All “geeks” are fantastic story fans. But not all fantastic story fans are geeks.
And when we as Christians-who-are-fans speak of being “geeky,” or fully embrace the “geek” identity by name, we risk accidentally sidelining other family members.
I like a lot of the same characters and stories my fellow writers like. Star Wars. Star Trek. X-Men. Captain America. The Flash. Harry Potter. Vampires. Werewolves. I’m into all that stuff…. I’m just not SO into them that I want to dress up as a Jedi Knight, a Transformer, or a zombie and memorize the canonical histories of said characters.
My passion is more for making Christ known, and if that happens in a contemporary novel or a mystery or romance, then I am just as happy to tell others about those books. I have no burning desire to read a book just because it is speculative.
Even if you are the stereotypical doesn’t go to work and lives in parents basement eating junk food sort of geek, you can’t be into “all things geeky.” I’m certainly not into “all things geeky.” Like most geeky people (particularly those who practice the ancient art of employment,”) I’m a specialist.
I can empathize with this, more so in the past than the present. Right now, even the anime people have gotten to me. I’ve seen nearly every episode of every Star Trek series. I read more fantasy and science fiction. I’m getting comfortable with the whole “cosplay” thing. But back when I’d started, other fans were running rings around me.1
Yet in all of our public thoughts on the label “geek,” I detect one common factor.
Everyone is asking the question, “Do I belong among Christians who are fans?”
Clearly, even in a group designed to find all the people with “different” interests, one very human problem recurs: people will still sense they are different from others.
Even in groups, conferences, and internet communities, the “cool” people seem to rise to the top. And “uncool” people—people who may prefer football over Star Wars, or prefer Christian “clean” fantasy over edgy speculation—will be left asking this same question:
‘Do I belong among Christians who are fans?’ Simple answer: Yes.
If you are a Christian, and a fan of any fantastic story, yes, you belong in the community of Christian fans. This is because you’re more than a fan, or a “geek,” or even an evangelist, or even a Christian. You have worth not just because “God made you special and he loves you very much,” but because He imprinted you with His very image, the imago Dei.
This means you were made to reflect God back to him. Yes, that reflection was broken by sin. But if you believe in Jesus your savior and want to love Him more than your own sin, then Jesus, the “image of the invisible God,”2 repairs this image.
“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve. … And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
Humans are united in this God-given ancestry. Redeemed humans are also united in Jesus’s family. We’ve become one in the Church. This ought to shape our questions of belonging.3
If we’re united as Christians and fans, should we use the label ‘geek’?
If Christians, who enjoy fantastic stories, gather together to learn and explore and simply delight in Jesus and His gifts of these stories, what should we call ourselves if not “geeks”?
For my part, I’m agnostic about the term “geek.”
To me, the label “geek” still holds a few bad associations:
- Geeks may obsess about stories’ minutiae, and rank those who don’t as “lesser” geeks.
- They may form cliques and celebrity-worship among themselves, just like any humans.
- Geeks may value “weirdness” for its own sake, without recognizing that most of the human race has enjoyed supernatural or weird stories for thousands of years. In fact, this impulse is how we got our other (false) religions. So there’s no hipster-movement pride in enjoying fantastic stories. In fact, this is a mainstream human preference.
- Geeks may value arguably shallow entertainment over transcendent ideas, and even over the transcendent Person, Jesus Christ. (And thus some in the geek community can fall right back into the kind of partisan, legalistic religion you’d think they’d rejected.)
But to me, the label “geek” also makes me think of good associations:
- Geeks may take their enjoyment of long-form, complex stories, and turn this pursuit toward identical enjoyment of long-form, complex ideas, even biblical doctrine.
- Geeks appropriate what used to be a negative label, or slander, and “redeem” it with joy. At cons and groups, “geeks” may welcome, and not reject, other strange people.
- Geeks may understand and embrace the value of feeling peculiar, strange, or weird. This is a vital calling for Christians to follow, over the need to feel accepted, proper, or relevant.4
- Geeks may find freedom, not legalistic religion redux, in their enjoyments. For the “Christian geek,” or Christian fan, they may see Jesus and the gospel made “fresh” by some of their favorite stories, and be drawn closer to biblical truth and His grace.
Among people who share my negative ideas, I wouldn’t use the label “geek.” I’d rather more people see that fantastic-story enjoyment is no novelty for this generation. It’s a shared human experience that unites us, and should draw us closer to our fantastic Creator.
But among people who share my positive ideas, I would use the label “geek.” I’d rather more people see that Christians should naturally feel strange and a little awkward for believing this faith and worshiping a resurrected Jewish carpenter from the first century. And I’d rather we feel united in “geeky” love for this Story-of-stories, above all others.
Which leads me to answer Rebecca’s great thought at the end of her Monday article:
I think of this in particular because of the launch of the new magazine, Lorehaven which intends, among other things, to create book clubs among Christians in churches. I’m not sure “come join our geekiness” will win a lot of people to such an endeavor.
“Come join our geekiness” may draw a few people to a Lorehaven book club. But not all.
If you start a book club—watch for updates about how!—your group’s mileage may vary.
Yet for my Lorehaven book club, coming this September, I doubt I’ll use the term a lot. I’d rather show I love these stories because they help me love my Savior. And I’d rather show that “being a geek” is no strange novelty. Rather, humanity’s natural-born love for fantastic stories should unite all persons who love Jesus more than such stories—whether or not they cosplay, swap superhero trivia, or act holier-than-thou in any particular fandom.
- In early to mid-2000s, even among Christians, I felt I knew more about biblical ideas and doctrine than about the actual cultures and processes of a local church. I’ve come to see this may give me a strange combo knowledge both inside and outside of American cultural Christianity. ↩
- Colossians 1:15 ↩
- This truth should also challenge some persistent notions that people who love Jesus can safely disobey Jesus’s desire, often shared by His apostles, that we ought to organize. We ought to form and join assemblies of believers who teach, praise, and work together. We can’t find this unity, and community, in groups or movements that exist apart from visible, local, and yes, institutional local churches. That’s a very bodiless, even Gnostic way to live. Yes, as we often say, “the church is more than a building.” Similarly, you are more than your body. But that’s no excuse to expect you’ll go floating about in bodiless eternal bliss someday, any more than you can expect to go floating about a physical-church-gathering-less spiritual life today. The church is more than a building. But humans need buildings and we need organization. Organized religion can be bad; disorganized religion is even worse. ↩
- As Russell Moore notes, “When identifying as a Christian, there’s an oddness and strangeness to the claim in some places. … But the conception of Christianity as a strange thing is a good thing for the gospel because it lines up with what the gospel is.” See “Russell Moore Wants to Keep Christianity Weird,” Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Christianity Today, 8, 2015. ↩