Star-trekking for the Lord

Star Trek started this trend. Then it was Star Wars and we were off.  There seems to be no end to the fascination we earthlings have with space travel, exploration, and all things extraterrestrial.

Most of our astronauts say their interest in space exploration was whetted by the television show “Star Trek,” either the original with William Shatner (Captain Kirk) or the “next generation” bunch.

A writer for a more recent televised version of these explorers who “go where no one has ever gone before” has let us in on inside information which I find fascinating.

Over forty years, the six TV series of Star Trek comprise 726 episodes. For the 198 episodes in the series this writer was part of, they employed a total of 155 writers, a staggering number when you stop to think about it.  So much for continuity, uniformity, theme development, character consistency.

The fact that some people soak up episode after episode and live and die by this stuff I find amazing. And more than a little depressing.

Bill Shatner got it right early on, although he caused an uproar in saying it. At a news conference someone asked what he thought of the trekkies who are so devoted to all things Star Trek, talking the lingo, pretending they are crewmembers on the Enterprise, that sort of thing. “I think they ought to get a life,” he said. Wow. Blasphemy, thought the faithful. Shatner was to repent in time, when he began making a small fortune from appearing at conventions and signing autographs.

Vulcans do not smile. That bit of advice to writers came down from the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry himself. This former bomber pilot in World War II had other insights on what human evolution by the 24th century will have caused. By that time, he said, mankind will have evolved to the point that personal acrimony (littleness and meanspiritedness) will have disappeared. Therefore, the writers were instructed, the scripts for the show could contain no conflict between crewmembers.

No conflict? Are you serious? The writer whose article I am quoting, his name is Leonard Mlodinow, says, “I was pretty sure that unless lobotomies had become routine neonatal procedures, people would be as nasty to each other in the 24th century as they are today.”

Hard to argue with that. If we’ve not “evolved” past selfishness and pettiness in the zillion years man has been on the planet, it seems far-fetched to think we will grow out of these traits in 300 or less years. It’s a safe bet that the kind of people which the Holy Scripture addressed in the First Century are pretty much the same as next year and next century.

I find it funny that the creator of the Star Trek legend wanted no conflict between crew. I mean, script-writers can only find so many three-headed monsters and mutant-celestial-dictators to butt lasers with.

I read once where a novelist talked about her technique for creating conflict in the plots of her stories. An index card taped above her computer reads: “Things get worse.”

That’s one reason the Bible is such a fascinating read. From the serpent in the Garden to Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery after initially considering killing him on down to Moses confrontation with Pharaoh, the Old Testament is about continuous conflict. In the New Testament, the tyrant Herod tries to kill Baby Jesus, the religious leaders try to kill the Adult Jesus (and finally do, for a time), and the disciples bicker and squabble from start to finish. It’s true to human nature from beginning to the end, unlike a lot of other religious literature — some of it Christian, but especially from the competition — which is filled with pious platitudes and boring lectures.

The only people who think the Holy Bible is boring is those who have never made an honest attempt to read it.

The great thing about Star Trek, Leonard Mlodinow asserts, is not its science or pseudo-science or the characters; rather its uniqueness is the culture of creativity the show spawned. A huge number of electronic gadgets and ideas now all the rage in tec circles were introduced on Star Trek. “Gene Roddenberry’s real creation is a franchise culture dedicated, like his fictional characters, to ‘boldly go where no man has gone before.’”

Imagination. What a concept.

In 1965, Presbyterian Pastor Frederick Speakman published “God and Jack Wilson.” In this novel, Jack Wilson is a preacher with a gift for encountering the culture around him and speaking the Gospel to it in fresh ways. On the morning of his 46th birthday, he stares at himself in the mirror while shaving and thinks how little one can know about himself by use of a mirror. He is so much more than what can be seen on the outside. Man has the Creator’s stamp throughout his being.

“There is a family resemblance,” Jack Wilson thought, “to the Father who created us.”

Man is unlike the tiger, the gorilla, the horse, the dog, the bird. Man frets and grows anxious. He worries about the future. He struggles between right and wrong, feels remorse when he hurts someone, knows a satisfaction when something he does encourages another. Man invents and writes, he thinks and works, he does things no other part of creation does.

Man is never more godlike than when he gets creative.

I’m going to make a contradictory statement here, but both of which halves are true.

No field of endeavor is more creative than the ministry of a pastor. No field of endeavor seems to have so little creativity as the pastorate.

Considering that ministers come up with several sermons a week, often over decades without a break, creativity would seem to be their middle name. On the other hand, the average pastor goes through a weekly routine that varies little from year to year, enslaved to the calendar, with almost no creativity anywhere in sight.

The most exciting churches I know are led by creative men and women who are constantly looking for ways to say their message clearer, do their work better, grow their people sharper. “There has to be a better way than this” would seem to be their mantra.

So, pastors, next time you are reading a familiar story in Scripture in search of your next message, consider boldly going where no one has ever gone before.  Whatever that means.  Look at that story or text differently.  Come at the message from a new angle.  See what you’ve been missing.

There are no three-headed monsters or pointy-eared Vulcans in Scripture, but there are aliens in case you’re interested.  That would be First Peter 1:1.  Check it out.

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