Religion and Star Trek

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you probably know that I happen to like Star Trek. My fiancé just about danced for joy when he discovered I had a favorite Star Trek captain. He has just about every episode of Star Trek that ever aired, and the two of us have been re-watching one of the series that I happened to like, but never saw a great deal of. We’ve been watching Enterprise.

star_trek_enterprise_001
Last night, we watched an episode that all in the room had issues with. A group of religious aliens sent out a distress call in order to lure Enterprise to their position. As the aliens were let on board and the crew tried to repair their vessel, the group took over Enterprise, threatening to blow themselves up (destroying the ship in the process) if the crew did not comply. Most of the episode was spent following Archer trying to retake control of the ship (which he did).

Star Trek usually doesn’t visit the issue of religion. Their history claims that it eradicated most religion in the Third World War (warp drive was invented and successfully tested after that). The Third World War also eradicated the need for any type of money.

Anyway, back to Enterprise. The villains were religious people, willing to die to defend their beliefs. They wanted Enterprise in order to take it back to their home world and eradicate the heretics, ending a very long war. We found out later on in the episode about the issue that divided the two sides – one believed the mechanical spheres that this race revered were created in nine days. The other side believed it took ten days. Cue global war. Over a minor theological issue.

As a dedicated Christian, I tend to get irritated when Hollywood places me on the side of the bad guys. I don’t want to kill anyone, but I have deeply held religious beliefs. In the Star Trek universe, that makes me an outdated lunatic who refuses to face the truth that science has presented. If I’m not that, I’m either a homicidal maniac planning a genocide or a mindless follower who doesn’t believe half of what the leader says, anyway. There are no other options in that world.

While I could get all mad at the Star Trek franchise for demeaning me as a person of faith, I’m forced to acknowledge instead where Hollywood got that idea. Christians have done a poor job of presenting a united front. We’re too busy arguing over how many days it took to create the world and whether or not drinking should be allowed within the congregation. The world has seen a mass of bickering saints who are losing faithful followers by the thousands. People have been disillusioned with the church world that can’t stop arguing long enough to reach those in need, so they’ve left the Church. Forever. And they taught their offspring that church was an outdated tradition that didn’t mean anything once you’re off the church grounds.

Yes, wars were fought in the past that were supposedly done in the name of God. Yes, horrors happened that were sanctioned by the Church. Yes, the Church took advantage of the people’s lack of knowledge and used that to control the masses. That was wrong. That was not Godly. The people responsible for those horrible things had to answer to God after they passed away.

Religion is a broad term, including many faiths that I do not subscribe to. But the point of this post was to say that not every religious person is off their rocker. I’d like Hollywood to acknowledge that at some point.

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4 responses to “Religion and Star Trek

  1. patchingcracks

    Great post. I appreciate your thoughtful and evenhanded response to the tendency of hollywood to demean faith. It’s crummy that the church has not always acted Christlike, but also frustrating that God’s people’s good works are so often ignored. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great post. Food for thought

  3. How can anyone resist a post entitled Religion and Star Trek? I remember an episode of the original where the crew of the Enterprise thinks the occupants of a planet they’ve landed on are “sun” worshippers. They dismiss them as practitioners of this archaic religion pretty much all the way through. The inhabitants of the planet don’t seem to mind. They’re peaceful and totally non-confrontational. In contrast, the crew seems a bit impatient with them. (Maybe it’s their laid-back lifestyle?) Then, just as the Enterprise is blasting off at the end, someone on board (probably Spock) figures out the planet’s inhabitants were “son” worshippers, not sun worshippers! Such a short and sweet message, and I remember it to this day. So you’re right, it would be nice if Hollywood tried a little harder to represent various religions in a non-sensationalist way–but I imagine it’s hard to cultivate anything real in that environment, or represent anything that’s truly complex. Yet, with the “son/sun” episode–unlike the one you just watched, which sounds kind of whacked–I don’t think Star Trek did such a bad job for a Hollywood-based, mass-consumerism-oriented fantasy show that takes place in space.

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