Thursday, June 6, 2013

Star Trek Into the Prime Directive

The bad guy can't be all bad if he likes to hang out in the
little Starfleet symbol, right?
(Be forewarned: This blog post is about Star Trek Into Darkness, the recent film. While there is some talk of plot, our focus here all pertains to the first fifteen minutes or so of the movie. We don’t get into the primary storyline, so there are not many spoilers to be found. If you haven’t seen it yet but intend to, I don’t think you need to avoid this blog. I got your back.)

I really enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness.

But then The Internets tried to make me hate it.

And some of The Internets made some good points. But sometimes it was just being nit-picky. And I suppose I got a little bit self-conscious about admitting I liked the movie.

But I did. I really did. I love Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock and I thought he did a great job in this. I enjoy the new cast and all the references to the rest of Trek and I think Karl Urban does an excellent McCoy and I even loved that one scene that owes a huge debt to a previous Trek film and some people thought it was horrible and pandering to the audience but I personally really enjoyed. Oh and I like Simon Pegg in pretty much everything.

And so Smaug the Dragon and Bilbo Baggins decided to put their
animosity aside to solve crimes in modern day London.
And, seriously, if you’ve never seen the modern British take on Sherlock that features Benedict Cumberbatch and his Hobbit costar Martin Freeman, you should really stop reading this blog, go watch some of it and then come back raving about how good it is but ready to give me your full attention. Actually, I’m now really tempted to stop writing this so I can go watch it myself, but I must focus. Plus, I’m in a hotel right now and the family is all sleeping so I shouldn’t start watching something. And I’m really tired and I wouldn’t let myself go to sleep if I got into Sherlock right now. Because it’s really good. But I need sleep because we’re moving into our new house tomorrow...which, by the by, is why it’s been so long since my last post. There’s been a lot to do! But, once this gets posted, it’ll mean we’re settled and with The Internets so that’ll be a happy day indeed!

Oh, where we were? That’s right. Star Trek Into Darkness.

As much fun as it would be, I’ll admit that I’d probably make a pretty bad movie critic. If a film does a decent job, I enjoy just giving myself over to it without all the overanalyzing and the rest. I wanted to go along for the ride with this movie and they didn’t make that hard for me so I did. This isn’t a review site and, honestly, it’s a popcorn movie so I’m not going to gush about it or really go into the plot at all. I’ll just say that I enjoyed it and then I’ll talk about the Prime Directive.

Of course, Janeway took everything seriously.
The Prime Directive is a classic Star Trek rule and plot device. It’s so-called because it is supposed to be rule #1 for Starfleet. I honestly don’t remember Kirk stressing too much about it too often in the original series (but I’m sure some commenters will let me know if I’m wrong!), but Captains Picard and Janeway both certainly took it seriously. In fact, my daughters and I have just been watching an episode of Star Trek: Voyager in which Janeway and crew find themselves on the other end of a more advanced culture’s own version of the Prime Directive. Basically, off the top of my head, the rule is that the Starfleet crews are prohibited from interfering with the natural evolution of other worlds, particularly focusing on cultures that have not yet developed the technology to explore the stars. In that episode of Voyager, the crew find a people who have the ability to shave at least forty years off their trip home (they’re lost and seventy years or so from home, and probably more since they stop to have an adventure every week)—but whose laws prohibit the sharing of technology with other people. It’s more fun to be the people with the good technology.

Pictured: a successful Starfleet mission.
At the beginning of Star Trek Into Darkness, young Kirk leads his crew to violate the Prime Directive in a 
big way. The clearest dilemma involves the choice to save Spock’s life even if it means revealing themselves to a primitive culture (guess which Kirk chooses...), but they actually break the rule well before even getting to that point: the entire reason Spock is in danger is that he is attempting to freeze an active volcano to stop it from erupting and wiping out all life on the planet. Humanitarian mission or not, the Prime Directive means not interfering with the natural evolution of peoples, especially technologically primitive peoples, and the right thing to do, by Starfleet standards, is to let the people die if natural selection determines they should.

This is not, by the way, a blog post about Darwinist evolution. I’ve already covered the fact that evolutionary theory is entirely incompatible with the testimony ofScripture, and I stand by that. We’re going in a different direction today.

This bridge crew, on the other hand, may be more about
network quotas. Look at how diverse they are!
When it comes to science fiction worlds, you’ve got your dystopias where society has regressed, but sometimes you have your utopias in which mankind has bettered itself and evolved past most crime and selfishness. Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek always tended toward the latter. The Prime Directive, then, is a product of an advanced, more refined culture  in which humanity has learned to work together, in which discrimination and prejudice are archaic concepts. Notice, for example, how ahead of its time the multicultural bridge crew of the original Star Trek series was. That wasn’t to fulfill network quotas or to appease civil rights groups: it was an important aspect of the show’s philosophy.

