I enjoy dystopian novels. However, it isn’t just a bizarre interest of mine. Right now, people are flocking to the movie theaters to see Catching Fire or swarming the bookstores to pick up Allegiant. In generations past, you could pick up Lord of the Flies or even Fahrenheit 451 to see a depiction of a world gone wrong.
In the past, I have thought of these novels more as an enjoyable pastime. They let you think about the bigger issues in life, but they are clearly set in a fictional world where we don’t have to actually live through the ideas. I wouldn’t want to live on an island where people were running around killing each other without any laws, but it is interesting to think about human nature and how people would react in that situation.
However, a new idea hit me (I am sure that someone said it before, but it was new to me). Why not use this popular trend as a way to discuss apologetics? Obviously, I have thought about engaging with culture before, but I never thought dystopian novels as an apologetic mechanism.
For example, think about the Hunger Games. Our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, is thrust into a children’s death match orchestrated by the menacing dictators of the Capitol. If you start talking about this book, you are probably going to come to a point in the conversation where you are discussing the atrocity of killing children as part of a nationally televised event.
This is a perfect gateway to a discussion on objective morality. Why is it even wrong to kill children? Are the dictators of the Capitol necessarily evil? How do we determine that they are indeed evil?
Another easy example could occur while talking about Fahrenheit 451. I don’t know about you, but when I read it, I was struck by the fear of knowledge. By burning the books, the totalitarian government was able to control everything.
Again, this is a pretty ideal situation for apologists. Are people afraid of knowledge? Why are people afraid to talk about religion (one type of knowledge)? Shouldn’t we be able to have conversations and evaluate what is right or wrong? Those are the types of discussions that we want to get into. After all, isn’t it a good thing to pursue truth rather than eliminate the discussion entirely?
Think about these two examples. As apologists, we can use all kinds of opportunities to get people talking.
Think about Paul when he went to Athens in Acts 17. He was undoubtedly there to proclaim the word of God, but listen to how he began his conversation.
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. Acts 17:22-23
He took what the people were interested in and was able to interact with them on the level that they understood. He brought the conversation back to Jesus and to a defense of the Christian faith, but he began with something that he knew they were interested in.
People want to talk about popular culture. I am not saying that we need to become entirely immersed in the world, but I am saying that if we are at least aware of it in these kinds of opportunities, we might be able to find ways to get people thinking about these kinds of questions.
Apologetics is done by talking to real people. If we can connect on a few levels, people will be more invested in and willing to engage in these discussions. After all, we operate in the world, but we are not slaves to the world anymore.