Science fiction as a genre is not known for being particularly friendly towards religion. Especially in contemporary sci-fi, which is highly secularized, religion is at best ignored or scorned as the relic of an unenlightened past best forgotten. At worst it is treated with naked hostility, reviled as an enemy of freedom and progress. That’s why I find it so refreshing to watch the classic 1953 sci-fi film The War of the Worlds, based on the 1898 novel of the same name, by science-fiction pioneer H.G. Wells. Endlessly imitated—and even remade in 2005 by Steven Spielberg—but never equaled, the 1953 version of The War of the Worlds remains a classic of the sci-fi genre as well as an emotionally gripping and visually stunning film. But most striking to a modern viewer is the movie’s unapologetic embrace of a Judeo-Christian worldview. Christianity and prayer are portrayed throughout as positive forces. God’s love for mankind and his providential care as Creator of the universe are integral to the resolution of the story.
As Martian space capsules begin to descend on rural California, we are introduced to several key characters. Dr. Clayton Forrester (portrayed by Gene Barry) is a prominent nuclear physicist. While inspecting the impact site of the first spacecraft to arrive on earth, he meets local college teacher Sylvia Van Buren (played by Ann Robinson) and her uncle, Pastor Matthew Collins (Lewis Martin).
In many science fiction and fantasy films today, Christian clergy, and devout believers in general, are objects of derision, or are portrayed as bumpkins or downright villainous caricatures. In marked contrast, Pastor Collins is a kind, generous, intelligent, and upright man, a pillar of his community.