Friday, November 27, 2015

"Star Wars" (1977)

Forget everything that has come since for a second and think about the message of “Star Wars.” Not the universe of creative world-building, the 1977 film.

At its most basic level it is a film about belief. Luke is a kid ready to “come of age” and he is thrown into the chaos of having his family killed, his home lost, and the powers-that-be are after him. In the midst of all of that, an old man he just met is telling him that there is a supernatural dimension to the world. If he will simply trust that “force” it will help him face his challenges and overcome his difficulties.

Along comes Han Solo, a man of action, a cynic who only trusts himself and his ability to overcome the odds. Solo is capable, and presents the seemingly wiser option in life. Do what is smart. Don’t trust others. Make sure you take care of your problems yourself.

Luke choses to follow faith, and he is rewarded. In “Star Wars” there is no good reason to think that Luke was justified beyond the luck that Solo claimed was truly behind “the force.” It is only in believing that Luke sees confirmation. Of course, we the audience know better. Such stories carry an expectation. And, we know the maker of this particular universe, and that He built the force into it. Never mind how poorly he developed his creation down the line.

However, there are key problems in the supernatural realm in Star Wars. The force is an impersonal power. It is a neutral power, neither good nor evil. Or perhaps one should say both good and evil. Ultimately it is just a function of the natural world. One could even go so far as to say that it is all luck, just as Solo claimed.

That is a far more disappointing faith than the one we see in our world, where we are invited to believe in a supreme being, not a force, and a good God, not an indifferent power that just as well serves the plans of evil as it does good. You may indeed need to believe before you can see just as Luke does here. However, it is a much more satisfying leap of faith.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


(Poetry Scales 42

When you close the book you see
the arch villain is not
the antagonist,
but rather the alter ego.

Clark Kent doesn’t fight Luther
so much as the man with
the tights and the cape.

Perhaps it is a good credo:
I know whom I’m meant to be
but paint the monster and
give myself to doubt.

When it comes to the task before me
I am my own nemesis.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


(Poetry Scales 53)

I find myself mourning
For things not yet gone
This moment in time
This place
At times it’s a challenge
To live in the now
Each moment in time
Is change
Between plans and memories
I yearn for today
And foment in time
In a measured,

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trading Symbol for Solution (John 2:12-25)

In this section of John, we see three things happen. Jesus “cleanses” the temple. Jesus equates himself, his body, with the temple. And, Jesus does not acknowledge insufficient belief.

This passage is a damning one for much of Christendom. In the overarching section including all of chapters two through four, Jesus is revealing the new order of things—the breaking through of the Kingdom of God into the world. Here He targets what will turn out to be his biggest enemy, the religious order.

Religion has always represented humanity’s failed attempts to save ourselves from our rebellion against God. Judaism, even though it is based on God’s revelation and the Law He gave to instruct us of our helplessness is not immune from this institutional, cultural, systematic attempt of people to save themselves. And the sad thing is that Christianity, when it has developed and deviated from what Jesus established is not immune either.

We no longer meet in a single building representing God’s home on earth. We don’t even need buildings to assemble as followers of Jesus. Yet even simple expressions of church can forget their purpose and become empty, self-focused, religious clubs. Jesus called on the people of His day to recognize the loss of meaning that the religious symbols had suffered. But He also called on people to place their trust in Him, not the building or the system they were relying on.

And worst of all, we see here in John that many people “believed in His name” and it meant nothing. We need to be sure that we follow Jesus in a vital faith—trusting and obeying Him as the Lord of our lives—and don’t simply teach people to acknowledge a statement of fact.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Star Trek Voyager (Season 6b)

Season 6a—Season 7a

Season Six began to bog down a bit in the middle, but there are a couple of interesting episodes. Especially from the point of view of someone looking for deeper content. The cliff-hanger at the end, though, seemed to be playing a bit heavily on past Trek successes.

