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  • Writer's pictureJosiah Lindstrom

Christ is a Better Ender

How should Christians write about the future that science is creating? Science makes the blind see, the lame walk, and the mute speak. Scientific miracles are on par with the miracles of Christ. Miracles have crowd appeal. And yet, they leave something to be desired. Lazarus still died after all and even the most advanced medical miracles only prolong death. In Speaker for the Dead, scientific miracles abound. Humans have discovered faster than light communication1 and space travel has opened up the universe to colonization.2 On the planet Lusitania, the Descolada virus ravaged the original settlers until tamed via scientific ingenuity.3 Yet despite technological advances, humans are portrayed as struggling with familiar interpersonal problems that require a human, not a technological, touch.4 Into this gap steps Ender Wiggin to offer a human response instead of a mere technological “miracle.” 

Speaker for the Dead picks up the story of Ender Wiggin after he saved Earth from the Bugger alien invasion.5 Thanks to the relativistic effects of space travel, Ender has lived only decades while time on Earth advanced several thousand years.6 We learn that Ender left Earth with early colony ships and wrote the history of the alien invaders as the original Speaker for the Dead.7 The goal of a Speaking by a Speaker for the Dead is to discover and proclaim the truth about the life of the dead.8

Parallels between Ender and Christ abound. On Lusitania, a scientist is found dead after being ritually disemboweled by the resident aliens.9 Ender receives a request to Speak the death of the scientist and a second request to Speak the death of Marcos Ribeira.10 Ender is willing to contemplate that he might suffer a death like crucifixion if he answers the call.11 Ender’s sister Valentine suggests that if anyone figures out his true identity as the destroyer of the Buggers thousands of years earlier, he will be “crucified.”12

Continuing the parallels between Ender and Christ, Ender exhibits omnipotence through his connection to an artificial intelligence with connections to every computer in the universe.13 He also appears to live for thousands of years due to the relativistic effects of space travel.14 A young girl, silent since her father’s death, speaks after meeting Ender,15 paralleling Christ’s healing of the mute. Ender observes that if a student knew who he was, she would either loath him or worship him as savior!16 The most compelling parallel between Ender and Christ, however, is the way that both work to restore relationships. Ultimately, Ender’s work building relationships with the Ribeira family promotes relational healing.17 Ender’s ability to wield truth in a compassionate manner is reminiscent of Christ’s teachings as recorded in the gospels.

The first key difference between Ender and Christ is that Christ’s becoming human involved a (temporary) lowering of status.18 In contrast, in Speaker for the Dead, scientific miracles let Ender approximate some of Christ’s divine attributes. Christ’s incarnation is the reverse of the traditional pathway of the scientific miracles which deify humanity until we approximate godlike attributes. 

"The most compelling parallel between Ender and Christ, however, is the way that both work to restore relationships."

A second difference is rooted in the Christian teaching that Christ is one with God the Father.19 So, to the degree Ender is unlike God the Father, Ender is also unlike Christ. For example, it is well known that God sent His one and only Son to Earth.20 But it breaks the imagination to believe that Ender would send another, let alone someone he was close to like Valentine, to be ritually disemboweled. Ender might go himself, but I expect his personal guilt would likely undermine his resolve to send another.21 Therefore, the character of Ender is limited by his unwillingness to sacrifice others to accomplish the essential task at hand. God the Father, apparently, did not have this limitation when sending Christ.22

Finally, the most compelling parallel between Ender and Christ in Speaker for the Dead is in the centering of restored relationships. Even though the child Christ was distinctly unlike the child Ender that committed the first Xenocide, Ender has matured as a character. Previously, salvation for Ender’s enemies was not found in Ender’s grace or love, but in their ability to help Ender empathize and understand them before he killed them all.23 At the close of Speaker for the Dead, much of the ruling power infrastructure is left intact even as Ender has facilitated the rebirth of key human relationships in the Lusitanian community, among the local aliens, and the Ribeira family. In contrast to Ender’s early destruction of his enemies, when God arrived as a child on Earth, no clever political or military machinations ensued. Similar to Ender’s efforts later in life, Christ’s death enabled Christians to choose a different way of living informed by a changed heart.

"Compelling narrative focuses on changes in the human heart amidst, and sometimes in spite of, futuristic technological miracles."

In fiction and particularly in science fiction, Christians are tempted to portray the reverse of Christ’s work: worlds where technologically advanced humanity has overcome its physical limitations remaking itself in a new image. Yet, what we generally find outside the pages of science fiction is that reality is still broken despite, and sometimes because of, technology, which cannot change human hearts. The Christian author seeking to remain true to their faith in their creative process need not be overly concerned with the specific nature of any scientific miracles in fiction. Compelling narrative focuses on changes in the human heart amidst, and sometimes in spite of, futuristic technological miracles. 

Works Cited:

• Card, Orson Scott. Speaker for the Dead. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, Inc., 1986.

• The Bible. 

End Notes:1. Card, Orson Scott. Speaker for the Dead (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, Inc., 1986), 32.

2. Card, Speaker, 85-86.

3. Card, Speaker, 5-6.

4. Card, Speaker, 108-122.

5. Card, Speaker, xxix.

6. Card, Speaker, 37.

7. Card, Speaker, 37-38; Card, Speaker, 81.

8. Card, Speaker, 156.

9. Card, Speaker, 25-30.

10. Card, Speaker, 64, 87-88.

11. Card, Speaker, 63.

12. Card, Speaker, 77.

13. Card, Speaker, 33, 173-174.

14. Card, Speaker, 37.

15. Card, Speaker, 256.

16. Card, Speaker, 39.

17. See. e.g. Card, Speaker,  Chapter 7, Chapter 8, and Chapter 15.

18. See e.g. Philippians 2:8; John 1; and Luke 2.

19. John 10:30.

20. John 3:16.

21. See e.g. Card, Speaker, 64-65

22. See e.g. Matthew 26:39.

23. See e.g. Card, Speaker, xxix, 68-70.

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