We all want to be Ender Wiggin.
I’m talking, of course, about the leading man of Ender’s Game, the wildly popular novel by Orson Scott Card which inspired the 2013 Hollywood blockbuster (which was recently released for purchase on iTunes). As an elementary aged child, at first Ender seems to be an unlikely hero. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that he is an absolute genius, born with the gift to lead humanity in a battle against hostile alien attackers.
Thrown into Battle School while practically an infant, Ender faces overwhelming challenges and nearly buckles under the pressure to save the human race. However, he eventually realizes that he has what it takes to defy the odds, fulfill his purpose, and work to make the world a better place. Isn’t that what we all dream of – to discover that deep down, we have what it takes?
So I’ll say it again: we all want to be Ender Wiggin.
As a Christian reader, there are several Power-Ups, or positive themes that we can appreciate here. However, there are also a few Pitfalls, or dangerous presuppositions that we must be wary of if we decide to allow this novel to take our mind for a spin.
Here’s a quick summary:
Learning to Love Our Enemies
In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.” – Ender Wiggin, Ender’s Game
As Ender studies the alien race he will one day battle against, he learns to defeat them – but he also learns to love them. This is something his teachers didn’t expect, and this love is what keeps Ender from becoming a mere “killing machine.”
Of course, the Bible also instructs us to learn this valuable skill:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I [Jesus] say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:43-44
Righteousness is an Option
This novel analyzes in great depth the inner turmoil that Ender and his friends face. The world around them tells them that they were simply “born” to kill and manipulate in order to survive, but deep down their soul cries out that this is wrong. They secretly understand that there must be some way out of their natural condition, a way to rise above one’s natural desire to harm others, a way to become better somehow – they simply struggle with finding how this can be done.
“Our genes won’t let us decide any other way. Nature can’t evolve a species that hasn’t a will to survive. Individuals might be bred to sacrifice themselves, but the race as a whole can never decide to cease to exist.” – Graff, Ender’s Game
“Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.” – Valentine, Ender’s Game
Fortunately for us, we don’t have to live with the sense that righteousness is an eternal wild-goose chase! The Bible makes it clear that righteousness can be achieved…not through our own wisdom or performance, but by allowing Jesus Christ to deliver us from our natural way of thinking and transform our hearts:
“I will cleanse you from all your filthiness…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come…we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Rejection of Authority
Ender’s Game most definitely reflects a postmodern view of authority. Instead of honoring and respecting authority figures as people commonly did a few generations ago, the children in this novel distrust authority figures. A clear message is sent: if you can out-wit and out-manipulate those in authority, then you can direct your own fate.
Of course, this worldview does not line up with Scripture at all. The primary theme of Jesus’ preaching was the “Kingdom of God,” or the “Rule and Reign of God.” He wanted the world to know that God currently reigns over the universe, and will continue to reign as our perfect and good King of Kings (Ultimate Authority) for all time.
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” – Romans 13:1
“So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:10-11
Sense of Futility (No One Can Save Us)
“There was no doubt now in Ender’s mind. There was no help for him. Whatever he faced, now and forever, no one would save him from it…if you can’t kill then you are always subject to those who can, and nothing and no one will ever save you.” – Ender’s Game
The longer Ender remains at the Battle School, the more depressed he becomes. He begins to feel completely and utterly alone, and realizes that no one can ever save him. What a bleak picture to paint!
Thank God for the Scriptures that dispel this sense of overwhelming gloom and remind us that there is indeed hope for salvation! Jesus Christ has the power to save us from the darkness of the world around us and from the darkness of our own sinful hearts, and He came to earth to do just that!
“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.” – Titus 3:5
“According to the power of God, Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus.” – 2 Timothy 1:8-9
The Rules of the Game
So is it “game on” or “game over” for Ender’s Game? That choice is yours. This can be an enjoyable read for you, as long as you remain cautious of the novel’s more dangerous presuppositions and the way they fall far short of the truth of Scripture.
Why do we all see ourselves in Ender Wiggin? Because all of us, at one point at least, felt exactly the way he did: we know there is a better way to live, but we know that if left to save ourselves, we don’t have what it takes. We will all fail miserably in the end…
I cannot imagine living without the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ – a comfort poor Ender never had the privilege of knowing.
Come to think of it… I don’t want to be Ender Wiggin after all.
Christian Reader Rating: PG (for occasional use of mild language and war-related violence)