Mustapha Mond checked him. “But [God] manifests himself in different ways to different men. In premodern times he manifested himself as the being that’s described in these books. Now . . . ”
“How does he manifest himself now?” asked the Savage.
“Well, he manifests himself as an absence; as though he weren’t there at all.”
“That’s your fault.”
“Call it the fault of civilization. God isn’t compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice.”
-Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
This morning, I finished reading, for the first time ever, Brave New World. Because the novel is such a pivotal text for dystopian literature, I knew I needed to be very familiar with the story. In fact, in reading this book, particular the last few chapters (including the above quote), I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t adjust my theories about dystopian literature to include the overwhelming absence and perversion of religious ideology in dystopian settings. After reading Brave New World (as well as P.D. James’ The Children of Men and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale earlier in the summer), I just don’t think I can ignore the fact that writers of dystopian fiction, in some way, must inevitably deal with religious identity in these futuristic societies.
Finishing Brave New World almost made me sick. When I read of Huxley’s fictional society shoving God out of every aspect of civilization–hiding Bibles in safes, removing the word “God” and the cross and the person of Jesus from the collective consciousness of its people–and when that society managed to finally abolish the very last remnant of Christianity in the form of a boy named John, I was enraged. I haven’t felt so much tension at the finish of a book in a long time (maybe since reading V for Vendetta, even).
Tension can be good, though. Tension involves wrestling with ideas and strengthening one’s faith. I guess I never imagined that writing my thesis on such a dark topic would be easy, but I certainly didn’t imagine that just reading a novel would so strongly affect my mood this early on. I’ll be immersed in this topic until April. I’m just beginning this road to the end.
Once more, though, I’m reminded of why I can choose to study such texts. I serve a loving God whose Kingdom is not of this world. Even if I face a future society from which God is utterly removed, I know Truth and the Author of Truth. The brave new world that I can anticipate is certainly not an earthly world, and it is certainly a place where Huxley’s dystopian civilization with never reign.