It’s Federation Day!

5 sign new UFP Constitution
SAN FRANCISCO, Earth (SNN) – Declaring it a landmark day in the history of each of their worlds, five envoys today breathed life into the fledgling United Federation of Planets with the signing of the new organization’s Constitution amid much pomp and circumstance.
“We are truly entering a brave new world of peace, exploration and security with the establishment of this Federation, declared Earth ambassador Thomas Vanderbilt, whose remarks were echoed by representatives from Vulcan, Andor, Tellar, and Alpha Centauri.
“Following the end of your world’s war with the unseen Romulan enemy, such a union as we create here today is the most logical course of action any of our peoples can take,” added Ambassador T’Jan of Vulcan.
UESPA Maj. Gen. Georges E. Picard, an aide to Vanderbilt, noted afterward the irony of the conference – which met in exactly the same fashion as the founders of the Earth’s old United Nations, who came together only 215 years earlier in the same city in the aftermath of the horrors of another costly war.*
“What is occurring here today is one sign that some good can come of such a scourge,” Picard noted.
“We defy anyone, even the Romulans, to test our resolve now for collective security,” declared AmbassadorNatha Kell of Tellar, while Sarahd of Andor spoke of future greatness for the infant union and predicted rapid expansion. Ambassador Titus Oleet signed for the newly independent Centauri system.
Today’s events were but the ceremonial endgame for the often-tumultuous negotiations, which began in earnest after the defeat of hostile forces at Cheron effectively ended the Romulan War only a little more than ayear ago. Even today, some sources reported a later fracas involving the Tellarite Kell and Sarahd.
Although those taking part today waived off revealing many specific details, the five after signing immediately convened the first-ever meeting of the UFP Council long enough to elect Vanderbilt as president, with Sarahd as vice president.
Also, the Council sources unanimously voted to continue meeting in San Francisco, with an all-new building in the design stages near the historic old Presidio fort and Golden Gate Bridge. Council sources predicted at least three months would be needed before the fledgling UFP bureaucracy would be ready for business.

Geeks of Christ Presents! September 14, 2012 Edition

The Gospel According to Roddenberry

by John Otte

“Oh, sure. There are divinities of a sort, such as Apollo or Trelane or Gothos. And let’s not forget Q. But by and large, religion doesn’t play much of a role in 23rd and 24th century society. The few times it does come up, it’s mocked (such as when the Mintakan people mistake Picard for a god, the belief of which is roundly snorted at by the Enterprise-D crew). Or it’s co-opted in odd ways.”

Life Lessons From Star Trek: The Next Generation

by Jayne Ricco

“I’ve found that we make the best decisions, the ones that properly take into account the very essence of ourselves, when we use both our head and our heart.”

Doctor Who Monopoly – 50th Anniversary Edition

by Paul, from Time Vault

Playing Monopoly with a Time Lord? It’s gonna be A Long Game!

But seriously, where’s the Kandyman figure?!

Geeks of Christ Presents…June 29, 2012

Normally I would post a list of articles I’ve read on the web in the past week. But I haven’t really read any this week. Instead, I’ve been reading books.

So I would like to use this space to recommend a few of those.

I love audiobooks. I like real books too, but for this stage in my life, audiobooks seem to be the best way for me to continue reading. I can listen while I work and still be productive. (I’ve experimented with silence and I do not work as well.)

One thing I love even more than audiobooks is free audiobooks. So I have been hitting Librivox pretty hard in the past few weeks. The catalogue is truly stunning. I mean, the western canon is pretty much presented there completely. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne, L Frank Baum, HG Wells.

I have listened to the first four or five John Carter books. The narration is just a bit annoying to me (pronouncing ‘escape’ as ‘ex-cape’ over ten hours in a book in which our hero is quite often trapped does make a very pleasant listening experience.)

I’m excited to listen through some Jules Verne. I haven’t read any Verne since I was ten, so it will be fun to explore his world a little more thoroughly.

