Sci-Fi and Spirituality

Sci-Fi and Spirituality Interspectional

In this episode, host of the podcast The Sacred Now, Jay Jackson and Episcopal priest, Reverend Rachel Kessler aka @nerdypriest on TikTok, join me as we discuss the different places were faith and science fiction meet. We discuss faiths within sci-fi universes as well as how our collective interests in science fiction has complimented or contradicted our beliefs. But ultimately *spoiler alert* this conversation is about the ways that science fiction can continue to give a us hope for a better future. In this episode, we discuss everything from Star Trek, to Blade Runner to Children of Men and more. I hope you enjoy it. 

Latisha: Hi everybody. And welcome back to Interspectional. I am so excited for this episode. On this episode, we will be talking about the connection between science fiction and spirituality. So I know I have my own thoughts on this coming from a faith background myself, but I’m also really delighted to have two incredibly informed and fun guests to talk about this with.

Cause I think it’s a topic that is not really delved into a lot, but is actually critical into why so many of us find ourselves drawn to science fiction and fantasy properties. I want to get into this and so let me have my guests introduce themselves starting first with Rachel. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little about your area of expertise.

Rachel: Hello. I’m Rachel Kessler. I’m an Episcopal priest. I’m a college chaplain at Kenyon college in the middle of absolutely nowhere, Ohio. I don’t know that I have necessarily areas of expertise other than I consume a whole lot of media. And I have very many thoughts about it from the lens of my faith background which has been a journey from being raised very conservative, evangelical to more progressive versions of Christianity and working in a lot of interfaith spaces as well.

So I’m looking forward to our conversation. 

Latisha: Awesome. So delighted to have you here. I know Rachel, mostly through her TikToks ,The Nerdy Priest. You should absolutely follow her because she has so many great insights. And so I’m delighted that she is coming on this platform to share her insights with this particular audience.

Yay! Jay, can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your expertise? 

Jay Jackson: Yes, I’d be happy to. My name is Jay Jackson. I am based out of central Arkansas. I am a writer, actor, producer, standup comedian, musician. I’m a part-time stripper. I do hair. I’m all about getting that bag. I do whatever it takes to get this money.

That’s what I’m trying to do to varying degrees of success. I may start an “Only Fans” here, but that’s where I’m at. As far as my backgrounds I know I looked like a pretty stereotypical jock, but my nerd cred runs deep.

I’m a huge Captain America fan is as evidenced by the Captain America swag in my background here. But I was raised on science fiction, raised on comic books, from a very young age .Star Trek in particular holds a very special place in my heart from the next generation on, but also a big fan of the original series and all of that. As I got older, I started to really get into different genres, detective stories. I was a big fan of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle and all of that. But also the classic literary science fiction. Asimov, Bester, Heinlein. All of those guys.

And so that’s where I started cutting my teeth with delving into some of the bigger questions that science fiction asks around the human condition and also about the way we understand the world around us and what we believe. Excited to be here to delve into that.

Latisha: Awesome. So happy to have you here. And Jay also has a podcast called “The Sacred Now”. Can you summarize really quickly what that podcast is about? 

Jay Jackson: Yes. I like to tell people that “The Sacred Now” is a podcast where we talk about not just religious, but philosophical metaphysical ideals through the lens of pop culture and current events. So we talk about Superman as a messianic figure. Our very first episode was a two-part episode where we talked about how Star Trek has tackled the idea of God or images of god-like figures and how the Trek universe has approached that, which you could make a podcast just on that subject alone. There’s a lot to uncover with that. But that’s the kind of thing that we do. 

Latisha: That’s awesome. I know when I think about Trek and the concepts of God and faith that are explored through it, what’s really fascinating is because it is a sci-fi media, and you’re going through space.

You end up with different peoples and, in different planets and thus different gods both in the regional religions in that area. And also you were literally on different planets. How do they define their world in reference to their faith? And does your faith expand outside of your own planet?

It’s a fair question. And so there’s just so many really interesting things when it comes to like Star Trek franchise, of course. We’ll get into that a little bit more deeply and actually. Going back to your podcast and also Rachel’s work.

What inspired you both to develop those online personas of both like The Nerdy Priest and the podcast, “The Sacred Now”. Jay, can you share a little bit more about what inspired you to even make the podcast in the first place? 

Jay Jackson: Sure. Like you said, I was also raised in a very deeply religious household.

My father was a deacon in the church. My mother taught Sunday school and the whole nine. We had a key to the church. All of this. There literally eight days a week. So the church and the church community was the nexus of our life outside of our family.

Anything that we did outside of the family was pretty much centered around the church. If we weren’t at school. I was also, raised on star Trek and comic books, like I said. And my parents were actually the ones who introduced us to that.

