Saturday, April 5, 2014

What has Orthodoxy to do with Traveller?

Science fiction has always had a willingness to accept the place of religion in the future- just three examples are King David's Spaceship by Pournelle, The Cosmic Computer by Piper, and The Mote inGod's Eye by Niven. None of these make religion the center of their stories, but faith, usually a form of Christian faith, is present and considered a normal part of the human experience.

Traveller, as a science fiction game, assumes the future of mankind. The Final Judgment has not yet come, for God's own good reasons. Orthodoxy assumes that Man is the Image of God, and man (plural) makes up the Church, the Body of Christ. It further assumes that Jesus meant it when He said that the “gates of Hell shall not prevail” against the Church. To combine the two, therefore, is to say that if man exists in the 30th/53rd/whatever century, so does the Church.

In my Traveller universe, I assume several things about the Church. One, it is still One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. Two, the longstanding rift between Rome (the West) and Constantinople (the East) will at some point our future be healed, which feeds back into point number one. Non-Orthodox (heterodox) Christianity will also still exist, but in widely scattered and mostly heretical groups. The demise of Mainline Protestantism and Evangelicalism is a topic for another day. Suffice it to say I don't think that those forms can sustain themselves into the Far Future. Three, a large chunk of humanity will still be secular or of other religions. Some of these religions will be familiar to us on Earth, and some will not.

As Traveller is about telling stories, and specifically the stories of mankind, the Church is part of that story. Or maybe it's the other way around: one way or another, the Church's story is everyone's story.

Where is the Church found? Everywhere. The Church in my Traveller Universe looks much as it does on Earth in 2013. There are more saints in the 30th century, of course. And jurisdictions are still tangled as the movement of mankind to the stars was not orderly. Most planets have a bishop and a number of parishes, Star Nations have Metropolitans or Patriarchs. Space has lots of room and places for monks to get away, so monasteries can be found about anywhere. Monks and lay missionaries travel about converting souls and setting up new parishes. These have gone out into all corners of explored space; monks will settle on planets not considered worthwhile by colonizers, to pray for the redemption of all creation, not just the parts we humans like.

The Church will continue to do what it has always done: Worship and Serve. Traveller characters are usually too mobile to belong to just one parish, but depending on their travels they may visit parishes often enough to form a relationship. It is unlikely that a parish or monastery would hire a player character group for a mission involving violent or criminal activity, but there are many other ways for even non-religious PC's to become involved with the Church. Christians who play Traveller can explore moral and spiritual issues through their characters.

I've mentioned elsewhere that Starports often have Christian chapels available. Some starship liners will have resident priests aboard to serve the spiritual needs of travelers. Shepherd Book of the sci-fi TV show Firefly serves the crew in this fashion.

In my record-keeping (Excel is great for this) I have created a statistic, not attached to the UPP, called the Religion Index. It is a 10-point scale that indicates not prevalence of faith or proportions of Christians, but th societal attitude towards religion on that planet. The scale runs from militantly religious (think theocratic Muslim states) to militantly anti-religious (think Stalinist Russia) and degrees of tolerance or intolerance in between. Even an actively religious society will have many non-Christians; they could be of other faiths or religious devotion is encouraged by society but not mandated.

I do not intend to conceptualize or invent what Church Rites or Liturgies will look like in the Traveller Future. I leave that to people like Fr. Dave (at the Blood of Prokopius blog). I will season the Church with stories of new Saints and martyrs, for sure there will be more of them. I conclude with this example hagiography:

Saint Pyotr of Iskillin, Bishop and Martyr

After preaching the Gospel and establishing parishes on Iskillin, Pyotr suffered persecution for many months before he was finally arrested and brought to trial before the clan head, who was a vehemently secularist materialist. There he boldly professed Christ as King and Lord of all, whereupon the Elder became enraged and ordered him to be executed in a gas chamber. Pyotr stood for over an hour in prayer, breathing in the deadly fumes without ill effect, even when the soldiers sent in to retrieve him were overcome by the toxic gas. Pyotr then received the crown of martyrdom at the hands of a firing squad. His relics were recovered by the faithful and interred beneath the altar he established. Many soldiers and officials witnessed his miraculous survival of the gas and secretly converted to Christianity.

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