Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

More on the gospel and “Star Trek”

January 12, 2011

Leonard Nimoy directing William Shatner and DeForest Kelley in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock"

Yes, yes… I know… Insert your jokes about my living up to the stereotypes of Georgia Tech alumni… But being snowed in these past few days—and not losing power (yay!)—has given me a lot of time to watch and reflect on my DVD boxed-set of original-series Star Trek movies. (See my previous post on the subject.)

In my sermon on Sunday, I talked about the importance of remembering—remembering who God is, who we are, what God has done for us. It’s what God implicitly asks the people of Israel to do in Exodus 20:2. It’s what Jesus asks us to do when we partake of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. “On the night in which Jesus gave himself up for us, he took the bread, gave thanks to you, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.'”

What kind of God does this—empties himself, assumes the weakness and frailty of a human being, and suffers death on a cross to reconcile us to himself, out of a love for us that goes beyond comprehension? Remember that. Live your life as a grateful response to what God has done for you.

Remembering plays an important role in the second and third Star Trek movies. On the night (or day) in which Spock gave himself up for the crew of the Enterprise, willingly suffering death by radiation poisoning in order to repair the ship’s warp drive, he mind-melds with McCoy, telling him as he does, “Remember.” We learn from  Star Trek III, of course, that Spock has given McCoy his katra, literally his spirit. And in Star Trek III, McCoy, sharing Spock’s spirit, begins acting like Spock, saying the words of Spock when appropriate, even taking on some of his mannerisms. McCoy is becoming someone new.

Likewise, we Christians, through the “remembering” of the holy meal and the sharing the Spirit of Christ, are transformed over time into a new creation, becoming (we hope) more like our Lord, better able to live up to the standard of Christ-like love.

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus promises to give us his words when we need them: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:12-13).

Not a perfect analogy, I know, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

One more thought on the subject: Kirk saves Spock’s (regenerated) life in Star Trek III, but in doing so, Kirk’s son dies at the hands of the Klingons, and the Enterprise is destroyed. At the end of movie, Sarek, Spock’s father, implicitly asks why he would do this:

Sarek: “I thank you. What you have done…”

Kirk: “What I have done, I had to do.”

Sarek: “But at what cost? Your ship, your son…”

Kirk: “If I hadn’t tried, the cost would have been my soul.”

Even if it costs him everything else in life, Kirk will not lose his soul. Is this nothing less than the cost of discipleship? I’m not saying I’ve paid that cost… Kirk’s example challenges me. How cheaply would I be willing to sell my soul? How easily do I sell out?

“Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and the Incarnation

December 31, 2010

In the following post, forgive me for being a geek and living up to some of the stereotypes of us Georgia Tech graduates.

One of my favorite gifts that I received this Christmas was the boxed set of the original-series Star Trek movies, Parts I-VI. (Thank you, Lisa-Unit.) I was eager to re-watch the first movie, the much maligned Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which is often called the “Slow-Motion Picture” because of its pacing. Can it really be all that bad? Even as a nine-year-old kid I liked it, at least before all of my Star Wars-loving friends told me how boring it was. (I can’t imagine that I understood much of what was going on, but I liked it.)

The Enterprise crew discover the truth about "V'Ger."

After re-watching it by itself and then with the commentary track, I’m here to say that, no, it is not that bad. In fact, it’s pretty good.

In case you don’t know or remember, the story in a nutshell is this (SPOILER ALERT): The Enterprise is called upon to investigate and repel some kind of massive, unidentified alien space ship called V’Ger, which will easily destroy Earth unless Kirk and his crew figure out how to stop it.

It turns out that the “brain” of this giant space craft, mistakenly calling itself V’Ger because the letters “O-Y-A” were smudged, is the Voyager VI, a (fictitious) unmanned space probe launched by NASA in the ’90s to collect as much information about the universe as possible and send it back to NASA. To that end, the Voyager was more successful than its creators could have imagined.

Over the course of 300 years Voyager VI went to the other end of the universe and encountered a mechanical planet run by machines, which took the Voyager’s program (to collect information and send it back home) very literally. These machines outfitted V’Ger with a giant space craft and all the tools it needed to fulfill its mission. The problem is that at some time during the course of its journey V’Ger acquires self-consciousness—i.e., transitions from being merely a machine to becoming a living thing—a living thing that longs for its source, “The Creator.”

V’Ger doesn’t know that its creator in this case was a group of human beings who lived and died hundreds of years earlier. It assumes that its creator is, like itself, a machine, and that the carbon-based units are an infection preventing V’Ger from communicating with its creator. Thus, the humans must be destroyed.

V’Ger is unfulfilled apart from its creator. Spock, who attempts to mind-meld with it, says, “It knows that it needs, but like so many of us, it doesn’t know what.” Through Spock, V’Ger asks, “Is this all there is?” I couldn’t help but think of St. Augustine’s famous prayer, “You have created us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

What’s the solution? V’Ger’s “Creator”—as represented by a human being, Captain Decker—agrees to unite with the machine (O.K., I have no idea how this is done, but the special effects are very pretty) thus making V’Ger whole, averting the crisis, and creating new life out of a formerly sterile one.

I don’t know whether this message was intentional or not, but it’s nothing less than Christ’s Incarnation in science fiction form: our Creator’s gift of himself, becoming one with humanity, saving us, and giving us new life.

If I were a preacher in 1979, I’m pretty sure it would have been a sermon illustration.

I was a writer and editor for Georgia Tech’s student newspaper The Technique. A signed photo of James Doohan, chief engineer Scotty on Star Trek, hung on a wall of the Technique‘s office. He signed it, “To my fellow engineers.” 🙂