 I am told, I don’t know how much veracity there is to this story, but I am told that my mother originally wanted to name me, Jedi. My father talks her out of it. Because she wanted to stylize it as like the word jet dash, and then the symbol for an eye, like an eye that you blink that was going to be named that.

And my dad was like, you know what? That’s a little too much. But yeah, so my parents were both nerds, like super uber nerds about Star Trek and Star Wars and, Spider-man and all of this, and also deeply religious. I came from those roots. My family also whenever we went to the movies or had to do reports for school; we’d like to talk about it.

We’d like to dissect things. We’d like to really go into like how this particular episode made us feel or really delve into what was the history of things like that. And as I got older, I found myself around people who are less interested in doing that. And some people were, but I found myself missing being able to talk with people about those ideas and take deep dives into subjects and things like that.

I also caveat with this. I am significantly less religious now than I was when I was younger. I consider myself now, if you were to put me in a box, I would consider myself a reverent agnostic. But that idea of being able to examine our perspectives on things and how the media that we experience makes this feel and what we’re actually taking away from that is something that was ingrained in me at a young age and always has stuck with me.

So “The Sacred Now” is a n effort to carry that forward because we live in a scary world sometimes. There’s a lot happening and there are episodes of “The Sacred Now” that we don’t get to really talk about nerdy stuff. There’s a lot of things happening where sometimes we just have to express our ourselves and just be able to get that out. the black lives matter movement was really getting hot and heavy during the Brianna Taylor protests and the George Ford protests. We dedicated episodes to that. We are dedicated episodes to COVID and unpacking that. And so I think that for me, this show’s been a way to help really unpack and unfold and really dissect and process the world we actually live in, in addition to the fun science fiction- type worlds that we enjoy. I feel like I rambled there. 

Latisha: No I can guarantee you that there are so many elements in your story that not only people need to hear, but that we’re validating. So I appreciate that so much. Rachel, same question. And also you look like you want respond a little bit to some things that Jay said.

Rachel: Talk about resonating, right? That idea of being raised in a household that was both very religious. My dad was a pastor. My brother is a pastor. That was our life, our world. But also, I think being raised in a household where my family weren’t really readers.

But in terms of like movies and media, like I joked that the most consistent things in my life have been Jesus and Star Wars. And my relationship to Star Wars has been much more consistent than my relationship with Jesus, if I’m very honest without it. So I get that dichotomy. And yet I do think that like the ways that I dug into scifi and fantasy and literature, and we’re actually ways that opened up my very limited and sheltered worldview, right? I have told this story on TikTok before, but I was a horse girl. I was a horse girl. We can talk about that whole phase of my life.

But I was going through this school library, finding any books that had anything to do with horses, which is how I found The Horse And His Boy by CS Lewis and ended up finding the Narnia books. And that really opened up my little fourth grade mind to fantasy and other worlds, and really started me down like this whole road to geekdom and being raised in an environment where everything was viewed through the lens of faith. It just became natural that’s the lens that I would apply to everything else that I was reading and consuming. And really, it was a lot of, and these are more explicitly Christian writers, but it was people like CS Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle who really started opening up and expanding how I understood my faith and my religious worldview.

And eventually led me down this like strange road where I suddenly, I woke up one day and I was an Episcopal priest. And I’m still not entirely sure how that happened, but this is where we are. And as far as the TikTok thing, right? Like realizing that there was an outlet for, just expressing these thoughts and these connections out into the internet and finding out that there are people that resonate with them and want to have these conversations as well.

I think it was great. And then I know Latisha, you and I have talked about Farscape quite a lot. And Farscape is the show that like, from this conversation we have about deconstructing Christianity and moving outside of very closed worldviews into worlds that are bigger and more expansive than what we would imagine. As someone who is like a broadly understood deconstructed Christian. I think we should always be in the process of deconstructing. That show resonates with me so profoundly. So I can’t get up in my pulpit, my poor congregation puts up with a lot for me.

I subject them to a lot of things that are unfortunate. I still don’t know that they’ve recovered from my sermon on WandaVision. Farscape and space Muppets is like a little bit too far to try to give the context for a sermon. If my church understood how much I restrained myself, appreciate that. This is what it is. So the internet could get subjected to my thoughts. 

Latisha: I don’t know if anyone has recovered from WandaVision, Loki and all of the collected, “I’m just going to activate all of your PTSD and childhood trauma” of Marvel TV shows. One of my favorite TikTokkers is Nique Marina. She just always goes in on like,” This is how Marvel is activating all your unresolved trauma today.” 

Rachel: I love it. 

Latisha: And it’s great. And great in this like “There is a piece of media that is showing a character or several characters going through something that is difficult and doing it in such a way that if you were also going through something that is difficult or had been doing that, you can see yourself reflected in that in a way that you might not have been aware of previously.”

