ART & CULTURE KEVIN C. NEECE
The Space Between
In addition to being a husband and dad, Kevin is an adjunct professor of Fine Arts and Developing a Christian Mind at Dallas Baptist University. His work has appeared in Next Wave Magazine, Breakpoint Worldview Church Report and Baptist Life, among others. He also contributed to the forthcoming book Light Shining in a Dark Place: Discovering Theology Through Film. You can read his blog, connect with him and book him as a speaker at kevincneece.com.
Seeking the Sacred Between the Pages of Pop Culture
The Undiscovered Country kay, I realize the new Star Trek film doesn’t hit theatres for about fifteen more months. So, why talk about Star Trek now? Well, there are two reasons. One: I’m a huge Trek fan and I can talk or write about it pretty much any time. Two: Maybe talking about it now might inspire you to familiarize (or re-familiarize) yourself with some of the franchise’s many TV series and films before the next movie comes out. Why would you want to do that? Well, I think Star Trek has a lot to say that we need to hear. In particular, I think it holds a great deal of interest from a Christian perspective. For me, looking at it with fresh eyes over the last few years has been a rewarding experience. Maybe it can be for you too.
Star Trek has always been about a quest for something beyond our earthbound human grasp. While its six TV series and eleven (soon to be twelve) feature films are certainly concerned with the future, technology, exploration and how humans might advance as a species, the journey of the Enterprise has always been a metaphorical one. Though the ship’s crew may encounter strange alien species, these species merely stand in for different types of humans. Through its fictitious peoples and their imagined struggles, Star Trek has always been able to address relevant cultural issues, sometimes in ways that would never have been directly discussed on television. Over the years, its stories have been thinly veiled discussions of such topics as racism, war, religion, homosexuality, terrorism, bigotry, and euthanasia, to name a few. Hiding within a science fiction adventure show has always been a philosophical inquest. The true journey of Star Trek has never been simply a www.newidentitymagazine.com
journey outward, but also a journey inward. For many modern Christians, the venerable sci-fi franchise’s focus on humanity is uncomfortable. Western Christian thought often sees a strong divide between the spirit and the flesh. Seeking to avoid the messy, complicated, sinful world of the here and now, this view focuses instead on what might be called a “there and then” ideal, where spiritual purity lies waiting on the other side of an escape from the prison of a human body. Because of this perspective, many of us live in a state of constantly denying the needs, beauty and purpose of our human nature. If there is an undiscovered country in modern Christianity, it just might be our own humanity. But, we are human for a reason. God created us as humans to be humans and not anything else. If we can deeply understand and explore what it means to be human, then we can discover what it means to become the best humans we can be – in other words, what it means to be human to the glory of God. But, where is God in Star Trek? Its creator, Gene Roddenberry is thought of by many as a prominent celebrity atheist. But here’s the trick – he wasn’t. “As nearly as I can concentrate on the question today,” he said in the book God & by Terrence Sweeney, “I believe I am God; certainly you are, I think we intelligent beings on this planet are all a piece of God, are becoming God.” Now, that’s hardly Christian orthodoxy, but Roddenberry noticed in human beings something transcendent that he saw as parts of God. Christians recognize this Divine spark as the fingerprints of our Creator on His “very good” creation. These “fingerprints” are a strong and essential element of Star Trek’s worldview. The founding concept of the Star Trek universe is that it takes place in a future time when mankind has evolved enough and has achieved sufficient technological advancement to eradicate many diseases, end war and conflict, end hunger and unite as one world to reach out into the stars. This evolution is not one of human DNA, but of the human spirit. Star Trek is about what might happen if we humans chose, as a race, to try to exercise the best parts of ourselves toward the common good of humanity. This supposed utopia of Rodenberry’s imagination, however, is mentioned but never fully realized. The simple reason for this is that Star Trek’s writers have always understood that
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