I applaud every step toward racial equality. Racism is sickening and little sickens me so much as when individuals or churches twist the Bible to try to support their personal prejudice. Cultural differences enrich our lives with variety and with greater wisdom than if we all acted and thought alike. God did not create a dull, monochromatic world, but rather a tapestry bursting with myriad colors, experiences, stories and passions. To try to stamp out diversity would be wrong and we as a people would be poorer for it.

I would share the statistics about
rich babies choking on silver
spoons, but they're too tragic.
But no matter who we are, where we come from, the color of our skin, the accent of our speech, the slant of our eyes or the legends of our ancestors, we are all alike in one very important way: we are all desperately in need of a savior, and that savior is the Lord Jesus Christ. It has been said that death is the great equalizer
(even better than the one on your car stereo, I guess), but all of us, born with a silver spoon or on the dirt floor of an African hut, begin our lives spiritually dead. The price has been paid to redeem us, of course, to bring us to life forevermore, but, like any gift, it must be accepted to take hold of it.

“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? (Rom. 10:14-15)

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have been sent. Period. I can’t say whether you’re obedient or not, but the Bible makes it abundantly clear that you have been sent. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19), as Jesus commanded. I suppose we could have a talk about whether one who refuses to obey is actually a Christ follower if they refuse to, y’know, follow Christ, but I’m not the judge in these matters so we won’t get into it right now.

What we will get into is the question of tolerance and the question of our own personal little Prime Directives that society so pressures us toward. I’m pretty big on tolerance, actually, when it comes to people. I think there’s a big difference between tolerating people and tolerating sin, and I’m commanded to love all people. The sin I’m most concerned about not tolerating is in my own life. That’s the sin that should really disgust me, and yet it’s often the sin that’s easiest to explain away, isn’t it? (As a side note, local churches do have a God-given responsibility to deal with sin in their midst, but it’s not our focus here.) When the world—spiritually dead from birth—behaves like sinners, it really doesn’t catch me off guard. The Bible makes it pretty clear we live in a fallen world, and I think that the answer to that is to make disciples, not to petition Congress to hide the sins we’re most uncomfortable with. It is the Holy Spirit that changes hearts and lives. But I’m getting off track (yes, I know, we’re all very surprised...).

Technically, the quote is, "Luv is a verb."
The point I am trying to make here is that there is a massive difference between tolerating people and upholding a personal little Prime Directive to not engage them with the Gospel. As I mentioned earlier, tolerance is great, but we have a higher calling: to love. And love, alas, as DC Talk so memorably rapped once upon a time, is a verb. Just as a follower of Christ must actually follow Jesus Christ, so to love your neighbor as yourself will and must involve very real action, and no, I don’t mean sending out plenty of Valentines each year. My gosh—if you actually love someone, it’s a given that you’re going to tolerate them, yeah? Respect who they are, where they come from, what they believe, how they dress, what they like and so on...

If we lived in a perfect world free of conflict or problems, the call to love would be pretty straightforward, wouldn’t it? But the truth is that, in different circumstances, love can look different.

Put yourself in the comfy, white, low top sneakers of the maid at Country Inn and Suites. You look down the hall you are charged with cleaning and see several Do Not Be Disturbed signs hanging on the doors. On a normal day, you are very happy to obey the sign, to come back later to provide turndown service to those rooms. You wouldn’t dream of disturbing those guests, would you?

Except that this isn’t a normal day.

"I'm bored, Reginald. Shall we attack a hotel later?"
"Yes, lets."
A streak of tigers has infiltrated the comfortable, affordable hotel! Yes, I said a streak! I looked it up and that’s the correct term! These wily tigers (oh I love big cats) have already gnawed through the phone lines so there is no chance of phoning the guestrooms. Since the tigers have also gotten their hands on a master keycard (these are very smart tigers, which I think is pretty normal), the only possible way for these guests to be safe is if they lock themselves out on the balcony so that the firefighters outside can rescue them.

No cleaning toilets for you today! You get to be a hero!

You rush from room to room, delivering the crucial instructions to panicked guests. But then you come to Room 307. Oh dear! There’s a Do Not Disturb sign! What do you do?

I realize this is a tricky question. You, Consuela Gutierrez, Housekeeper Extraordinaire, have been taught to respect the guests and their desire for privacy. They might be offended if you violate their wish. They might yell at you! They might answer the door naked and that would get uncomfortable in a hurry. Of course, without your warning, they will surely be eaten.

I'm sorry I brought up Star Trek V, everyone. I'll
understand if you never visit my blog again.
One of the rationales behind the Prime Directive is that starship captains do not have the right to play God (incidentally, everyone would be better off if starship captains did not direct movies in which they met people playing God). If nature and the universe and fate and all have decided a people should be wiped off the face of the earth, then of course they should be! Unless, um, their technology is good enough, of course. I would suggest, however, that this is a very narrow, shallow way of thinking.

If man possesses an eternal soul, that needs to be taken into account.