 That is really special. The really interesting thing I find about WandaVision is when it first started, people were like,” Who is the villain? What is the problem? What are we doing?” And it’s the villain is grief!

That’s the villain. Okay. And how we deal with that. Okay. That’s what it is. And somewhat related Elizabeth Olsen, she also did a show on Facebook like the few years previous called, Sorry For Your Loss, which is also about a woman who lost her husband and the process that she’s going through dealing with that grief.

Jay Jackson: Never heard of that. 

Latisha: Yeah it’s a really incredible show. A friend of mine, Kitt, she actually was the showrunner for that show. But I know for me, it was really interesting having watched her for your loss first and then watching WandaVision and not that the show isn’t good on its own cause absolutely was, but it was interesting seeing Elizabeth Olsen as an actress, having gone through like that journey once and then seeing how that journey had been like refined and also in this like larger medium. So it was just really fascinating. 

Jay Jackson: So when you mentioned WandaVision, it’s a little personal for me because at the time when WandaVision came out I was personally dealing with a lot of loss.

And watching that show took a little bit out of me, but it was like necessary because this was like right after 2020, the pandemic was in full swing. And processing all of the loss of that year. And some of the other loss that we’ve gone through. Many years prior, but around that same time, like that time of year is always hard for me.

So like WandaVision came out the exact right time for me because watching Wanda process her trauma and her grief really helped me, no lie, process my own. And I know on some level outside, it’s “Oh, like really a superhero show helps you do that?”

And yeah. Yeah. There are people who aren’t in these fandoms don’t realize, or at least undervalue how powerful these messages are. How much that these stories affect us and help us understand what it is about the world around us. I think that is one of the key things that good science fiction does really well. The ideas to help us understand, A., I want to understand what is, and then 2. Understand what is possible.

And I think that is one of the most important things that I’ve taken away from my fandoms. Do I necessarily believe that God exists in the Christian sense? No, but is it possible? Could be. I don’t know, God could look like the prophets of Bajor or something closer to that.

 Opportunities abound, I guess. My mind can’t really comprehend that, but I have to consider the possibilities that there are things about this universe that I don’t know. And that’s what science fiction does for me.

Latisha: I love that you mention that. I know for me, there’s something to the comfort I feel with the idea that I might not be able to understand. And the comfort that I feel in, I might not be able to comprehend. And that is okay. And I feel like for a lot of people, the idea of not knowing or not being able to control it or not being able to get your head around is so terrifying. Which I get, but it also feel as someone who’s been in fandoms, I’ve gotten practice with the idea. I remember like randomly I was watching a Doctor Who episode where people are going mad because they realized that they were in a simulation and that they weren’t real and they just like, “oh my God, I can’t handle it. Can’t process it.” And I’m like, “I’ve accepted that it could be a figment of someone else’s imagination for a while now.” So sometimes I’m just like, can you just get all of the plot, but that’s because I have practice with that thought process. 

Rachel: We call it speculative fiction for a reason, right?

These fandoms and these worlds allow us to raise questions and speculate at what might be true and what other things would be true if this were true and how we can navigate different possibilities and ways of being in the world. It trains our minds to ask these questions. 

 Bringing up the Prophets of Bajor, I think is like such a fascinating one because I think. Deep Space Nine is one of my absolutely favorite shows. And I think it deals with religion on such an interesting level. Like not just philosophically and theologically, but like sociologically. What are the ways that our religious society would structure itself and what are the conflicts that they would have and what would the power structures be and what would happen when that world comes into conflict with other worldviews and how they integrate?

 It’s a way of taking a “fictional” religion and allowing it to play out how religious societies function and come into contact with each other. And I don’t know, it’s just fascinating. 

Latisha: Oh yeah. And then speaking the prophets of Bajor and how that religion works.

There’s also this question of how does religion work in a society that has been oppressed by another group? And also how someone both can use religion as a source of strength and also rebel against that and being like, “How could my gods let this happen to me?”

And that both of them are valid reactions to the same stimuli and how faith interacts with that. And it’s interesting to see, okay, how does this work? That exploration of humanity which I think is really fascinating. Speaking of the relationship of science fiction and faith, has something ever like really conflicted, with your faith and something that you’ve watched or really complemented it. 

Rachel: Pause to think.

Latisha: I was actually at a Comicon event, and this guy who was in like the Star Trek uniform, and all, but he also was like,” Yeah, I’m also a Christian.” and he’s like “I know what you get ask.”

I’m like, “What ?””How am I a Christian and Star Trek fan?” I’m like, “I actually am going to ask that, but not from the point of me criticizing you and saying that like your faith conflicts with this enjoyment, but as I am also someone of that dual identity and I’m wondering how does it land with you in possibly a different way that lands with me?”

