swear allegiance to His kingdom of glory: the New Jerusalem, the city of God. Christianity offers a happy ending. Marxism, Darwinism, Postmodernism, Secular Humanism, and their ilk only offer a sad ending: an ever-grinding monotony of meaningless forces bearing us away–– after trillions of insignificant years––to a final dissipation (or compression) of all things.
In fact, we were made to enjoy a King and His Kingdom of joy for all eternity. Rather than come in humble repentance for rebelling against Him, we’ve chosen to “fable away” our guilt by pinning the crime on the time and chance of evolutionary forces. Thus, we tell of dystopias, where things aren’t better, where heroes aren’t valiant and noble, where the fight against oppression leads to a victory of wearisome dullness.
A civilization with no hope tells of dystopias. It lives a dystopillusion: no escape, no redemption, no meaning whether the good guys win or lose. In fact, we don’t even know who good guys are any more––they are all flawed. We have no saviors. All the same, we want to be saved. We want to be rescued. We want New Jerusalem.