The other morning I found myself looking up at the sky through our kitchen window as the clouds thickened, wondering if it would rain soon. It looked kinda clear (partly sunny/mostly cloudy - what's the flippin' difference!), but the weatherman said there would be a chance of rain. I wasn't buying that prediction. Then I realized: my kitchen window faces East.
Muttering Christian-approved curses for the sleep deprivation that comes from being a parent of two young boys, I turned and went across to the living room window which faces West. Sure enough, the sky had a gradient from depressing to ominous. All I had to do was look West and see the storm approaching.
One of my favorite genres to read is dystopian future type novels. There have been A LOT of very popular books along this line in recent years, especially those marketed toward teenagers and young adults. YA Fiction racks are packed with stories taking place in dystopian futures - societies full of corruption, evil, ignorance, etc. Yet while I enjoy The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the like, I think they are missing the mark.
Every author (it seems) in this particular genre is trying at some level to be prophetic. They pick up on key trends in culture and amplify them to their most outrageous manifestation. The authors attempt to give us a glimpse at what society could become if left unchecked. These authors are looking West at the approaching storm while society looks East at the clear blue sky. And their target audience - namely teenagers - are those in best position to make the changes for the coming generations to avoid those storms. However, teenagers seem to be the least likely group to actually "get it."
One of my favorite books growing up was (and still is) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It's a story about a man named Guy who is living in a future society where books have become illegal. No one reads books anymore, and those who do and are caught with books will have their houses burned down - and the books along with them. In the story we get a brief glimpse of Guy's wife and her friends who do nothing but sit around watching the gigantic television screens as big as walls. They gossip, they chat, and they are extremely shallow/juvenile in their thinking.
We read this book as part of my junior English class in high school. As we were discussing these women, some of the girls pointed out how absurd and annoying they were. They couldn't understand why these characters had nothing better to do nor why they didn't realize what was going on in the world around them. I just sat toward the back thinking to myself: Don't you get it? YOU are these women.
The point of the story was lost on those who needed to hear it most.
For those of you who have read the classics like Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World, or Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, it's eerie to see how closely their predictions have come to fruition. Even outside to realm of fiction there are authors like Neil Postman whose works Amusing Ourselves to Death and Technopoly are even more true and accurate today than they were 20 or 30 years ago when he wrote them.
So if these prolific cultural prophets of the early-to-mid 20th century were correct in their forecasts, what kind of society might be become if Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, Lois Lowry, and others are to be taken seriously? Are we facing East while a storm of violence, apathy, ignorance, and governmental oppression looms ominously in the West?
And do Christians even have a voice as cultural prophets anymore?