“Spiritual Colonialism”
Battlestar Galactica continues to intrigue with it twists and turns as well as its political (a world at war) and religious subtext. The introductory mini-series had its 9/11 overtones to the traumatic attack of the cylons on the colonies. Throughout the series, the Cylons are portrayed as colonizers, using God as a weapon, essentially forcing faith on Gaius (and by proxy, the colonies). Seeing humanity as pagans, the Cylons are cast in the role of religious fundamentalists, terrorists (though in the file of there are no villains because we’re all heroes in our own story: you’re not a terrorist when you’re fighting for your cause and outnumbered)—who even use suicide bomber tactics such as in the episode “Tigh me up, Tigh me down”—after having declared their Jihad on humanity.

“Genocide murder vengeance they’re all sins in the eyes of God. That’s what you and I know. That’s what they don’t want to hear. Because then they’d have to re-think what they’re doing. They’d have to consider that maybe the slaughter of mankind was a mistake.” –Caprica Six

The show comments on our own history with spreading the Gospel message and our often questionable methods. In some ways, our missionary work, our Manifest Destiny, was a Bible and whip theology: taking the land of native peoples, stripping their cultural identity, and profiting from their resources. If slaves weren’t made of the people, then at the very least their inferior culture was replaced with the colonizers superior one.

This mélange of cultural supremacy linked to a message of salvation reduced religion to a weapon. That mindset bled into all areas of religion, life, and culture, blinding them to the fact that God was already at work in the cultures they traveled to (as He is already at work in everyone’s lives). Instead, the colonizers brought in and attached their own cultural baggage: trading one sin-soaked culture for the dominant sin-soaked culture. Naturally, this had to impact the portrait of the God they were presenting, first in their own minds and next in the minds of the people they were presenting Him to.

“God has a plan for you guys. He has a plan for everyone and everything.” –Caprica Six
For a view from the flip side, we only have to think back to the exile of Israel. The Israelites were taken to a foreign land, not all of them, but their best and brightest young men. In effect, the exile robbed Israel of its brain trust, its future. Those men were in turn re-enculturated: indoctrinated with new language, new customs, even new names. Essentially using culture to brainwash, to be a form of systematic control, this is the fate that awaits humanity at the hands of their Cylon oppressors.

In effect, the message was that in order to come to know God, you have to become civilized, absorbed into the dominant culture. Change your language. Change your names. Change your gods. Change your native ways. Become assimilated. Integrated.

This partial, baggage-laden Gospel (has been and) will be rejected. It isn’t true to their heritage, pride, and sense of self-worth. It isn’t true to the Gospel of the Bible and it certainly isn’t true to the triune God in whom we find our worth, identity, and mission. You can judge the truth of the message by the fruit of the lives of the messengers.

“We need to be free men and women. If we’re not free then we’re no different than Cylons.” –Tom Zarek (Richard Hatch)

The colonialist mindset tends to creep into our American brand of Christianity. It leads to a mentality of “reclaiming” or “taking back” communities for Jesus. It works its way into our language, as we have evangelism “Crusades.” Battlestar Galactica continues to bring real world relevance to what some might dismiss as escapist science fiction fare. Through it we can continue to examine and question both the message of our faith as well as its political impact.

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