But that being said. Clearly he expected that I was someone who would be like, “You’re a Christian, there’s no way you could be into Star Trek. How dare you with the Spock devil ears!” Or something like that? I don’t know.

Rachel: I come across this a lot. Like I’m struggling to think of a specific example within science fiction, where I feel that dichotomy precisely because of the things that we have spoken about, the ways that science fiction opens questions and opens our mind to broader possibilities which should absolutely in 100% include possibilities and speculations around questions of faith. 

My husband and I joke about this. Cause what I cannot deal with in media is anything that is like deeply nihilistic. Like that period of peak TV, when it was all like Mad Men and Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, right. 

Latisha: I skipped all of those. 

Rachel: Right. I have no interest. I have no interest like even Game Of Thrones, right? I was like, “This is a world in which grace does not exist and everyone is terrible.” And those questions don’t interest me because I don’t see what the value is.

 I joke a lot because I love the show Hannibal. I absolutely love the TV show Hannibal precisely because… okay. Hannibal Lecter is a Satan figure. And it’s incredibly gruesome, lots of very gruesomely depicted murder.

But it’s also a world where beauty and goodness exist. They exist and are perverted, but they exist. And so it’s not a nihilistic world. It’s a world where there is goodness, that goodness is perverted and twisted and warped, but I find it interesting to watch and what I just can’t enter into are speculative universes, where it’s just bleakness and nihilism. Maybe the world’s broken enough and I just don’t need to like speculatively enter it through fiction. 

Jay Jackson: You made me think about Douglas Adams. If I were to answer the question about whether I can think of a science fiction that challenged my worldview or possibly reinforced or helped me process it, I would point to Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Particularly as I started coming into my own in my own faith journey and started really questioning, some of the ways that I felt the church was behaving and some of the experiences that I had. My faith was being questioned, in and of its own.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide kind of came to me like in that moment too. And Douglas Adams, as we all know, was pretty irreverent. And reading Hitchhiker’s Guide kind of made that okay. I found it to be less nihilistic. 

Rachel: I feel like absurdity is different than nihilism. 

Latisha: Yes, very much so. 

Jay Jackson: Yes. It’s okay. Nothing matters. Everything ridiculous. Fine. Let’s just get this like impossible warp drive and let’s like turn whales into potted plants or whatever the case may be. I think that was the first time that there was a science fiction that I can consciously remember that helps me like, “That’s okay. I don’t have to have the answers. I don’t have to have the universe explained to me. It doesn’t have to be fair even. I just have to-

Latisha: That’s a hard lesson. 

Jay Jackson: -Learn how to… It is a very hard lesson. And it was, “Okay, I can still take vet value and enjoy the people around me, even as everything falls apart, even here at the end of time. I’m still here with my chosen family.” The character Marvin in the book, I feel some type of way about spoiling a 40, 50 year old book, but the scene in the book where Marvin dies. I still remember that. And if you read the scene of the book, basically he’s wearing down after all of this. Everything that they’ve been through. And Arthur and Trillian are basically taking him up this mountain.

And it is an arduous journey for him. He has to stop several times. Marvin is an Android by the way, for those unfamiliar. And his attitude has always been like one of fatalism. He’s incredibly sarcastic. Marvin, the paranoid Android is his actual title in the book, but he’s more just “Nothing matters. Everything’s shite.” And he’s voiced in the movies by Alan Rickman. If that gives you any kind of a clue to his character. When they get him to the summit of this mountain, there’s a message that he’s able to see. At the end of his life, he reads this message and he’s like “Oh, maybe it’s not so bad after all. And I’m here with my friends and that’s nice.” And then he shuts down and that’s how he dies.

But moments like that, I think about whenever I’m having a hard time and I’m like, “Okay what’s it all for? How could it kind and just and loving God do this to me? How could this be allowed to happen?” And the answer that I’ve landed on, thanks to, processing through science fiction, is just ” Hey, just kind roll with it.”

It is. In a very Vonnegut/Tralfamadorian sort of way. It is what it is. And so you can roll with it or you can not. And that’s where I landed with that.

Rachel: And I think that’s what makes whatever we want to put under this broader umbrella of speculative fiction, that it’s holding up a mirror to the world, staring at the world, asking where we find meaning. Again, it’s the asking of the questions and posing of hypothesis that I think is what keeps the genre interesting and evocative, right? Which is why I don’t think there was any contradiction in being a person of faith and being really into various fandoms and various forms of media.

And why, I think there’s actually a lot of resonance. I think that’s what it comes down to. Does your faith, wherever you are on whatever spectrum of religious identity, is there enough elasticity to be interested in posing these questions and engaging with other viewpoints and ideas, right?