His books are definitely directed at kids, but there is still much to enjoy in Baum’s Oz books. They’re pretty short and Librivox offers at least one version of all fourteen Oz books written by Baum, as well as a few written after he died by his successors. The Oz series has been nagging me to read them since I was nine and I’m only now getting to it.

As for Wells. Well, he’s on the pile. Swift is on there too. And to satisfy my love of period stuff, Elizabeth Gaskell is there, along with more Austen and the Brontë sisters. And to satisfy the theologian in me, I have some Calvin and Thomas a Kempis queued up. And The Bible itself of course!

I spent a lot of this past work week listening to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, read by the immensely talented Elizabeth Klett. I happened upon Miss Klett’s work for Librivox by first listening to Austen’s Northanger Abbey. She played Dorothy in the dramatization of the third Oz book also. And I’m currently listening to Eyre at the recommendation of a friend. If you’ve selected a book to read and discover that Klett has read it, go with her version.

I mentioned audio Bibles earlier. Librivox does have a selection that I haven’t explored yet. I’ve been making a lot of use of Bible Gateway‘s pretty excellent service. My favorite version is the dramatized NIV. Which I’m a little embarrassed to admit.

A book I’ve actually opened and been reading to myself lately is Edith Schaeffer’s L’abri. This is her account of the founding and first two decades (or so) of her family’s work in Switzerland. She and her husband would simply welcome people with existential or religious or philosophical questions into their home and serve them by living together, working together, and reading and conversation. This book is of particular interest to me because of my wife and I hope to host a similar service.

Of course, this book is a bit poignant in light of Francis and Edith’s son’s books, in which he more or less condemns the work of his parents. All I can say is: I haven’t read his book and whether his account is fair or not, I am busy admiring the values these people recommended, not the lingering faults of these redeemed sinners.

What else…

I reread my Dune comic. It’s based on David Lynch’s movie and masterfully illustrated by Bill Sienkewicz. It’s just a little short. Maybe someday the story will get a long comic adaptation. This will have to for now.

At least it looks nice.

It just reignites my wish for Paul Pope to illustrate the full story.

Have a good weekend. I’ll be back next week with another Star Trek review, maybe an Adam Strange review, and I’ll finally post my write-up of the Doctor Who story “The Parting of Ways”

Next Week, I’ll also post the first in a new series in which I defend the movies and TV and comics we’ve all been trained to hate. On the list so far: Masters of the Universe (1987), Fantastic Four movie (1994), Superman comics from the early 80s, and a handful of others. I haven’t come up with a title yet, so suggestions are welcome!

Star Trek Deep Space Nine : Babel 1.05

The title is an obvious reference to the story in the Bible about the Tower of Babel. It was at the building of the tower that the human race was given its different languages.

The word ‘Babel,’ then and now, served as a sort of a pun on what the suddenly new confusion of languages sounded like. The story is found pretty near the beginning of the Bible, in the book Genesis. In fact, it’s used to introduce the basic human problem of language. The human race cannot communicate well – that’s why we crowd behind imaginary lines on the ground and have fought wars and just know what evil things so-and-so was thinking when she looked at me funny in the break room at the office.

It’s hard enough figuring out what’s going on inside our own noggins, how can we express it to others and understand what they’re trying to express to us? Well, we can’t. Not really well, anyway. We are mostly surrounded by people that speak the same language that we do. I imagine our ancestors kind of crowded around the people they could understand as a mass of humans apparently started gibbering gibberish. They stood there, at the base of their dumb temple or whatever it was, not understanding a word that the guy in front of them just said. They just had a dull conversation about the weather on the way in that morning. Now, he’s speaking another language. “That’s weird, we never had another language,” our ancestor thinks. “But – what if he’s speaking the same language and I’ve just suddenly lost the ability to understand and speak it?!”