If all roads do not lead to the same place after death, that needs to be taken into account.

If the choices we make on this earth has some bearing in what happens in eternity, that needs to be taken into account.

Eternity, as it turns out, is a long freaking time.
If every single person born on this planet possesses an inherent sin nature, if they are separated from God by default, that needs to be taken into account.

If all who reject Christ and His sacrifice on the cross will spend an eternity in hell, then that really, really needs to be taken into account.

If the message of Scripture is true, then the most unloving thing you can ever do is keep your yap shut about the Gospel. Is it rude to share our biblical beliefs with others? Is it disrespectful to their upbringing? Is it too personal? Is it none of our business? Is it bad form?

Who cares!?

If they die in their sins, they will be spending eternity—forever!—in a lake of burning fire! I don’t think there’s any possible way to exaggerate this. Not to be melodramatic but this is literally the biggest, most important news of all time. And I think it’s so easy to go through our day-to-day and somehow not see it.

Honestly, I believe in being tactful. I think it’s so important that, when we share our faith, we do so with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15). I think it’s shortsighted to harass and badger your friends about Christ to the point where they are no longer your friends because I think that a solid relationship that is constantly, if subtly, pointing toward Christ is more valuable than being a blowhard and not taking no for an answer. And I’m very dubious of going either to the street or the ball game with a big sign as The Way to Reach the World. I think that’s so much easier than truly investing in a relationship to try to reach someone and also so much less effective.

But think of it. Think about someone you love who does not follow Christ: a sibling, a friend, a spouse, a longtime coworker, whomever. Are you satisfied that you have done everything in your power (which of
Man without God is as incomplete as someone who starts
to watch Lost in the middle of season three and wants
to know what in the world is going on.
course will include a crapload of prayer, as only the Holy Spirit can change a heart) to reach them for Christ? Do they know your story, the life Jesus redeemed you from and the difference He makes in your day-to-day? Do they know His story? Are you salt and light in their lives? Do you live a life full of good works that will lead to others glorifying the Lord?

This isn’t to try to beat anyone up. We all know and care about people who don’t know Christ (and, if you don’t, CHANGE THAT NOW) and it can be heart wrenching to see them constantly reject the One they need so desperately.

But if you’ve bought into this world’s lie that you can only be a good friend by keeping your faith to yourself, then maybe it’s time to step back and take stock. Ask yourself: Do I really care about them? Do I really believe that the Bible is true? If you’re answering yes to both questions but you are not actively, personally looking for and making opportunities to share your faith, then you need to go back and ask the questions again. And again. And again. Because the math just doesn’t add up. It’s time to make a change.

I’m trying to find the story online so I can properly cite it and get the facts right, but my Googling is leaving me dry, so I’m going to paraphrase this as best I can. I’ve heard my Dad share it plenty of times in sermons.

A young man was once granted an audience with a famous preacher and evangelist, one who had led many to Christ in his fruitful career. I don’t recall who it was. Maybe Dwight Moody? Anyway, the young man excitedly told the old preacher that he wanted to be used by God, too, and he wanted to be a famous evangelist some day as well. The preacher smiled and sent the young man to look out the window of the hotel room where he was staying, and then to come back and report what he saw.

After taking a few moments to look, the young man came back and said, “Sir, it’s very busy today. I saw at
"I see...horseless carriages...! What devilry is this!?"
least fifty people of all ages going about their business. There were carriages and streetlights and vendors selling newspapers and fruit.”

“Look again,” the preacher replied.

The young man spent longer at the window this time, determined to pass this test. When he came back, he thought perhaps he had figured out what he was supposed to report on so he said, “I see the Creation of God Almighty! I see trees and grass and birds. I see the sky and clouds and the sun. Across the street, I saw some flowers blooming.”

A third time, the preacher sent the young man to the window. As the young man looked frantically for whatever he kept missing, the evangelist joined him and pointed down to the bustling people going about their days.

“If you want to be an evangelist,” the preacher said, “then you cannot look at a person without seeing a lost soul, desperately in need of a Savior.”

This is the true business of our lives. This is our Prime Directive, our number one purpose: to glorify God and to point always to Jesus Christ. Not only can we not truly love without sharing Him with those who need Him, I don’t think we can be particularly decent human beings. The stakes are so high I cannot possibly overstate them. Eternity hangs in the balance.

Just in case Jesus' calling isn't enough for you,
here's Uncle Sam also getting on your case.
I would like to invite you to leave, in the comments, the first name of someone whom you are actively trying to reach for Christ. I will pray for anyone you mention. If you’re reading this post, whether you’d like to leave a name or not, I’ll ask you to take a few moments and pray for any names listed here. Because, again, only the Holy Spirit can bring someone from death to life. But He can and does use us as well.

After all, how can they believe in One they’ve never heard of? And how can they hear unless someone tells them about Him? Congratulations. You just became someone. Now go do something with it.