Or I think there only becomes a contrast if you have a faith identity or worldview of any kind, that’s like in a box that says,” I have the answers. And so whatever I take in and consume has to fit within my parameters of how I understand the world, God, to function.” I hope that makes sense. 

Latisha: No, it does make sense because it’s like, you know, what is your faith journey and is the way you conceptualize your faith? Is it very rigid? Is it that “It must be this way. It is always this way and there’s nothing outside of it,” as opposed to a faith journey as we’ve expressed that embraces the possibility of the unknown. Embraces the idea of, “I know as much as I know, and based on the information available, here’s my hypothesis and I could be wrong. And that is okay because I am on the journey like everybody else.” And I think some people have this conflict of like, “How can you have such strong convictions and still think you could be wrong?”

And it’s like, because this works for now. And it’s worked for other people and allows me to help others. And as I am affirmed in my journey with the other humans that I encounter in a positive way, I’m just going to keep on going and we’ll see what happens next, and that’s just an interesting place to be.

Yes. Scary. I will not deny that it can be absolutely scary. But it’s really interesting. And one thing I was thinking about as you’re talking and this doesn’t not fall into the sci-fi genre, but I was thinking about the movie Dogma, and I really enjoyed that movie. But also what I like about it as a irreverent as it is to the Christian faith. It is written in such a way that the only way those jokes could have been written is by somebody who knows the Bible. The only way so many things make sense is if you actually have a faith background and have read this stuff. And so what I see in that is the opportunity to ask more questions into expand the idea, and I can see how someone would be offended by it, but also if you watch the movie to its conclusion, it actually is quite affirming in the Christian faith, which you have to be willing to go on the journey to get there.

And it’s one of the things I find really fascinating. But I love what you said about the question around nihilism in the SciFi spaces. And this everything sucks and nothing matters. And what you can process with that. Cause I know I personally speaking of sci-fi properties, I have a really hard time with Blade Runner, like a really hard time with Blade Runner.

Rachel: I still haven’t forgiven my husband for the time he got me Blade Runner for Christmas. I had never seen before. And he was like, “Oh, I’ll buy my wife Blade Runner for Christmas that she’s never seen. And I watched it and I’m like, “I hate this.” 

Jay Jackson: My father stole my copy of Blade Runner. He was just like, yeah, he didn’t steal it. He saw that I had it. And it was like, “Hey, Blade Runner, that’s one of my favorite movies. If I borrow this?” I’m like, “Sure.” And he never gave it back. 

Rachel: So why do you hate Blade Runner, Latisha? 

Latisha: Okay. So I have no clue from the very beginning of this film, why I’m supposed to like Harrison Ford’s character. He starts with no redeeming qualities and then continues this journey of lack of redeeming qualities … and there’s… okay. There are certain questions that Blade Runner does ask about reality and sentience and how we define what is and who can be human.

And these are really interesting questions, but the way that it asks these questions… Did we really have to go there? Was it necessary for you to do this thing to ask this question? And so it’s… It’s also a very eighties movie, like many movies in the eighties are, so it also asks this question from a often sexist, xenophobic, often racist perspective that I’m just supposed to go along with without even investigating its own xenophobia, sexism. If you’re going to put that in the story, I need you to investigate that in yourself. 

Rachel: I’m just agreeing with all of the things. I’m just agreeing and I’m watching your face, Jay

Jay Jackson: I’m gonna let you finish, but I have a counter argument. 

Latisha: Okay. Okay. Okay. And what I do accept about Blade Runner is it’s level and it’s place in the scifi patheon. What I do accept about it is that it had this role, this massive influence on much of the science fiction/ fantasy after.

And in order to understand some of what we got later, it is “worth it” to watch Blade Runner, at least once to get that genealogy, that history. But there are some things that I have to read or watch only once and never return to it. On the other end of the spectrum, Bridge To Terabithia is one of those things.

I only need to read it once. And then the movie came out. I thought, what are you doing to the children? But I think it’s a good text that I only need to see once like Fox And The Hound. Anyway, please.

Jay Jackson: I hear you and Blade Runner. It is not a perfect movie. It is very eighties. I understand the concern, a couple of things and see me warming up. So the thing about Blade Runner, like I said, it’s not a perfect movie. It’s supposed to be both science fiction, but it’s supposed to be, I think at least my reading of it was that it’s more noir than anything else. And if you look at the elements of film noir and that whole type of genre.

You’re not supposed to like Decker. He’s supposed to be kind of a jerk . And I’m being generous with the term jerk. But that whole mentality that he’s in, puts him in the mode of a skeptic. And it allows those questions that you’re talking about.