Obviously, I have no idea about the mechanics of the event. Maybe it was sudden. Maybe it happened over the course of a year. Who knows. I am confident that the majority of our young race was gathered with a purpose and was scattered because of confusion. And their confusion was based on the new variety of languages. Like I said, it’s hard enough figuring our own thoughts out. Then try to share thoughts with others. Then try to do the same with another language. Minor tasks can be done, sure. But you’d have to be pretty patient to work out something at all complex. And that’s why some people walked off in one direction and other folks walked off in another. You go where you’re understood. I think we still walk off in the direction where we think we’ll be understood. Unless they’re a fight cat, you probably won’t see a liberal at a Ted Nugent concert. Or an atheist in church. You go where you’ll be understood.

In this Star Trek story, the crew of the space station contracts a bizarre virus that disrupts their ability to speak – even think – properly.  Eventually the whole crew is infected and useless. There’s some story about an explosion that’ll occur if the crew can’t get it together. But that’s not where the drama is. The drama, the tension, the suffering, the only interesting thing in this story is the confusion of languages. To see brilliant men and women struck completely useless to each other. It’s Roddenberry’s vision of a perfect future destroyed in a single stroke. What if they couldn’t understand each other? Complete breakdown.

The explosion story point at the end just provides a feeling of resolution. We need that feeling because we’re not getting any resolution for the real problem. The crew can’t understand each other – what can be done? Well, some scientist finds the cure and then it’s back to normal.

Why doesn’t that satisfy? Because it’s a bigger problem than this show can answer. They can show the effects of the problem and illustrate the need for a solution. But they can’t really get at the deep solution because that’s found in Jesus. People are divided by languages, then by nations.  What can reunite the people of the world?

Just them trying to fix it?
Waiting for a great idea to spread among them?
Wait for a charismatic leader to inspire them?
Just really trying hard this time to fix it?
Waiting for a really really great idea and this time making posters and websites to promote it?

All these have come and gone a thousand times already. What really brings the nations together? Look at Babel. Why were they separated in the first place? They were united against their creator.


Star Trek : Deep Space Nine – A Man Alone 1.04

A Man Alone

One of Odo’s old enemies turns up on Deep Space Nine. After a terse and public encounter, the guy gets murdered, leaving Odo the prime suspect. With motivation, ability, and a lame alibi, Odo has only the testimony of his two friends (Kira and Quark, a not-quite friend) to keep him free to investigate and discover who is framing him.

This show borrows from feelings left over from injustices committed in 1950s America, particularly during an angry mob’s siege on Odo’s apartment. He hadn’t been convicted yet and a group wandered over from the bar, shouting slurs, mocking him for being different, and accusing him where the law had yet to.

(Trek connection note: Rene Auberjonois had previously played Colonel West in Star Trek VI, who had conspired against Starfleet with Admiral Cartwright. Cartwright was played in both his appearances by Brock Peters, who not only later appeared as Sisko’s father on this series, but whose most enduring role is probably that of Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird. It is the persecution of Tom Robinson that most informs the treatment of Odo in this episode.)

This is a wonderful story. The tricky little murder mystery moves this right along and the echoes of racially fueled aggression place this firmly in the Trek tradition of solid social commentary. Odo’s uniqueness inspires the hatred of the mob as much, maybe more than, the mounting evidence against him. Of course, he’s innocent and discovers that the victim is actually still alive, having murdered a clone of himself specifically to ruin Odo.

The audience’s anger toward mobs like that comes from someplace else. In other words, I don’t care enough about Odo in this second episode to merit the anger I felt towards that mob. Like I said, I think it’s probably sourced in To Kill A Mockingbird or other images and recollections about the racism of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. When the mob leader sneers, “Shapeshifter!” at Odo, inspiring even greater aggression in his cohorts, we recall other slurs hurled at other innocent people. In our real world, many innocent people were tormented, harmed, even killed without ever being involved in a murder investigation like Odo and Tom Robinson were. They were tormented just for being what they were. At being called a shapeshifter, Odo could’ve shrugged and said, “Yeah, so what? I know what I am.” But the tone the word was delivered in indicated a hatred for the like. The N-word wasn’t always a pejorative. It became that way after it was pronounced with an aggressive tone for decades. The word transformed because enough hateful people said it a certain way! Hate changed our language. Isn’t that strange? It was replaced once or twice, racial distinctions now unsatisfactorily resting on the term ‘African American.’ (Unsatisfactorily, because one’s interests would hardly seem modern or diverse if they named Dave Matthews as their favorite African-American musician or Charlize Theron as their favorite African-American actor. Also many black people don’t live in America. And many black don’t come from Africa. I suppose that reveals the higher goal of not distinguishing at all.)

