What Battlestar Galactica taught me about faith

Battlestar GalacticaFor the past two weeks, my wife and I have been on maternity leave. To help pass the time, we signed up for a free, one-month subscription to Netflix and started watching (of all things) Battlestar Galactica. If you were a follower back in 2004, you know why we love it. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t start watching it unless you have nothing pressing in your life – it’s addicting.

The show is set in outer space. Humans are displaced after a world war attack by human-created robots known as Cylons.  The show is full of rich, biblical parallels, questions surrounding one’s theological anthropology and scenes dedicated to explaining God’s relationship to creation.  And I can’t help but see the connections from this show to our faith. The brightest and most obvious to me is God’s relationship to our understanding of both time and space.

In the show, time is of the essence. As Cylons attempt to eradicate the human race, key leaders are forced to use “faster than light” technology to travel from galaxy to galaxy.  With hair-pinning twists and turns, humans come within seconds of death (almost daily). Time matters because the humans are running out of it; and, inevitably, God seems to step in and intervene when all hope appears lost. These moments stand as load-bearing pillars for the humans, for their faith is renewed each time God steps in and saves.

Space matters too (and not just for the fact that the show is set in outer space).  Space is a commodity. When a planet is destroyed and 50,000 refugees take to roughly 10 star ships to conduct life, it’s easy to see why space becomes such an issue. In cramped, decaying quarters, the humans must find resolve and hope in an ancient, canonized prophecy that speaks of a promised land called Earth. They suffer insurmountable odds holding on to the hope of a better tomorrow.  With this renewed faith, seemingly insignificant spaces become launching pads for holy encounters.

And it’s here that I can’t seem to shake the similarities of this show to our faith.  Our load-bearing pillars, that which holds up and stabilizes our faith, are bound up in meeting God at holy times and in sacred spaces.

Ancient Israelites helped us here by creating what they understood to be Sabbath and then the Temple.  We too build our lives on the foundation that God shows up in both prepared times and spaces. Think about it; we mark our most religious experiences with both (i.e. Christmas, Easter, Retreat Centers, Pentecost, Sunday worship, Church Camp, Sanctuaries, Prayer Labyrinths, Homecomings, etc.).

Without these load-bearing times and spaces, we’d fail to appreciate, understand or acknowledge God’s living presence. Thankfully, we are people who hold tight to the belief that God makes our time holy and our spaces sacred. We are people who continually prepare both in a way that is set to receive. We are people who await God in the here and now.

And it should be this way, for the moment we stop looking for and expecting God’s abiding presence in both real time and space is the moment our faith ceases to bear anything of great substance, and it becomes something that functions a lot like a robot.

Barrett Owen

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About the Author
Barrett Owen is the associate director of admissions at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology and pastor of National Heights Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga. He blogs weekly at Liminality: Exploring the holy, in-between spaces.

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  • Teilhard

    Love this article. I am a big fan of Battlestar Galactica and love the spiritual and theological themes in it. Kevin Wetmore has written a book on the Theology of Battlestar Galactica which extrapolates on these themes.

    http://tinyurl.com/lkfhthl

  • Joel

    You know the original BSG had heavy influence from Mormon Doctrines and the 10 ships of refugees has parallels to the lost 10 tribes of Israel – just thought I’d add that.

  • Jim Lester

    Growing up baptist the standard answer to most events was “Thanks be to God.” After reading James Clavell’s “Whirlwind” in the 1980s Insha’Allah was added. After watching BSG 3 times – start to finish – my collection has expanded to “We are blessed by the lords of Kobol”. I enjoyed your blog post.

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