 Since we’re viewing this world through his lens and he’s the character that we’re following. that’s our window into this world now. As with the other point, as far as the other things, the sexism, the xenophobia, the, is it necessary to ask those questions in the way that blade runner asked them?

Probably not, again, kind of a product of its time there you have it. I submit that almost beat for beat the first season of Star Trek: Picard does almost exactly the same thing. We’re not really supposed to like Picard that much at the beginning of the Picard. We see throughout that season, all of these characters that he’s made all these promises to, and those promises have been broken. And so for 20 years or so that we’ve known like Picard, the hero. Now we get to see Picard the asshole and, the flip side of that. And then we take him through this journey where he meets this woman who is an android or in Blade Runner, a replicant, who has her reality questioned.

Her reality has been turned completely upside down because of the nature of what she is. There’s a religious element to that as well. Soji as the destroyer, who, according to Romulan prophecy will bring about the destruction of the universe. There’s that religious element to that as well.

But which I don’t think that Blade Runner had that element to it. But, for the purposes of relating it to today’s topic there you have it. But there’s that as well. When we talk about the xenophobia, at least a piece of the window into why the Romulans are so insular and why they are so at best standoffish with the Federation at this point and all of these things, and you want to talk about faith.

We see in Picard whose faith in everything that this man has worked for the past 20, 30 years that we’ve seen him do has been shattered. My counter argument is that Picard’s kind of doing the same thing, and in terms of seeing what this does for these characters and what it says about us now, again, it’s not a one-to-one correlation

And I think that Picard does do a better job of handling those questions. But I would posit that… I’m not going to say that… what I started to say you wouldn’t have the Picard without Blade Runner. I think that might be a little strong to say 

Rachel: This is where I jumped in and say that I couldn’t finish Picard either. I stopped like half way and I was like, I got no time for this. 

Latisha: Okay. Being someone who has finished both properties. I will accept your proposal, Jay. I will. Cause I do see Blade Runner DNA in Picard. So I will accept that proposal. I will say, because you’re right, there isn’t a one-to-one, there is something interesting in Picard’s journey, in Picard as a person who has lost their faith and someone who is attempting to enter a world that has moved on without him. And he never quite expected that to happen. So there, there is something interesting in that.

And then also, and I’ll do respect to Patrick Stewart. The pacing of Picard is interesting, but I also feel like you had to deal with the pacing that’s your lead could handle.

So I feel like I can’t be mad at it, even if I wanted it to be because you have an audience that you brought in for this particular actor, you need a pace that he can handle. And in order to balance that you have all these other character stories that need to do some work and still not over shine your lead, who can only work at a certain pace.

Jay Jackson: That’s fair. 

Latisha: It’s complicated. But I feel like given possible constraints, is it the best thing that was ever made? Of course not. Is it decent enough that I was able to finish the season. Though it did take me some tries. I am going to watch the second season, but I will admit, it wasn’t a binge. 

Rachel: I want to throw out another kind of on this subject to veer just a little bit, but this question of an unlikeable protagonist who has potentially lost their faith in a world that may be nihilistic : Children Of Men.

 Having read both the book and seen the movie, I actually think this is an instance where like I prefer the movie to the book, although they asked different questions. But you have Theo, you have Clive Owen’s character, who has given up hope. He is definitely someone who has lost his faith. He has gone through tragedy. You have a world where hope literally does not exist in this world because there are no children, right? Like this idea of living in a world that has no future. And yet it’s very captivating. There is this question of what does it mean to claim some desperation of hope in a world that seems to not have any. I feel like that’s a counterexample to what maybe I found so lacking and uncompelling, and I take the point about the noir genre and what’s going on there.

 We can also go on about how much I hate The Expanse and didn’t enjoy the first season of The Expanse so I think I just have issues with the noir genre as a thing.

But I say, I don’t like nihilistic things. This feels like a movie that is in a very nihilistic world. Clive Owen’s character is not particularly likable. And yet I find it deeply captivating. And I would say it’s probably one of my favorite movies. So I don’t know. I’m just throwing that out there for conversation. 

Jay Jackson: I think that the difference there is the idea that you can still see that hope. We can live in these universes that are pretty dark. Our own. The real world is pretty dark.

But when we look at these stories and we can see that there is some light somewhere. I brought up the example of Hitchhiker’s Guide and the character of Marvin on his death scene. And I looked it up, what they were looking for was God’s final message to his creation.

And when they get to the summit and Marvin is able to read the message is: We apologize for the inconvenience. And in that moment, Marvin… what does he say? ” I think I… I think I feel good about it. I think I feel good about that.” And that’s when he dies. Even though it’s a death scene, he was able to find some sort of validation or something to hold onto.

