Dystopia, from the Greek dus and topos “bad place,” is a revelatory genre and concept that has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity at the start of the twenty-first century. This book addresses approaches to the study of dystopia from the academic fields of theology and religious studies. Following a co-written chapter where Scott Donahue-Martens and Brandon Simonson argue that dystopia can be understood as demythologized apocalyptic, ten unique contributions each engage a work of popular culture, such as a book, movie, or television show. Topics across chapters range from the critical function of dystopia, social location and identity, violence, apocalypse and the end of everything, sacrifice, catharsis, and dystopian existentialism. This volume responds to the need for theological and religious reflection on dystopia in a world increasingly threatened by climate change, pandemics, and global war.
Scott Donahue-Martens is a Ph.D. candidate in Homiletics at Boston University School of Theology.
Brandon Simonson is an instructor of biblical studies at Boston University School of Theology and adjunct lecturer in the Department of Religious and Theological Studies at Merrimack College.
1.Dystopia as Demythologized Apocalyptic
Brandon Simonson and Scott Donahue-Martens
2.The Dystopic Relations of Interstellar: A Response from Christian Ecotheology
Thomas G. Hermans-Webster
3.Color-blind Dystopia: The Giver, Theology, Race, and Ricoeur
4.Qu(e)erying Posthuman Theologies in Ghost in the Shell
Amanda L. Pumphrey and Nicholaus B. Pumphrey
5.Social Life from Scratch: Morality, Religion, and Society in The Walking Dead
Justin F. Martin
6.How NOT to be a Zombie: The Walking Dead and Love for the World
7.Dystopia in the Apocalypse: Religion and Community in Asimov’s Foundation Universe
8.Katniss, Christos: Sacrifice and Salvation in Scripture and Young Adult Dystopian Novels
9.Dystopian Festivals, Utopian Fictions: Sovereignty, Sacrifice, and Sanctity in Biblical Jubilee and The Purge
C. J. McCrary
10.The Ability or Inability to Change by the Presence or Absence of Deus ex Machina
11.The Spectacle of Hope Beyond Capital’s Dehumanizing Violence: Reading George Lucas’ Dystopian THX 1138
John C. McDowell
In this timely book, Donahue-Martens and Simonson have edited together an opulent blend of dystopian wealth. This volume puts recent dystopian narratives into dialogue with biblical text, Ricoeurian thought, and a diversity of religious thinkers, pointing readers to varied understandings of this key topic. Beginning with dystopia as demythologized apocalyptic, the reader is invited into conversation with both our present and future. Drawing from books, films, and television, the volume presents a broad and intricate examination of both the theory behind dystopia and religion as well as its results. I will definitely be reaching for this volume on my bookshelf in the future.
The 21st century has witnessed an astonishing increase of dystopic themes in popular culture—no accident in light of new ecological disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, an upsurge in racially motivated violence, and a resurgence of totalitarian governments around the world. This remarkable collection of essays brings religious and theological studies to bear on dystopia from a wide range of methodological approaches while engaging a variety of popular cultural phenomena, including television, movies, literature, and social practices. Readers will find the volume provocative and engaging as it takes the intersections of religion, dystopia, utopia, and apocalyptic in new and insightful directions.
The value of examining dystopia, particularly for its religious and theological elements, could be no more timely than right now. Whether it be film, television, comic book, or novel, at the soul of any dystopia lies both truths and warnings about our own society, and Theology, Religion, and Dystopia takes an unflinching account of these troubling futures. In dissecting and naming the spiritual drives, aims, and bogeymen that undergird these fictions, Donahue-Martens and Simonson’s contributors do us a service of marking such territory within our own faiths and lives.