A crumbling social order where violence and cruelty spring from fear is the predominant dystopian condition. The emergence of intolerant religious movements in response, movements that promise deliverance but bring new forms of authoritarian rule, is also a staple of the dystopian novel. What is rare is to imagine an alternative religious response to fear and alienation. This is perhaps the most important achievement of Octavia Butler's Parable series and one that is often overlooked. Butler's Earthseed is neither a comforting palliative for pain and uncertainty nor a political tool to manufacture workable consensus. Rather, it is a coherent, nondogmatic belief system that reflects many of the essential assumptions and tenets of alternative understandings of Christianity as outlined by writers and theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Marcus Borg, Elaine Pagels, and Parker Palmer.

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