Episode 14 “Memorial”

It is an interesting idea. To have people forced to relive an experience of another is more than just a memorial. It is a forced trauma. And it gives a wholly different meaning to the idea that history is written by the victors, or the guilty. The need for memorials—and particularly memorials to tragedies or misdeeds is nailed home in this story. Unfortunately it doesn’t effectively cover its heavy-handed preaching with a compelling enough story to help us absorb it.

Episode 15 “Tsunkatse”

Trek always seems to find its way back to the old chestnut of the gladiatorial arena. And, to make matters worse this episode feels like a barely dressed-up piece of stunt casting.

Episode 16 “Collective”

When Voyager encounters a badly damaged Borg ship, they are almost taken down by children. Someone has infected the Borg with a terminal virus, and only the children have survived. Thus we are introduced to even more child-characters that are going to get a disproportionate amount of the story-lines going forward.

Episode 17 “Spirit Folk”

Trek has always been fascinated with AI, but Voyager is particularly concerned with it due to the Doctor. Here we get ideas already explored in TNG, with the added element that Voyager has already proposed: increased time allows AI to develop consciousness. As a concept it simply doesn’t fly.

That aside, though, the metaphor here is incredibly fascinating. If we grant the village on the holodeck is full of conscious individuals, the way they react to supernatural occurrences feels authentic. We get the full philosophy of religion gamut, from superstitious explanations to religious establishments, to power plays, and ultimately, ignorant cruelty. What makes it most interesting in the end is that, despite there being logical explanations for everything, they DO include the supernatural. This isn’t a case of people creating hysteria out of nothing. Sometimes there is more than we are capable of comprehending. Do we take the word of greater intelligence, or assume we are the end all of universal knowledge?

Episode 18 “Ashes to Ashes”

The problem with these sorts of stories in serial television is that we are asked to believe that there have been important characters that had an impact on the crew that we have never seen before. It doesn’t work. And here the concept destroys suspension of disbelief. How can an entire species exist by simply reanimating the dead of other species? Where did it start?

Episode 19 “Child’s Play”

This story answers some questions we had forgotten to ask about the Borg children and the Borg infection. Somehow, the way the story is told we are on edge the whole time for the floor to drop out, so we are not surprised when the “twist” occurs.

Episode 20 “Good Shepherd”

Janeway takes it upon herself to develop some underperforming crew members. Under normal circumstance they would have washed out long ago, but since they are all stuck on the ship until they get home, such washouts are not helpful. In an interesting element, she uses the parable of the lost sheep as told by Jesus, but apparently in the Trek future it is known as the story of the Good Shepherd. The interpretation of the stories meaning has also been lost a bit over time.

Episode 21 “Live Fast and Prosper”

A fun little story about some con-artists in the Delta Quadrant. While it is entertaining, it only serves to highlight the problem that Trek has with a far too populated—and for that matter an overly humanoid populated—galaxy.

Episode 22 “Muse”

This episode is really not very good, but that is unfortunate. Because the idea the storytellers are playing with here is important. It is Trek explaining Trek. The idea that storytellers and stories can change culture and can make the world a better place is true. It is, in fact, an idea that transcends reality. The creator of the universe is Himself a master storyteller and—in orchestrating and creating stories in history—He is making the world a better place with His story.

Episode 23 “Fury”

Kes returns and kills Torres, but since she travels back in time we know not to worry because it will all be undone. We also know to dismiss the episode for the same reasons.

Episode 24 “Lifeline”

The Doctor travels to our solar system to help heal his creator. The character is so fascinating it is a fun watch, but we run into the same problems as before. The story has given the character so much growth that he is no longer a program.

Episode 25 “The Haunting of Deck Twelve”

Neelix calms the kids’ fears on a scary night by telling them the truth—as a story. Turns out any lie would have either been seen through as an attempt to calm and patronize, or even scarier than the truth.

Episode 26 “Unimatrix Zero Part 1”

Voyager attempts to take a page from the TNG playbook and have some of our beloved characters assimilated. It doesn’t work out quite so well as “The Best of Both Worlds” and we aren’t worried going into the season break.
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