Religion in “Killjoys”

It’s not very often that we get to see the development of a sci-fi religion right under our noses — that’s why I’m so excited about Syfy’s Killjoys.

Killjoys boasts swashbuckling bounty hunters, low-budget (but effective!) SFX, and solid world-building, with its monolithic Company and class-stratified Quad reminding me (and the rest of the world) a little of the long-lamented Firefly. There’s a female lead. And, most importantly to our purposes here at Sacred Earthlings, there’s a church.

There’s not a lot to examine yet, so let’s look at what we have and come back to the analysis a little later:

Screen-Shot-2015-06-21-at-11.54.15-PM-e1434966924484-1024x656_f_improf_600x385Monks “hang out” in downtown Westerley.

In the pilot, “Bangarang,” our heroes go to an informant named “God,” a “scarback monk” living among the human detritus of main-street Westerley. We’re not sure what diety these monks believe in, but they do seem to function as sin-eaters of a sort; by suffering, the monks say, they can cleanse penitents of their sins. The monk here is practicing suspension, where hooks are periodically pierced through skin at periodic intervals to elevate and hang a human body. (This is a practice seen throughout the world, most specifically in ancient religious practices of the Mandan tribe in North Dakota, and in modern times done by performance artists).

flagellantsFlagellants from a medieval manuscript.

The word “scarback” also reminds me of the self-flagellation and the practice of mortification of the flesh, practiced throughout Christian history. “God” is also somewhat of a liberation theologist; he’s a freedom fighter against the Company using his cover as a monk to his own advantage.

Screen-Shot-2015-06-22-at-12.32.21-AM-e1434966329444-1024x604_f_improf_600x354One of these things is not like the other…

The second time we see monks of “the church,” they’re attending a fancy party on the high-class world. They seem to be passing through, mostly, wearing saffron-colored robes reminiscent of modern Buddhist monks. The Buddhist robe is meant to remind the adherent that he or she has committed to higher spiritual ideals; why they’re at the party, we never find out.

I’m looking forward to seeing where Killjoys goes with this, and how the church is going to figure into the larger narrative.

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