(I recently updated my About page to reflect what’s below, but I feel so strongly about this that I wanted to share it here as well.)
Astronomers estimate there are 160 billion (yes, with a “b”) alien planets in the universe.
So what might life be like on just one of those 160 billion worlds? What might God’s Plan of Salvation look like on another planet?
That idea is what drove me to write the “Forest at the Edge” series, to explore how God’s gospel might be manifested in another part of the universe.
So far I haven’t found any genre of literature which tackles this point of view, so I’ve struggled finding the correct niche for my books.
The books are “fantasy,” but there’s no magic or mythical creatures;
The books are “Christian,” but Christ isn’t overtly mentioned because He didn’t live on their planet;
The books are not, however, “sci-fi” because there’s no speculative science in them, although exploring life on another world seems to fit the bill.
See my problem?
I’ve always been intrigued by the notion of different cultures and different worlds. My kids will tell you I’m a Trekkie at heart. (Some years ago I made all of them matching Star Trek uniforms for Halloween.) But I’ve always been a bit disappointed that no sci-fi/fantasy world I’ve encountered ever has God. Yes, they have “god(s)” created by their culture, but I have to find a sci-fi/fantasy series or show which dares to touch the real God with a 10-foot-planet. (C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia is the only one I know of that comes close.)
So I’m out here writing about a Christian society which originates, lives, and dies on a planet somewhere else than earth. And oh, is it fun!
What would a God-directed creation look like on another planet? How would He populate another world? What kinds of limits, terrain, people would be there? What would their belief systems look like?
I think they’d look a lot like ours.
I wholly trust that there is life on other planets, but aliens aren’t creepy blobs or elongated masses with telepathy, or even possessing Spock-like ears. “Aliens” look just like us: human beings made in the image of our shared Father in Heaven. (Animals, however, may likely be very different than our earth’s, but I’m not creative enough to come up with those so I stole earth’s animals for my series).
I think our spiritual siblings on other worlds experience trials and tests, frustrations and fears, happiness and holiness quite the same as us. That’s because God’s plan of salvation is the same everywhere in the universe, because He is the same everywhere. As philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has famously said,
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (I would add, either on this world or one of millions others.)
At the heart of that human experience is the test of our wills. What do we want more: to follow God and His will for us, or to follow after our own impulses? And at the root of that is our ability to choose what we worship, how we live, and what we pursue.
But as I’ve been writing this series, something fascinating has happened: each year those choices become more restricted by those who would control us.
When I started drafting this series back in 2010 I couldn’t have comprehended how much American society would change in the following five years. Future books seven and eight describe a world which frankly terrifies me, and it seems we’re running headlong to that end in our world. (I’m not pretending to be a prophet; I’ve merely read the book of Revelation a dozen times for ideas. That John the Beloved really knows what he’s talking about.)
As a result, much of the “Forest at the Edge” series pivots upon this declaration:
“Make your decisions as to what to embrace, but let me embrace my belief.” ~Perrin Shin, The Forest at the Edge of the World, Book 1
In 1836 a prophetic man wrote the following words: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege: let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (emphasis added)
Suddenly I realize that what I’m writing is about supporting religious freedom. Today, in 2015, I declare that our freedom to “worship how, where, or what [we] may” will soon be under hot and direct fire. Denying people their ability to worship is the first step to imposing a tyranny. Tyrants, being merely well-funded bullies, are stealing away our ability to control our lives one little liberty at a time.
I don’t like bullies. I had my share of them in gradeschool. Sometimes it’d be nice to retreat to the very edge of the world and hide from them. But now’s not the time to run away. Now’s the time to take a stand. I only wished I were as brave as Mahrree who declares without reservation:
“I will defend the right for any one to question any thing. Each person has the right to find her own answers and believe as she wishes!”
~Mahrree Shin, Falcon in the Barn, Book 4
I’m warning you right now, the world truly is out to get you.