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Celebrating 50 Years of Star Trek: Top 25 Moments, Times Two #5-1

firstcontactReaders of this blog know that I’m a huge science fiction fan. Science fiction is a genre that has more worldview seeping into it and through it than almost any other one, in my opinion. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, I have teamed up with Mike Poteet of The Sci-Fi Christian (an excellent site and podcast you should follow in all forms) to share our top 25 moments each (50 total!) from all of Star Trek on screen. That’s right, from The Original Series all the way through Star Trek Beyond, we’re bringing you our favorite moments. Some of these are steeped with worldview, and some are just fun or interesting. Check them out, and let us know your favorites in the comments.

5.

J.W. – Pretty Much All of It (Star Trek: First Contact, 1996)

It’s difficult to pick a single moment from First Contact, which is my favorite Star Trek film. As a kid I found myself looking up at the sky outside to see if Borg were descending on me that very moment. Watching it now, I enjoy the strong plot and characters.

Mike – Captain Borg (“The Best of Both Worlds, Part I,” TNG, 1990)

Composer Ron Jones uses Alexander Courage’s classic Trek fanfare to ironic and chilling effect as the camera reveals Locutus of Borg, formerly our hero, Jean-Luc Picard. It’s a moment that fires on all cylinders, heralding Trek’s coming-of-age as a modern storytelling force to be reckoned with.

4.

J.W. – “KHAAAAN!!” (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982)

It appears all is lost for Kirk and gang as Kirk yells his rival’s name bitterly into his communicator. In reality, Kirk has once again cheated the system, and it is this revelation that made the movie, to my younger self, utterly compelling. It remains captivating to this day.

Mike – The Kobyashi Maru Scenario (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982)

Viewers who dreamed of attending Starfleet Academy vicariously got their wish watching Saavik learn that “how we deal with death is… as important as how we deal with life.” (It’s also a brilliant fake-out, “killing off” Spock so fans lowered their guard before the movie lowered the real boom later.)

3.

J.W. – Klingon Jesus Appears (“Rightful Heir,” TNG, 1993)

Worf goes to find himself but ends up finding the long-awaited Kahless has returned. Not only that, but Kahless specifically calls him back to an enlivened faith. Kahless turns out to be a clone, and the episode remains thought-provoking and intense throughout.

Mike – “The Meld” (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979)

Jerry Goldsmith’s lush score accompanies some of Trek’s most beautiful special effects as Decker, Ilia and V’Ger achieve transcendence. One of the franchise’s highest concept moments, dramatizing a yearning to “join with the Creator” that we Christians believe God perfectly fulfilled by coming to us (not vice versa) in Christ.

2.

J.W. – Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra (“Darmok,” TNG, 1991)

Although it seems obvious a species that can only communicate through metaphor would have problems building spaceships, this episode poignantly portrays the struggles to communicate cross-culturally while serving up some choice quotes. Not watching this is like Shaka when the walls fell.

Mike – The Phoenix Takes Flight (Star Trek: First Contact, 1997)

The movie makes up for Zefram Cochrane’s earlier, cringeworthy name check of the franchise by showing us humanity’s first warp-powered spaceflight, accompanied by the strains of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride.” It’s thrilling and inspiring, and a heck of a lot of fun—as Star Trek’s future, at its best, always is.

1.

J.W. – Picard Lives a Second Life (“The Inner Light,” TNG, 1992)

Picard lives an entire lifetime’s memories in just a few short minutes “real time.” Coming to, he realizes it was all the memories of a lost civilization, and the episode ends with him playing a flute from the lost world alone in his cabin. It’s absurdly beautiful.

Mike – Stealing the Enterprise (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, 1984)
The heist is perhaps out of character for our heroes and the franchise, but friendship is at stake. Horner’s scoring is masterful, the cast’s acting is tops, and Kirk’s determination to go even when warned he’ll “never sit in the captain’s chair again” reminds us what really matters in life.

Links

The Sci-Fi Christian– There is so much to discuss when it comes to the intersection of faith and culture, and science fiction is often at the forefront of ways to drive this discussion forward. Check out The Sci-Fi Christian’s website and podcast for tons of discussion of related topics.

Eclectic Theist– Follow my “other interests” blog for discussion of sci fi, fantasy, movies, sports, food, and much, much more.

