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.

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

Star Trek : Deep Space Nine – Emissary 1.01


Commander Sisko assumes leadership of the hotly contested bit of space real estate, Deep Space Nine. Built by the Cardassians, run by Bajorans as the show starts, employing Ferengi, and peopled by the leftovers from the Mos Eisley Cantina, the station has more forehead ridges than anywhere yet seen on TV.

As a character on the previous Trek series, Captain Picard debriefs Sisko just prior to his taking command of the space station. Sisko makes the rounds, meeting the people and aliens who will serve under him and one or two that will give him headaches throughout the series.

Then something weird happens. Major Kira tells Sisko that he needs to meet this Bajoran religious figure called the Kai Opaka. When he finally meets her, she tells him of these mystical orbs that are sacred to her religion. The Cardassians, ever aggressive towards the Bajorans, have stolen all but the one in her possession. As Sisko encounters the thing, he is mentally transported to the first time he met his wife. When he wakes up, Kai Opaka gives him the orb to study further.

Dax discovers a point in space that is common on all the paths the other orbs had taken. So he and Sisko venture out and discover a wormhole which leads to the Gamma Quadrant. This is a valuable find, which will surely attract the Cardassians. Dax is instantly transported back to Deep Space Nine by whatever aliens are in control there and Sisko is taken to the Celestial Temple and is whisked through a series of flashbacks, unable to control their coming or going.

He’s forced to relive the first time he met his wife. He also relives an afternoon fishing with his son. And he’s continually brought back to the moment in his past that he most wishes to escape: the death of his wife during a space battle with the Borg.

Deep questions are asked by the alien, as it assumes the images of Sisko’s wife and son.

It is discovered that these aliens do not exist temporally, or at least they don’t understand temporal limitations like we do. So they become confused when Sisko explains that his wife is dead and that is why he doesn’t like revisiting the scene of her death. They insist that he “exists here.” He explains that he does not exist there. He did. But it’s over now.

As Sisko tries to explain that his people live finite, temporal lives, he discovers that he’s quite happy with that kind of existence. He likes not knowing what’s next.

That may be the most important thing to understand about humans. It is the unknown that defines our existence. We are constantly searching, not just for answers to our questions, but for new questions. We are explorers. We explore our lives, day by day. And we explore the galaxy, trying to expand the boundaries of our knowledge. And that is why I am here. Not to conquer you with weapons or ideas, but to co-exist and learn.

– Sisko

He can demonstrate the function and fun of these limitations in a mock-up baseball game, created by the aliens.

I love Sisko’s explanation of linear existence. We can’t expand the universe at all; it’s going to be big as it wants to be, no matter what we do. But we can expand our own knowledge by experiencing more of the universe. This universe was built to glorify God and designed to be a place for us to enjoy! God brought us into it to tend it and to care for it. He gave us eyes that can love its beauty. He gave us bodies that need to be in constant connection with our world to survive. So then we can value it, at the basest level as our food source, and at a deeper level as our very home which surrounds us in a symbiotic circle of garden-tending and food-growing.

That covers the first two chapters of the Bible.

Then humans made a terrible decision to reject the creator and run the show their own way. So they started starving, hating their jobs, and dying. But our species still retains something of that explorer spirit. As Adam forged through the perfect garden, discovering rivers and picnic spots. He had a great day when he found some avocados and he and wife made guacamole for the first time (with garlic, obviously).

Perhaps if our ancestors would have remained faithful to God their understanding of physics would have grown and they might have even ventured out to the stars.

And though the perfection of that world is gone, the spirit of exploration is not. We see it all the time. As kids we explore different routes home from school. As teenagers, we explore the sciences and learn about some of the strange mechanisms in our very own bodies. And as proper explorers, we open the dark mysterious corners of our world and our universe.

We have different reasons for exploring now. Survival, pride, and fear usually drive us to go out. But as citizens of God’s universe, we can have a purer motive. We can go just to look.

And I think we will. I think when the corruption is removed finally and God’s kingdom reigns we’ll have plenty left to explore – just without the dangers. No Klingons in heaven, just learning. The same way the Bible says that we’ll sing new songs to our God and King, we’ll also find “new questions,” as Sisko puts it.

A lot of people don’t like Deep Space Nine because they think the static space station prohibits exploration. Given Sisko’s poetic defense of it in this initial episode, I think we’ll find plenty to explore.


Tomorrow on Geeks of Christ

TARDIS Thursday

Next Trek Tuesday