That’s, ” Okay, this is worth it. All this effort and all this pain that we’ve been going through has been worth it.” I think that’s the difference between Children Of Men and Blade Runner because the whole conceit of Children Of Men is that you have this woman who is pregnant in a world where people have stopped having children.

So there’s an effort and there’s mission and, yes, it is very bleak, but there is still this hope that the human race can continue. You don’t really see that with Blade Runner. You do see it with Picard as well. Picard does the Picard thing that he does and holds onto his values and things like that and inspires people.

It’s very that. Whereas Blade Runner, just okay… the Rutger Hauer character is dead. Now tears in the rain. Death. And then what does that mean? So you don’t really go anywhere with that. There’s not a whole lot of hope to be gleaned from that.

I think like we were saying earlier one of the reasons that we love science fiction, speculative fiction is that it shows us what is possible. That in this world that is so bleak and so dark, so dystopian and everything falling apart around us, there is still something that we can hold on to.

Latisha: Yeah. And I think even in Children of Men, yes, Clive Owen is not initially a likable character and all that. But when he is given a mission, what we find is that, despite everything, he still wants to hope for something. And having that in a character in our universe, it may be the smallest thing, but it changes everything. Sometimes it isn’t even” I have hope”, but “I want to hope.” It’s ” I want to believe everything can be okay. I want to believe.” 

Rachel: Even if everything can’t be okay, something. I want to believe something. 

Latisha: Something can be. I’m actually thinking about Idiocracy actually. Which is just such a fascinating, dystopian future But what I love is that, when you get to like the big climax of the movie where you have Luke Wilson scared or being like, ” No, this works.”

The thing that shows that this little thing can work is a little plant.” Look, the plant. It’s tiny, but it’s here and it’s growing and this is possible. I may not be able to fix everything. Maybe not everything can change, but we have lettuce.”

Rachel: Here’s another one of my all time favorite movies is Mad Max: Fury Road. Have we seen this? So like incredibly bleak worldview, but I think ends on a note of, everything is not made better. Everything isn’t fixed. Everything isn’t right. But it ends on like a possibility of renewal. It ends on that possibility of redemption which I find fascinating. What does it mean to stare into the abyss and see the possibility of hope? Which I think is something the scifi genre has the capacity to do well. 

Latisha: I love that. I love that. And actually that kind of answers my final question, which was, what messages or morals do you think a person can take from scifi media in general? And also specifically anything, we answered this question already, but diving in deep, do you think there are lessons to be learned about faith in general that can be gleaned through the lens of sci-fi and fantasy media?

Rachel: I think a lot of what we’ve already talked about. The reason that science fiction resonates with my faith is, and I think really it’s more that science fiction I think has influenced my faith. And we talked about at the beginning, right? The things that I was reading, the things that I was watching, challenged me and inspired me and gave me a capacity to think creatively and expansively and openly in a way that my religious upbringing absolutely did not. And I think at its best, science fiction gives us, again, a language and a reference point for exploring different possibilities and different worldviews if we can be open to that. Faith, at its best, should be about, right, a speculation of what we believe about the world and how we want to have those values and that outlook and that comprehension of God and meaning in the universe, how those things should shape our lives and the way that we interact with the world.

And so I think science fiction is a, I don’t want to say testing ground because that undermines the beauty of science fiction on its own, but I think the way that we enter into stories and imaginative worlds is there’s a lot of resonance for me in that, in how we think about faith. As I mentioned before, I work in an interfaith context. So while I certainly have things that I believe about my faith or about the world or my understanding of God, I am someone who is genuinely interested in how other people see the world. Being a person of faith myself makes me genuinely interested in what other people’s faith perspectives are and how they understand the world.

And I think science fiction is a pallet on which writers and creative people can speculate about these questions. I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but that’s my rambling. 

Latisha: I feel like it does. Jay, your thoughts? 

Jay Jackson: Yeah. I echo and co-sign everything Rachel just said. I do want to like, say to that last point about interfaith and being able to associate with people of different faith backgrounds and on different points in their journey, like yes, that is in the context of what we’re talking about. That is absolutely, I think, one of the most important lessons that good science fiction gives us with the due process that the subject needs. When you think about the Trek universe, you have all of these different cultures that are able to work together.

And I know that I’m going to get a little sappy about it. I know that’s how it sounds like. But the whole idea of infinite diversity in infinite combinations includes faith backgrounds in that. And one of the things that I love about Star Trek when we discuss issues of faith within the Trek universe, is that one of the greatest values of the characters that we see is the ability to be able to work with and live with and not just coexist with people with different faiths, but come together and actually thrive in a society where if you believe that logic is the foundation of all things, then okay, that’s you. If you believe that your honor code and things of that nature are tantamount.