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

Celebrating 50 Years of Star Trek: Top 25 Moments, Times Two #10-6

emissaryReaders of this blog know that I’m a huge science fiction fan. Science fiction is a genre that has more worldview seeping into it and through it than almost any other one, in my opinion. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, I have teamed up with Mike Poteet of The Sci-Fi Christian (an excellent site and podcast you should follow in all forms) to share our top 25 moments each (50 total!) from all of Star Trek on screen. That’s right, from The Original Series all the way through Star Trek Beyond, we’re bringing you our favorite moments. Some of these are steeped with worldview, and some are just fun or interesting. Check them out, and let us know your favorites in the comments.

10.

J.W. – Worf is Shunned (“Sins of the Father,” TNG, 1990)

One of the most poignant scenes in TNG is the Klingon High Council all turning their backs on a lonely Worf in the middle of a circle. It’s a radically unfair moment that contrasts Worf’s true honor with the subterfuge of his rivals.

Mike – “What does God need with a starship?” (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, 1989)

Yes, really. Kirk shows us the importance of iconoclasm—challenging false gods—with this wonderful question. He may not believe in God, but he at least knows enough to “test the spirits” (1 John 4.1). Not every claimant of our ultimate trust, obedience and worship is deserving. Discernment is demanded.

9.

J.W. – Dealing with a Violent Past (“Duet,” DS9, 1993)

The Cardassian/Bajor conflict was apparent all through DS9 and certainly parts of TNG as well, but here it comes into true focus in beautiful ways rarely explored on Star Trek. It remains one of the better episodes of Star Trek across all series.

Mike – “I won’t kill you!” (“Arena,” TOS, 1967)

Kirk relies on his intelligence, ingenuity and mercy to survive, refusing to kill the Gorn he earlier wanted to destroy. He proves to the Metrons’ satisfaction (but not Spock’s) that humanity is “a most promising species.” One of the classic series’ most iconic and memorable hours, and deservedly so.

8.

J.W. – Invading Fleet “Can’t Stand It” (Star Trek: Beyond, 2016)

The latest Trek movie has all kinds of fun moments, but the self-referential humor of blowing away an invading fleet with music that hearkens back to the first reboot film tops them all. Tune into a modern classic to fight baddies.

Mike – Spock Melds with the Horta (“The Devil in the Dark,” TOS, 1967)

In a day when science fiction on TV often meant scary monsters (as in TOS’ own first-aired episode), Trek challenged the idea that the unknown, the alien, the “other” must, by definition, be the enemy. Innovative costuming and Nimoy’s empathetic acting sell the series’ most memorable moment of first contact.

7.

J.W. – We Learn What’s Important (“Family,” TNG, 1990)

Picard must try to reconcile with his brother back home in France as viewers get not only a tantalizing look at life on Earth in the future, but also an education in what’s important. Hint: it’s the episode title.

Mike – Benny Russell Dreams (“Far Beyond the Stars,” DS9, 1998)

Trek’s most direct assault on racial bigotry remains too timely in 2016. Sisko, in a Prophet-induced vision, learns the dangers of being black in 1950s America. It’s also one of the franchise’s most stirring affirmations of hope’s power: “You can pulp a story, but you cannot destroy an idea!”

6.

J.W. – That’s How You Premiere a Series (“Emissary” DS9, 1993)

“Emissary” was a rare moment for me- a pilot episode of a Star Trek series that was genuinely amazing. Sisko’s backstory was intriguing, all the other characters gave hints of potential, and the tension was ratcheted up with the discovery of a wormhole.

Mike – Tasha’s Farewell (“Skin of Evil,” TNG, 1987)

While Trek’s theology of immortality (living on in others’ memories) offers less hope than the Gospel, Tasha’s memorial shows the power of ritual and the necessity of community when coping with grief. Ron Jones’ score sings with heartbreak but also, as if by grace, healing. Season one’s most beautiful moments.

Links

The Sci-Fi Christian– There is so much to discuss when it comes to the intersection of faith and culture, and science fiction is often at the forefront of ways to drive this discussion forward. Check out The Sci-Fi Christian’s website and podcast for tons of discussion of related topics.

Eclectic Theist– Follow my “other interests” blog for discussion of sci fi, fantasy, movies, sports, food, and much, much more.

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

Celebrating 50 Years of Star Trek: Top 25 Moments, Times Two #15-11

star-trek-ivReaders of this blog know that I’m a huge science fiction fan. Science fiction is a genre that has more worldview seeping into it and through it than almost any other one, in my opinion. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, I have teamed up with Mike Poteet of The Sci-Fi Christian (an excellent site and podcast you should follow in all forms) to share our top 25 moments each (50 total!) from all of Star Trek on screen. That’s right, from The Original Series all the way through Star Trek Beyond, we’re bringing you our favorite moments. Some of these are steeped with worldview, and some are just fun or interesting. Check them out, and let us know your favorites in the comments.

