Thursday, March 23, 2017

Star Trek Enterprise (Season 2c)

Season 2b - Season 2d

The frustrating thing about Enterprise continues to be the way it invents new facts that negate older stories that—in timeline—have yet to occur. That, and this show tries too hard to be about something without really having as much to say as the old shows did. It isn’t that the era in which the show aired had less worrisome cultural issues to deal with. They just fail to be as provocative (and at the same time as subtle) as the original.

Episode 39: “Dawn”

Trek has done this story before (TNG season 3 episode 7 “The Enemy” and season 5 episode 2 “Darmok”). It is also a retelling of the movie “Enemy Mine.” I think Darmok is by far the most interesting of all these versions.

Episode 40: “Stigma”

The series makes a very clumsy attempt to comment on homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic using Vulcan mind-melding as a metaphor. This is clumsy because the series makes a mistake it repeatedly falls prey to as a “prequel” series. The implication is that “mind-melding” is a fringe aspect of being Vulkan, unlike the ubiquitous ability it was in earlier (later?) Trek. Added to that, the ability to share thoughts is an inadequate metaphor for homosexuality.

In the end, this episode condemns a society unwilling to help sick people due to a judgmental attitude toward the activity that leads to the sickness. That would seem like a bit of a disconnect, but it is sadly true to life. Helping sick people and trying to reduce risks with lifestyle changes should be two different things. Too many people are willing to dehumanize and condemn from a position of moral superiority.

None of that truth makes the clumsiness of this episode any better.

Episode 41: “Cease Fire”

Enterprise does a good job of telling an action story. That is something where newness with better production values and modern sensibilities in TV storytelling help the show. Captain Archer is being developed as a character on the side of right over and against any loyalties to race or society. That is an admirable quality, but one wonders how much trouble that will win him. As this episode demonstrates, most people sacrifice right and truth in favor of tribe everyday.

Episode 42: “Future Tense”

This is one of those time-travel stories where we are left wondering why it even remained in the timeline. At least they didn’t do the trope where events caused this episode to never happen.

Episode 43: “Canamar”

Basically an “escape the ever more complicated trap” episode. But since this is Trek, they do a fairly good job of hinting that corruption is causing a lot of innocent people to suffer needlessly to increase the benefit of corporate types.

Episode 44: “The Crossing”

A story in the vein of “The Thing” where you can’t trust anyone; and also a sort of the possession narrative. The suspense is somewhat effective, and the hints at a different perspective on the life we live is interesting, but ultimately doesn’t really explore much.

Episode 45: “Judgement”

This is an effective courtroom drama. When presented with a system that has become completely corrupt, Archer again stands up for truth and right. We are surprised (again) to discover completely new facts about the species we have known over the course of centuries of story-lines. It seems Enterprise wants to claim that Klingons were once more like Earth when it came to justice and truth. The corruption of the warmongering government is a new development. Forgetting for a moment the way this runs counter to everything we have seen before, it is a good cautionary tale for us, lest we allow our leaders to deny all the principles and ethics upon which we were founded.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Confounded by Sin (Genesis 19:30-20:18)

From the outside looking in, sin baffles us. Contrary to what we would expect following God’s judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah, we see both Lot and Abraham falling into sin’s trap. After such a display of the hatred God has for the evil of sin, you would think that people would be scared straight. But not only does sin rear its ugly head, it does so in ways that make no sense!

Lot and his daughters are the only supposed “righteous” souls spared from the terror of Sodom’s destruction. Even Lot’s wife turned back to the horror they were fleeing. Not just the horror of the cataclysm that was happening there, but the horror of the evil practiced there in a life that she couldn’t imagine going without. But, once safe, Lot proceeds to impregnate both of his daughters. The way the story is told, they get him drunk and he is a witless participant in their scheme. But one can hardly imagine it going down so simply. It is as repulsive to an outside observer as anything that happened in the cities just destroyed.

The next story has Abraham falling into his own old, questionable habits. He again gets his wife—the wife of the promise—taken by a stronger man out of fear. We don’t get as many details this time around as we did in the Egyptian event, and that makes the whole story even more baffling. Hadn’t Abraham been here before? Had he not been visited multiple times by the Creator of the universe with promises of blessing and security? Had he not experienced one of the longest periods of silence from God for taking God’s plan into his own hands? Had he not just negotiated with God in the events of Sodom and Gomorrah? Had he not just seen the very real consequences of going against God? Why is he still trying to spare himself by passing Sarah off as anything but his wife?

