In a recent post, Christian supernatural fiction author Mike Duran* has written that affirming Christian geek culture poses problems. Two problems, to be specific, but we’ll get to that.
He begins by noting a glut of online communities catering to geeks in response to the “ascension of geekdom in the broader culture.” What can we say? Our T-shirts are cool.
Of course, geeks thrive online because, without us, there really wouldn’t be such a place as online to begin with. It’s our playground. It’s a place where social media takes the place of social awkwardness. Is it any wonder that through our stereotypical acumen for computers that we’ve managed to insert our culture into society-at-large?
I moved a lot when I was a kid. In fact, attended 16 different schools. So I was perpetually the New Kid. I was also really, really smart. I was probably the Geek by which all other geeks were measured. I was physically awkward. The last guy picked for any team, especially if it involved sports. I didn’t fit in with my classmates, but I could write computer code just by imagining the outcome. A fashion disaster (because I was also one of the Poor Kids and couldn’t afford to keep up with the latest trends… or even the Appalachian equivalent!) and just plain weird (so yeah, the Weirdo). Which is to say that I was bullied in every damn school I went to. I had won the Otherness lottery and the prize was daily pain and humiliation.
The experts say that a bully seeks to create a situation where his target is isolated, dehumanized, disempowered, and feels that the abuse is inevitable. One of the ways that a bully dehumanizes their victim is by name-calling. Basically, they notes that if you can label someone a geek, spaz, fatty or what-have-you, it’s easier to justify the abuse.
When I was growing up, a geek was someone who was ostracized and had been given over to the local bully for the sin of Otherness. It was not cool. It was a social death sentence.
Geeks took a label meant to dehumanize and humiliate them and made it a badge of honor. We are the ultimate realization of a John Hughes film.
Which brings us back to Mike Duran’s post. Mike writes:
“I’m not sure when it started, but as with the Christian hipster, the Christian geek piggy-backed off an existing cultural trend, appropriating the label for their own purposes and sanctifying the pursuit in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost… [G]eeks are now the new demographic that the church should be crafting outreach to. Yet while Christians appear to be rushing to embrace the label of “geek,” at least usher them into the fold, few have appeared to offer criticism. Which is what I’d like to offer here.”
Affirming Christian geek culture poses two potential problems. One is the continued fragmentation and commodification of Christian culture, the other is interpretative over-reach regarding Christian themes in pop culture. In other words, validating the demographic and sanctioning its many cultural forms.”
Mike Duran’s first “problem” is that he worries that if the Church makes geeks an outreach demographic “At some point, we are in danger of fracturing the Body into an infinite number of subcultures – Christian geeks, Christian single moms, Christian homeschoolers, Christian athletes, Christian business owners, etc., etc.” The trouble is that [a] he undermines his premise by insinuating that geek culture is so ubiquitously popular that “Christian geeks are not the lonely misunderstood outsiders they are often made out to be” and [b] he seems not to recognize that the Body is already and always One despite the fact that it is in fact made up of “Christian geeks, Christian singles, Christian homeschoolers, Christian athletes, Christian business owners, etc., etc,,” making his point rather moot.
I further note that this geek was certainly a “lonely misunderstood outsider” long before geek culture became somewhat cool, and only escaped my perceived geek status by recasting myself as another form of “lonely misunderstood outsider” when I switched from one high school to yet another; namely, I became a metal head. As it turns out, a lot of metal heads are “former” geeks.
My question is: Why Mike Duran does not see the need to target a segment of the population who certainly were counted amongst the least of these simply because we now have a bit of street cred? Especially since the Church failed to target us when we were geeks without the saving grace of a hip geek culture? It might actually be nice to be targeted because someone values us for who we fracking are for a change. We’re supposed to be targeting Everyone with the Gospel, which is kind of why most preacher’s point out that Jesus chose his Disciples from all walks of life. His method is men. Why shouldn’t we target and utilize geek culture along with everyone else?
To expand on the Parable of the Sower, it’s a big field so we can’t spread our Gospel seeds everywhere at once. We have to sow the area we find ourselves on and move from there. Geek culture happens to be my area. My hope is that Mike Duran is trying to reach the section he’s in, whatever that is. Unfortunately, the horror and supernatural fiction genres he writes are generally embraced by geek culture. This very fact makes his entire protest rather strange.
His second problem is sillier. Just because some folks overreach doesn’t mean we shouldn’t utilize geek culture at all. Rather it means we should do so wisely and with discernment. For example, we can use Star Wars to show a very clear opposotion of good and evil but a godless Force is not what the Bible teaches. Paul used pagan poets to get his points across on Mars Hill. Paul did not endorse everything those poets ever said.
Now that we’ve addressed Mike Duran’s proposed problems with affirming geek culture, let’s explore why affirming geek culture could actually be a good idea.
1. We are called to reach everyone, including those who enjoy geek culture. The Bible doesn’t really exclude anyone from the Great Commission.
2. A lot of actual geeks (as opposed to folks who simply enjoy some aspect of geek culture) are wounded people. They know what it’s like to be the least of these. It’s our mission to reach out to people who are hurting.
3. Geeks know their stuff. Ever argue with a geek over Star Wars minutiae? They know what they’re talking about. They pick out plot holes and paradoxes. They understand the Big Story. And their very loyal to their fandoms. A Christian geek is potentially a Christian who knows exactly what he believes and why. Apologetics Jedi coming atcha!
If geek culture carries cultural cache, as Mike Duran laments, we shouldn’t see this as a necessarily bad thing. If the Gospel is our business, what is the sense or honor in using a bare hook? More to the point, since God’s method is men (and women), meaning that He uses who we are, why shouldn’t a Christian geek utilize geek culture to show people the truth of the Christian faith?
As an author I write what I know, which is a combination of my Christian faith and my geek culture interests. In other words, I am undeniably a Christian geek. When missionaries go to other countries and have to convey the Gospel through other languages and cultures, no one bats an eye… and rightfully so. Well, I speak Geek and I understand the culture because I’m part of it.
And this is my corner of the field.
Until we reach The Last Door.