15.

J.W. – Ro Chooses Sides (“Preemptive Strike,” TNG, 1994)

Ro Laren had been in and out of TNG for several episodes, and her Bajoran roots linked her plot with what was happening on DS9. Here, we see her go from favored protégé of Picard to betraying his trust to follow what she feels is the greater good.

Mike – Worf’s Bedside Manner (“Disaster,” TNG, 1991)

Pressed into medical service after catastrophe strikes the Enterprise (as it does), Worf makes ready to set a crewman’s broken leg with this blunt assessment: “This will hurt. Prepare yourself.” Afterward, he praises his patient: “You bore that well.” A pitch-perfect note of character-based comedy, at which mature TNG excelled.

14.

J.W. – Finally Home (“Endgame,” Voyager, 2001)

Though we may not get as much of the story as we’d like, fans finally got to see the return of Voyager to, approximately, home. The whole premise of the show was based on the culmination of this event, and the payoff is emotionally captivating.

Mike – “Hello, computer!” (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986)

It’s hard to pick a favorite funny scene in a film full of them, but Scotty’s (admittedly unrealistic) ignorance of a 1980s computer—”The keyboard; how quaint”—is always a contender. The scene is also the template for Spock Prime’s “invention” of transwarp beaming for Scotty in Star Trek (2009).

13.

J.W. – Blue Shirt? Kill me now! (“Tapestry,” TNG, 1993)

Picard must relive moments of his life that he would like to change as Q guides him to the realization that those choices made him who he was. The best part: when he ends up a blue shirt, he immediately demands death instead of continuing as a lowly science officer.

Mike – Khan Revealed (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982)

Ricardo Montalban’s performance as an older, crazier Khan so riveted me, I memorized much of it, including this scene. Montalban swings from nostalgic bitterness (“On Earth… 200 years ago…”) to unbridled outrage (“This is Ceti Alpha Five!”) All memories of Mr. Roark evaporate; here is the Trek films’ greatest villain.

12.

J.W. – “Would you mind stopping that noise?” (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986)

Kirk asks a punk on the bus to turn off his boombox; in response, the punk turns it up. So Spock shuts him down and the bus applauds. This is one of the most memorable moments in all of Star Trek, in my opinion.

Mike – U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-A, Revealed (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986)

A cathartic moment that restores order to the recently chaotic Trek universe. The unveiling of the new Enterprise, to the strains of Alexander Courage’s fanfare, is arguably the franchise’s first overt acknowledgment that (as Roddenberry’s own, unused lyrics to the old theme say), this “star trek will go on forever.”

11.

J.W. – Data is a Person (“The Measure of a Man,” TNG, 1989)

Riker must try to demonstrate Data is not a person, and does so by taking an arm off… he thinks. But Picard’s case comes out on top and Data is demonstrated to be a person with all the rights that entails. It’s a suspenseful, heartwarming moment early in TNG.

Mike – “This is 13 years ago…” (“The Menagerie,” TOS, 1966)

Gene Roddenberry faced the unenviable “no-win scenario” of needing to air the show’s unsold, radically different first pilot episode in order to fill out TOS’ first season. His solution was elegant, enveloping it in a frame story that instantly gave the Trek universe a “pre-history” and Spock a richer backstory.

Links

The Sci-Fi Christian– There is so much to discuss when it comes to the intersection of faith and culture, and science fiction is often at the forefront of ways to drive this discussion forward. Check out The Sci-Fi Christian’s website and podcast for tons of discussion of related topics.

Eclectic Theist– Follow my “other interests” blog for discussion of sci fi, fantasy, movies, sports, food, and much, much more.

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

Celebrating 50 Years of Star Trek: Top 25 Moments, Times Two #20-16

Last BattlefieldReaders of this blog know that I’m a huge science fiction fan. Science fiction is a genre that has more worldview seeping into it and through it than almost any other one, in my opinion. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, I have teamed up with Mike Poteet of The Sci-Fi Christian (an excellent site and podcast you should follow in all forms) to share our top 25 moments each (50 total!) from all of Star Trek on screen. That’s right, from The Original Series all the way through Star Trek Beyond, we’re bringing you our favorite moments. Some of these are steeped with worldview, and some are just fun or interesting. Check them out, and let us know your favorites in the comments.