But this isn’t a race relations blog.

It’s about Jesus and the way we just cannot resist telling His story over and over again, even tucking inside other stories without our even knowing it.

So where is he in this one?

Jesus is the end of racism. He’s also the end of nationalism. And, I haven’t thought about it, but He’s probably the end of most -isms…

One of the first people to hear about Jesus after the Church was founded in Jerusalem was the weird kid. He probably wasn’t invited to many parties and he definitely didn’t get any dates. He’s not named in the Bible, but he’s described simply as an Ethiopian eunuch.

He worked for the Ethiopian queen, was probably made sexless to ensure her safety. That’s mildly strange, though many served in positions like that in those days.

He also walked around reading Isaiah aloud. That’s slightly stranger.

Their nation being on a very important trade route and having the past 500 years to spread out across the ancient world, Jewish customs were probably well known. How frequently these customs were practiced by those not genetically Jewish is a little harder to estimate. This man had just traveled to Jerusalem to worship, so he was likely practicing. It seems to me that he should have been with the queen at all times, though she’s not mentioned. I would also be surprised if the queen had the same religious interests. So the eunuch may have worshiped in Jerusalem while his queen was visiting for another reason, or he saved up some vacation time and used it on a pilgrimage.

Either way, he was a man alone. He was reading Isaiah aloud when Philip, one of the Jesus’ Twelve Disciples, was compelled by God to talk to him. “Do you understand what you are reading,” he asked. “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (That, by the way, is every evangelist’s dream question.) So Philip revealed to him all the ways that Christ was prophesied about in Isaiah, written 700 or so years earlier. He probably told him about how Christ was “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities.” And how the innocent Jesus “was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” How Christ has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” And how He came “to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon.” Philip probably told this sexless, hard-working (probable slave) that Christ will “decide with equity for the meek of the earth.”

I can just picture Philip shouting, “It’s all in there! Christ’s story is hidden in the Hebrew Scriptures and now that He’s done all the work, we can find it now!”

This man was alone – no representation, no future, no hope. All he had was a copy of Isaiah and a conversation and that was enough to give him freedom!

The mob gathers

Sisko stepped in between Odo and the mob, declaring that he would administer justice and that no man may harm or judge any who are in his crew. So did Jesus jump between the Ethiopian and whatever oppression plagued him.

This show recalls To Kill A Mockingbird‘s portrait of an intercessor. He has to jump in between the one he’s protecting and the mob that’s trying to kill him. Atticus teaches and pleads with the people before they become a mob. But shattering ignorance just is not enough. He has to park himself in front of that jailhouse and hold on to that shotgun all night to be the barrier between his protected and death. So did Sisko try to keep the peace on the space station. Then he had to jump between Odo and the mob.

That is exactly what Jesus did. Yeah, he’s a good teacher. That is not enough! Death is still coming for us! Whether we’re ignorant or informed, frivolous or serious, we are going to die. So Jesus jumped in between. He taught until death couldn’t be ignored anymore. It had to be dealt with or all of his students wouldn’t be around to make use of his lessons. So he jumped in between the ones He’s protecting and death.

There’s a huge difference between Jesus’ intercessory action and those of Atticus Finch and Commander Sisko. Finch knows that Robinson is innocent. Sisko discovers that Odo is innocent. They were just keeping their guy safe til they could be proven innocent (to varying degrees of effectiveness). We will get no such exoneration. We are guilty. Yet He stood between us anyway.

That’s a good thing.

Right, Odo?


Tomorrow on Geeks of Christ