Okay, cool. So be it. That does not mean that we can’t come together. That does not mean that we can’t still be people together. And I think that for me is one of the most important lessons to take away from science fiction, especially, living in a real world where people will block and unfriend you because you like a different brand of toothpaste than they do. I realized that I am exaggerating a little bit, but it’s almost to that point where we have a society that is so fractured and at least in American society. We have a culture that is so fractured and tribalistic even that it can be hard to see that at the end of the day, we really all want the same thing which is to be safe and happy and protected and have our families provided for and to live a dignified life.

I think that is a lesson that we can take away regardless of whether I believe in the same God as you do or not. Just because we have different religions, just because we have different faiths that does not mean that we are less valid as people, as humans. And we should conduct ourselves as such. 

Latisha: I completely agree. And what I love is that at least at this moment until proven otherwise, even though I believe the Pentagon recently just said, yes, aliens are actual thing. At the moment we are all human beings. We’re all carbon based life forms.

Our basic functions are all the same, we all breathe in a mixture of chemicals called air and breathe out carbon dioxide and take the oxygen from it, et cetera, et cetera. And so there is a connection that we all do have universally. And I think that is something that science fiction that does have that possibility of hope or connection or whatever that does draw from.

And what I really do love about the work is that it also shows that it’s complicated. And that it’s really hard and that it’s not easy. And sometimes there are no simple answers and you have to be able to hold two conflicting truths at once. And sometimes you can reconcile those things and sometimes you can’t and the lack of absolutes is okay.

And I think sometimes when we’re in a society, where seems like everything’s going off the rails, people cling to something that they feel is absolute and they cling to “This must be!” And yeah, it can be challenging. And like I said, scary to be like, I release the need of having to know everything.

I release the need of absolute surety which expands the world for me. And that can be hard, but it’s also really great to explore. And so I think, yes there’s science fiction does have that positive world view. There’s absolutely science fiction that has a negative and highly problematic worldview.

I’m not denying that those things exist cause they do! That is also the nature of humanity. You’re going to find something amazing and you’re going to find something absolutely horrific and both of those are extremely human. And I so appreciate this conversation I’ve had with you both. It’s been a lot of fun.

Can you share with those people across the interwebs where they can find you on these internet and social media streets starting with you, Rachel.

Rachel: Yeah, I am @nerdypriest on the clock app, TikTok.. I also do Farscape content sometimes when I get around to it @whatthefrell. I’ve been a little lax on that at the moment, but if you want some space Muppets in your life. I’m also @revrachelk on Twitter.

Latisha: Jay. 

Jay Jackson: Oh, ah, so many things 

Latisha: Let us know all the things cause I’m delighted with you. We must find you. 

Jay Jackson: I appreciate that. The most pertinent things I’ll say as far as The Sacred Now. There’s a Twitter for The Sacred Now and there’s a Facebook. You can find both of those @sacrednowpod.

You can find me personally @just_jayjackson. Also working on an intersectional video game working on some other projects, got some music coming out and things like that. We have our own website now sacrednowpod.com. Yeah. You can catch all the episodes there like, share, subscribe, all that good stuff.

 We’re working on season three at the moment. I would normally have put it out about this time of year. Not full disclosure, your boy’s had a hard couple of months. Some mental health stuff going on. Some personal stuff going on. It was delayed, but it is coming.

I’m expecting to release the first episode of season three in June. We’re going to go back and pick up some things that we didn’t get around to releasing last season, but we’re going to pick up some conversations there. We’re also going to feature a series on the seven deadly sins. We’re going to discuss each of the seven deadlies in media, we’re going to take a really hard look at them and we’re going to discuss whether or not they are even really sins. We’ll talk about all that coming up on The Sacred Now

Latisha: I just want to time you out right now, for those of you who don’t know what the seven deadly sins aren’t actually in the Bible and we keep on referencing them over and over again. They have a choke hold on something, where it’s not actually there. Okay. I’m done with the PSA, please return to your regularly scheduled self insert awesomeness. Just as technically the preacher’s kid that I am. I just need to say that. 

Jay Jackson: Oh yeah. Oh, we go into that to o!

Rachel: You’re getting into my Tik TOK content. If you want to know why St. Augustine is responsible, for everything bad in Christianity, come to my Tik TOK. We talk about that. 

Jay Jackson: Listen, Rachel, you and I going to have to get together cause this is this is exactly the type of crowd discussion that we try to have. 

Rachel: I just followed you on Twitter 

Jay Jackson: Oh, awesome. Outstanding. Follow back. 

Latisha: My friends are making friends! That will be the end of today’s conversation. Thank you so much, Jay. Thank you so much, Rachel, for joining me. Thank you to you for listening. I hope everyone has a fantastic day and I’ll see you next time. On the next episode of Interspectional!

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