“Then he told them many things in parables…” – Matthew 13:3a
“When there’s an authentic mystery, as opposed to just a question being asked, that’s what makes you lean forward.” – J.J. Abrams
Part 1 – Captain Kirk Saved My Life
I grew up in a small, southern town in the 70s. Racism, sexism and various other -ismswere all very much alive and kicking. Not just kicking, accepted and perhaps even expected. It was, and still is, a thoroughly conservative town. For that matter, my family was, and still is, a thoroughly conservative family. One is left to wonder (or at least, I am left to wonder), what happened? What happened to me, that is. I spend a whole lot of time talking about ending -isms and other “liberal” things. How did that happen?
Captain Kirk, that’s how it happened. Well, Kirk and Spock and a whole cast of others: Uhura, Sulu, Bones and Scotty, just to name a few. Of course, it was more than just them or the show, but they are a good example of how something from the geek culture helped me become what I understand to be a better Christian. Not better than you or better than others, but better than the Christian I once was.
Let’s just think about that for a minute. I’m making the claim that a television show about a fictional voyage of fictional characters who were fictionally to “boldly go where no man had gone before,” changed my life. That’s a pretty bold claim. In its boldness, it deserves some attention because there are plenty of real life things that try to do the same for any number of us and fall short. It would be reasonable to make the argument the Church would be considered among the things that hope to change people’s lives. It would be equally reasonable to make the argument the Church, increasingly, fails to do so. Which makes me want to give the statement even more attention.
Admittedly, as I mentioned, I could have named other geeky things that played a similar role, but Star Trek has a special place in my heart. You see, my first recollection of geeking out about something was Star Trek, the original series. I’m not quite old enough to have watched it in its original three-year run, but I did see it in its first reruns. One of the things I’ve come to love about it was the way it pushed us into new frontiers without bashing us over the head. Story and metaphor softened the blow of moral imperatives for a more fully functioning society based on equality.
Being prophetic means speaking the sometimes difficult truths (truths that have put more than a few prophets in personal peril) to the present as well as casting a vision for the future. It is important to read closely the last part of that sentence. It doesn’t say “predicting the future,” which is frequently what people think prophets do. (We geeks are probably much to blame for that with our stories of future predicting prophets from The Lord of the Ring’s Galadriel who used a magical water mirror to see the future to Foundation’s Hari Seldon who use mathematics to predict the future). The last line of the sentence says being prophetic means to cast a vision of the future – a vision of how things should be, not necessarily how they are going to be.
In an interview, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry once said, “I have no belief that Star Trek depicts the actual future, it depicts us, now, things we need to understand about that.” That is being prophetic.
From Roddenberry’s own perspective, he was doing nothing more than looking at the realities of his times, putting them in a future context and using the show to cast a vision for a better future. It changed my life. I suspect it changed the lives of quite a few of us. It’s prophetic behavior within the framework of a metaphor.