Ender's Theology


This November, a movie that I’ve been longing for will be released: “Ender’s Game.” Ender’s Game, the book, written by Orson Scott Card, is a modern science fiction classic. It follows the young life of an exceptional boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. The premise of the story is that humanity, 100 years beforehand, had been invaded by aliens, “the Formics”. They almost wiped out humanity until, by a seeming stroke of luck, they were stopped cold.

In the intervening hundred, humanity has developed a “Battle School” to train children in military arts, hoping to find a commander who could beat the Formics with finality. The world hopes Ender is that commander.

So far, I haven’t given away any spoilers, but I’m going to give a small one away now, so be warned: “spoiler alert!”

Early in the book, Ender is confronted by a gang from school. For various reasons, Ender knows that no adults will help him, and he is alone. Being a very, very smart, but undersized boy of six, he reasons that he not only needs to figure out how to beat these bullies, but he needs to beat them so decisively that they will never confront him again. He therefore taunts the group’s leader into fighting him alone, and proceeds to beat him (in spite of his small size) to death. Shocking, I know.

Now, while I was reading this, I thought, “What would the boy Jesus have done in this situation?” He’s the real saviour of the world, after all. What would the boy Jesus do if he knew that he would not be protected by adults, and that these bullies would never leave him alone, and that every day he would have to be beaten--that he was truly alone. At first, I couldn’t discern the fault in Ender’s thinking; it was completely logical: “I will have to face these bullies every day. No one will help me. Therefore, I must help myself. I will beat them at this game so badly they will never fight me again. Win one fight decisively, so that no other fights ever have to happen.”

And then I realized that Ender’s decision was completely logical only if one believes that one is truly alone.

But of course, that is precisely what Jesus did not believe. He believed firmly, deeply, completely that he was not, ultimately alone. Did he believe that God would help him avoid the bullies? No, not necessarily. Did he believe that God would prevent him from dying due to his beatings? Only if God desired to do so because of God’s plan for his life. BUT, he knew that he was never alone. That is why, I believe, he could truly “turn the other cheek.”

However, there are many today who claim to believe there is no God, but who would also claim that Ender’s act in beating this bully to death was heinous. And so, here is my invitation: is this truly an insight that is valid, or am I off my rocker? If it’s valid, is it something that might be useful in our interactions with others? If so, how? Do you see examples of this theology of “aloneness” or, rather “not-aloneness” being played out in this world? Do you live like you’re “alone” or like you’re never alone?

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Isn't this exactly the point of Q&A1?

My comfort (and strength) lies in the fact that I am not my own (alone), but that I belong (not-alone) to Jesus.

450 year old words from a 20-something whippersnapper, siill go a long way.

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I think you're right, Wayne, that is a huge part of the point of HC Q&A 1. I always find it good to be able to connect these things not only to our traditional creeds and confessions, and the scriptures, but also to have tie-ins to current culture. It can make things real for people who might otherwise dismiss the bible or the confessions as being "too old to be relevant"

Good thoughts, Wayne. Thanks for sharing!

Interesting observation. There are other "theological" aspects of the book worth considering too, though. Ender hates the fact that he's being forced to rely only on himself; by no means does he see his loneliness as a good or healthy thing. And ultimately, when free from arbitrary circumstances (though such don't excuse his actions) he seeks reconciliation rather than destruction by preserving a remnant of the dying alien race. It's a dense book that raises a lot of questions worth asking.

Haven't read the book, so can't comment on its other layers.

I was simply responding to the question of whether and how seeing ourselves as "not alone" shapes our behavior.

To me the idea that we belong fully to Jesus now, not just that he'll pick up the option on us in the end, makes a difference in how we live. The present presence of God changes things, even when it is not fully grasped.

Many, many moons ago, I was dangling over the pit - feeling totally alone. In the end, I came to understand that the reason I was dangling over (not falling into) the pit was that I was not alone. I was being upheld by the one who owns me. Doesn't remove the pain, or even the loneliness, but knowing that in your bones does change how you walk through it.

God made pretty clear, in the beginning, that aloneness is "not good." Ever since we've been doing a lot of things to avoid being alone. Casual sex, racism, nationalism and gangs come immediately to mind as unhealthy ways that are tried and true.

Perhaps Enders concern for the alien shows that one road to not aloneness comes when we embrace the "them" that is the inevitable biproduct of the fraudulent "us" that we manufacture to fill our emptiness.

Random thoughts as I sit home alone.

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Wow, Wayne! Some more really, really great insights here! If we extend what you're saying here a bit more, I would say (and have in some other posts of mine on the network) that we, as Christians, have a sad history of exclusion in ways that Jesus would frown upon to say the least.

The question that I asked there, and the question I can ask here too, I think, is "how do we embrace the others-- the outsiders"? (Spoiler alert) Ender ends up picking up an egg sac left behind by the alien hive queen and spending a great deal of the rest of his life trying to heal the rift that happened between two races whose thoughts were so different from each other. 

Jesus spent his whole life on this earth, and his death, and his current resurrected life, bringing reconciliation between God and humanity in all senses. He has, the scriptures tell us, given us a ministry of reconciliation too. So, how do we bring reconciliation? Maybe you have some examples of how this is being done already, or how we could be doing it, but aren't?

Thanks again for your thoughts, everyone!


What about the Judgment of God against sin? If we view Ender through a typology lens, then the anointed figure’s decisive victory over those who oppose him foreshadows the coming of Christ in judgment [Rev. 18-19]. Not all will “kiss the Son” [Ps. 2] and sing that the LORD “has become my salvation” [Isa. 12].