 

20.

J.W. – Odo Can Turn Into ANYTHING (DS9)

Okay, it might not quite be true to say that Odo can turn into anything, but close enough. Throughout the course of DS9 fans see Odo shapeshift into all kinds of strange things, from vases to a combadge. The combination of ability and campiness makes Odo an intriguing character.

Mike – Spelled Out in Black and White (“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” TOS, 1969)

When I was younger, I dismissed classic Trek’s most overt criticism of racial prejudice as “about as subtle as a sledgehammer.” Now, sadly, I’m not so sure white Americans don’t need as many blunt reminders about the dangers and sheer stupidity of racial prejudice and intolerance as we can get.

19.

J.W. – Tribbles (“The Trouble with Tribbles,” TOS, 1967)

There’s a reason everybody remembers this episode. It may not be the greatest piece of film shot for Star Trek—far from it—but it got nominated for a Hugo award and is some of the most straightforward fun I’ve had watching an episode of Star Trek.

Mike – Fizzbin (“A Piece of the Action,” TOS, 1968)

Kirk’s knack for fast thinking and fast-talking his way out of tough spots has never been on more hilarious display. His impromptu “rules” aren’t internally consistent even as he makes them up, which only adds to the fun. Shatner’s clearly having a good time, and viewers do, too.

18.

J.W. – Learning How to Mourn (“Dark Page,” TNG, 1993)

Lwaxana Troi, one of my least favorite characters, is given an astonishingly sympathetic role as one suffering mental trauma from the loss of a child. As a viewer, you learn that sometimes, there is little you can do to help but weep with those who mourn.

Mike – “Don’t Destroy the One Named Kirk (“Balance of Terror,” TOS, 1966)

McCoy encourages a self-doubting Kirk by putting him in his cosmic place: “In this galaxy, there’s a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in all of the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all of that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us.”

17.

J.W. – Eugenics = Bad (“The Masterpiece Society,” TNG, 1992)

Star Trek is sometimes at its best when introducing ethical questions, and “The Masterpiece Society” asks many. In particular, what price are we willing to pay for alleged perfection? It’s an ethical quandary that takes center stage in this thought-provoking episode.

Mike – Ambassador Kollos (“Is There in Truth No Beauty?,” TOS, 1968)

The semi-corporeal alien deemed too hideous to behold is one of classic Trek’s most truly “science fictional” aliens—and Dr. Miranda Jones’ impassioned challenge of conventional wisdom (“Who is to say whether Kollos is too ugly to bear, or too beautiful to bear?”) is an eloquent plea for embracing diversity. IDIC!

16.

J.W. – The Power of Religion (“Accession,” DS9, 1996)

Though it could be faulted for portraying a somewhat pragmatist view of religion, “Accession” also shows at several points that faith is something that goes beyond simplistic stereotypes and into deeper aspects of personhood. It’s a moving episode that sees Sisko reinstalled as Emissary.

Mike – “The Klingon Battle” (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979)

Another standout musical moment from Goldsmith. The insistent clacks of his heavily percussive Klingon theme underscore the doomed aliens’ encounter with V’Ger, “voiced” by the wonderful “blaster beam.” Spectacular new Klingon ships, a high-tech Federation space station, and an immediately gripping threat to Earth, all in a few minutes’ time.

Links

The Sci-Fi Christian– There is so much to discuss when it comes to the intersection of faith and culture, and science fiction is often at the forefront of ways to drive this discussion forward. Check out The Sci-Fi Christian’s website and podcast for tons of discussion of related topics.

Eclectic Theist– Follow my “other interests” blog for discussion of sci fi, fantasy, movies, sports, food, and much, much more.

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

Celebrating 50 Years of Star Trek: Top 25 Moments, Times Two #25-21

qpidReaders of this blog know that I’m a huge science fiction fan. Science fiction is a genre that has more worldview seeping into it and through it than almost any other one, in my opinion. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, I have teamed up with Mike Poteet of The Sci-Fi Christian (an excellent site and podcast you should follow in all forms) to share our top 25 moments each (50 total!) from all of Star Trek on screen. That’s right, from The Original Series all the way through Star Trek Beyond, we’re bringing you our favorite moments. Some of these are steeped with worldview, and some are just fun or interesting. Check them out, and let us know your favorites in the comments.

25.

