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The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one

Getting to ‘the point’

I am going somewhere with this. Since this is a theological blog, I have been intending to dovetail all this Star Trek trivia with something theological. Many Bible teachers enjoy opportunities to invoke their non-faith interests in popular culture to illustrate the truths of their faith.

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, was raised as a Christian, but considered himself a secular humanist and agnostic. He explained his position as, “It’s not true that I don’t believe in God. I believe in a kind of god. It’s just not other people’s god. I reject religion. I accept the notion of God” (Fern, Yvonne (1996). Gene Roddenberry The Last Conversation (Revised and Updated ed.). p. 66.) According to Ronald D. Moore, Roddenberry “felt very strongly that contemporary Earth religions would be gone by the 23rd century.”

As both a Christian and as a Star Trek fan, I find it sad that a creative masterpiece such as Star Trek had such an undercurrent of antipathy toward spirituality. Roddenberry’s worldview of a future that had “finally realized” all religion to be primitive and irrelevant propaganda did sometimes shape the morals of the shows’ stories. Now, fortunately, I was able to accept Star Trek simply as entertainment and that secular-humanistic thinking never actually informed my own worldview.

Roddenberry certainly was visionary, but his idiosyncratic standards for Star Trek stories were known for tying the hands of many of the shows’ writers, causing high turnover from season to season and often, mediocre drama. After Roddenberry passed away and his creation evolved in the hands of Rick Berman and other writers, they later found ways to include the reality of religion into Star Trek stories, such as the themes of Bajoran spirituality in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

This IDIC medallion, once awarded to Spock, is a prestigious Vulcan award of merit. Gene Roddenberry planted this appearance of the symbol in an episode of Star Trek's final season, to market his line of mail-order replicas of the pendant. image: Paramount Pictures

This IDIC medallion, once awarded to Spock, is a prestigious Vulcan award of merit, given only to the most accomplished in the disciplines of logic. Gene Roddenberry planted this appearance of the symbol in an episode of Star Trek‘s final season, to market his line of mail-order replicas of the pendant. image: Paramount Pictures

Yet, Star Trek had not been without trace of any religious influences under Roddenberry’s auspices. The Vulcans’ Kol-Ut-Shan, or “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations,” was based on the teachings of Rabbi Maimonides, according to Roddenberry’s widow (Roddenberry, Majel B. The Legacy of Star Trek, The Humanist 55(4): 9-11. July 1995). Roddenberry is credited with saying, “If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.” In the Star Trek episode “Is There In Truth No Beauty?“, Spock explains that in the logo, “the different shapes and materials represent the diverse things which come together to create truth and beauty; the glory of creation lies in its infinite diversity and meanings.”

While this embrace of diversity and culture is healthy and endearing for anyone, for the Christian, it is ultimately unsatisfying as a worldview. Creation indeed is diverse, glorious and beautiful, but it exists only to glorify God, the ultimate source of all truth and beauty (I Corinthians 8:6, Revelation 4:11). In fact, man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God (I Corinthians 6:20, 10:31, Romans 11:36, cf. The Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 1).

The most that Trekkies ever got as to “the chief and highest end of man” was that in the 23rd century, “We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity … with a more evolved sensibility.” It all sounds lofty and terrific, if only it could be actually true. But we Christians know better about the grim facts of humanity’s fallenness, which does not discriminate based on how much time passes for us as a species or how technologically advanced we become; and the hollow, despondent dystopia that awaits any society which collectively suppresses the inescapable knowledge of God.

An entire article could be dedicated to following Roddenberry’s unfortunate worldview to its logical conclusion — but this article is about identifying Christian themes in a Star Trek character that has become a cultural icon.

 

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