And yet the lesson of the story here is that we are hopeless. As crazy as sin obviously is, we all are born prisoners of it. We all do things that to any outside observer are plain stupid. We are trapped in rebellion against God and His perfectly designed life for us. We all need to be rescued from ourselves. It is good to be reminded of that fact all along the way…

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Poetry Scales (Round Three)

Avocado, Benevolence, and Cobalt,
Doppelgänger, Edelweiss, Fester, Gestalt,
Hinterland, Ineffable, Jackanapes, Kitsch,
Loganberry, Moss, Nickel, Osculate, Pitch,
Quackery, Raconteur, Streusel, and Transom,
Übermensch, Vellichor, Whey, Exaggeration,
To wrap it up, Yearning, and, not the least, Zilch

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Father's Love (1 John 3:1-2)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Having told his readers how to walk in the light—i.e. live in their relationship with the Creator of the universe in a manner pleasing to Him—John prepares to double back and instruct them from a different perspective. Namely, how to relate to the Creator as heavenly Father. First, he reminds us of that quality of God. He is not just holy and good. He is also our loving Father. More than the light analogy, this picture of God reminds us of the amazing Gospel plan of God.

F.F. Bruce reflects on this aspect of John’s message in his commentary:

“…Genesis 3 tells how man, not content with the true likeness to God which was his by creation, grasped at the counterfeit likeness held out as the tempter’s bait: ‘you will be like God, knowing good and evil’. In consequence, things most unlike God manifested themselves in human life: hatred, darkness and death in place of love, light and life. The image of God in man was sadly defaced. Yet God’s purpose was not frustrated; instead, the fall itself, with its entail of sin and death, was overruled by God and compelled to become an instrument in the furtherance of His purpose.

In the fullness of time the image of God, undefaced by disobedience to His will, reappeared on earth in the person of His Son. In Jesus the love, light and life of God were manifested in opposition to hatred, darkness and death. With His crucifixion it seemed that hatred, darkness and death had won the day, and that God’s purpose, which had survived the fall, was now effectively thwarted. But instead, the cross of Jesus proved to be God’s chosen instrument for the fulfilment of His purpose.” 

That is the mindset with which we embark on the second half of 1 John…

Monday, March 13, 2017

Keep the Faith, Abide (1 John 2:20-29)

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

It is John who gave us the well-known teaching from Jesus, “Abide in me.” Here he gives us more indication of what that means. John really liked the verb he is using here. Of the 118 times the word is used in the New Testament, it occurs some 40 times in John’s Gospel, and another 24 times here in this little letter. The word is meno, and it means simply to stay, remain, abide, wait, etc. But what does it mean to abide in Christ?

On the one hand this is a simple concept. We are to abide, stay, remain, etc. in Christ. But people can take that idea and make it mean anything they want. More important than “living our life” with our idea of Christ, we need to be anchored in who He really is. And we don’t want to “stay” or stagnate in a single understanding of Him. We want to grow in our grasp of the implications of the Gospel.

(An interesting aside. My grandfather was pretty passionate about this whole concept. He saw the loss of understanding and use of the term “abide” as a loss for our understanding of the life in Christ. For him, the difference between “abide” and “live with” was an argument worth having. I wonder if we might not have lost some depth in English as “live with” overtook “abide”” around 1928, and “dwell” in 1970.)

Here in 1 John, we see that abiding in Christ has everything to do with teaching, with truth. John has just warned his readers against “antichrists.” Who are these antichrists? They are those who were a part of the churches that John was leading, but who had left the churches to follow a different teaching. Had they belonged to the fellowship of believers, “they would have remained.” (v.19)

John tells the church that they, instead, should let the teaching they heard from the beginning “abide in” them. Then they will “abide in the Son and in the Father.” (v.24) He also reminds them that the “anointing that you received from Him abides in you,” and that this anointing teaches you everything that is true.” (v.27)

The believer is to remain in the truth of the Gospel that they heard concerning Jesus, the teaching that has been handed down from Him. And this truth, this teaching, will remain in the believer because God Himself will teach and remind the believer of that truth.

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