J.W. – Trek is back to TV… kind of (Star Trek: Discovery Announced, 2016)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cxba2WjlN90

Finding out that Star Trek was returning in series form was massive news for Star Trek fans. It’s always been the format Trek has excelled in, and I know that the announcement of a new series was one of the best moments I’ve had with Star Trek.

Mike – “Is that classical music?” (Star Trek Beyond, 2016)

The perfect fusion of “nuTrek” and old: Instead of firing phasers or photon torpedoes, our heroes unexpectedly use music as a weapon against Krall’s “bees”—and the song of choice? The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” a callback to the 2009 film. (We all like the beats and the shouting, Jaylah!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeGHr9l-o1E

24.

J.W. – Data is an A-Bomb (“Thine Own Self,” TNG, 1994)

Data shows up at in a village with no memory of who he is, or that he’s carrying a container full of radiation poisoning. When the camera pans onto that case with the radiation warnings on it, it is one of the more chilling moments in TNG.

Mike – The Tragedy of Red Squad (“Valiant,” DS9, 1998)

One of Trek’s most haunting examinations of war and its costs. Jake and Nog’s friendship is tested past the breaking point aboard a Starfleet vessel crewed by cadets who want to become (depending on who you ask) heroes or martyrs. A powerful, not preachy morality tale in Trek’s finest tradition.

23.

J.W. – Seven of Nine is Revealed (“Scorpion, Part 2,” VOY, 1997)

The Borg are perhaps the most feared of all Star Trek villains, and for good reason. Here, however, viewers are introduced to a character who would later become a seeming paradox: a sympathetic, rehabilitated (?) Borg.

Mike – Tribbles Keep Fallin’ On Kirk’s Head (“Trial and Tribble-ations,” DS9, 1996)

An overrated TOS episode is redeemed with witty scripting and ingenious, seamless editing just in time for Trek’s 30th birthday. We learn those fuzzballs kept raining down on Kirk because, off camera, time-traveling Sisko and Dax were tossing them aside in order to find a bomb!

22.

J.W. – Data is Impersonal (“In Theory,” TNG, 1991)

Data experiments with humanity, but it turns out that much of his work is just that—experimentation. When his girlfriend breaks up with him, his utterly bleak—and apparently inhuman—reaction is to delete the program routine he wrote to date her.

Mike –  Captain Proton to the Rescue!!! (“Bride of Chaotica,” VOY, 1999)

Buck Rogers and zap guns are an often overlooked part of Trek’s DNA, but not here! The pulp sci-fi tradition is on full, garish black-and-white display as Tom Paris’ B-movie holodeck program goes terribly—and hysterically—wrong. The “Voyager” cast always shone when set free to unleash their comedic chops.

21.

J.W. – I turned on the wrong channel (“Qpid,” TNG, 1991)

A rollicking good time in this episode of TNG, wherein Q attempts to give Picard a love interest by transporting him and select crew members to Sherwood Forest. If you start this episode in the middle, you’d be confused about what you’re watching.

Mike – “Why are they banging their heads?” (“Little Green Men,” DS9, 1995)
Arguably the funniest of Trek’s many trips to the past, wherein we learn that none other than Ferengi crashed in Roswell in 1947. “I’d always heard primitive hew-mons lacked intelligence,” Quark observes, “but I had no idea they were this stupid!” Out of the mouths of extraterrestrials.

Links

The Sci-Fi Christian– There is so much to discuss when it comes to the intersection of faith and culture, and science fiction is often at the forefront of ways to drive this discussion forward. Check out The Sci-Fi Christian’s website and podcast for tons of discussion of related topics.

Eclectic Theist– Follow my “other interests” blog for discussion of sci fi, fantasy, movies, sports, food, and much, much more.

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

“Ben Hur” – Gods, Faith, Baptism, and Forgiveness

ben-hur-2016I had the chance to go see the new “Ben Hur” movie this past weekend. I think it is fair to say that I’m a huge fan of Ben Hur in many forms. I read the novel (at least) annually. I watch the Charlton Heston version of the film several times a year. It is one of the most utterly compelling plots I know of. It’s a tale of betrayal and revenge that turns into much more than that. (Be sure to see the Links at the end for several more of my posts about the book and other movie.) Here, I will look at this particular retelling of the story of Ben Hur and the worldview themes found therein. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Gods and Faith

A contrast of faiths is found throughout the movie, yet it isn’t just a two-sided picture. We see Messala’s devotion to Roman gods early on in the film, as he prays to those gods for the safety of his adopted brother, Judah Ben Hur (in this version, Messala was orphaned and adopted by the House of Hur). Judah’s mother chastises him, saying that they serve a different God under her household. At a later point, the Hurs are celebrating a Jewish festival, and Messala acts somewhat left out. Judah Ben Hur asks him about this and comments that wine knows no specific god (implying that Messala can at least enjoy himself with the festal wine). Judah is indeed portrayed as something of a skeptic throughout much of the film, and that’s where we see some of the most subtle but intriguing aspects of the journey of faith found here.

Judah’s journey includes doubts about God, and he even speaks these in one of his encounters with Jesus. He asks Jesus how, if God has a plan that includes us, we are any better than slaves. Jesus replies in a way that is reminiscent of so many of his responses in the Bible, nodding to Esther, a former slave who at this point is Judah’s wife, and saying “ask her.” Cynically, this could be interpreted as a non-answer, but it also shows a similarity in fashion to the way Jesus often answered such questions that were posed not as genuine questions but as challenges. He turned the question inward and forced him to confront his own life.

Judah’s ultimate turning point comes after his defeat of Messala through a chariot race in the circus. He  stands before the crucified savior and he hears Jesus utter the words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Judah breaks down and weeps, coming to a full realization that those words are not just empty: they are for him and about him. It is at the cross that Judah comes to a realization of his own inadequacy and need for forgiveness, and, yes, true faith.

Baptism

After the cross, the Hur family is healed by the water that mingles with the blood of Christ, just as in the earlier film version. This water washing away the dead flesh of leprosy is a perfect allegory for baptism, which saves through the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). To see the water wash away the physical ailment here is a great allegory for baptism.

benhur-esther

Certainly one of the most interesting characters in the film.

Women in Ben Hur

The film does a pretty phenomenal job portraying women. First, there are women in the garden with Jesus when the Romans come to take him away. I think this almost certainly would have been the case, given how many women were close followers and later proclaimers of Christ. It was good to see the filmmakers decided not to skip over them. Second, the character of Esther was just as the image I shared here describes her- a defender, a confidant, and a believer. She remains faithful throughout the movie, despite having a few flaws.

Forgiveness

Perhaps the central theme in the movie is forgiveness. Indeed, they took some liberty with the plot to highlight this theme more effectively, leaving Messala alive and vengeful towards the end, only to forgive Judah as Judah forgives him. It is a beautiful scene, though it feels a tad rushed. The book doesn’t have this scene, though it also highlights forgiveness. Once again, it is clear that this is a Christian theme shown through the film.

Conclusion

“Ben Hur” is different from the Charlton Heston version of the story in several key ways, and diverges radically from the book on a few key points. That said, it is one of the most Christian messages I have seen recently in any movie. It has many wonderful portrayals of worldview found therein, and it does so in a much more intriguing way than almost any other film I know of recently.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Ben Hur- The Great Christian Epic– I look at the 1959 epic film from a worldview perspective. How does the movie reflect the deeply Christian worldview of the book?

What About Those Who Haven’t Heard? – Part 1 of a case study on religious pluralism from Lew Wallace’s “Ben Hur”– I examine two of the most popular answers to the question about those who have not heard about Jesus (and their eternal fate) from the book.

Religious Pluralism- A case study from “Ben Hur” by Lew Wallace– The post introducing this entire series on “Ben Hur.” It has links to all the posts in the series.

SDG.

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“Her Dangerous Visions” by Brandon Barr- Prophecy, Evil, and Hope

hdv-barrBrandon Barr’s Her Dangerous Visions is a science fiction/fantasy drama that will suck you in and not let go. Here, I’ll offer a brief review of the book alongside a few comments on themes found therein. The shortest possible review is: get the book, it’s great.

Review

Barr’s writing style is direct, but has depth. There is an enormous amount of political drama, tension around love, and action packed into each page of the book. Moreover, Barr seamlessly combines elements of science fiction and fantasy, such that it is difficult to categorize the book neatly. But that combination works remarkably well here, as Barr moves from farms to space with ease.

This first entry in the series offers glimpses of a broader universe, leaving readers wanting more from future installments. The focus is on the planets that are involved in a conflict, Loam and Hearth, that is apparently much more than any of their inhabitants realize.

Barr’s style is driven by characters. The characters are all remarkably deep. They have qualities that make readers get immediately invested, and faults that make readers want to scream at the pages as they watch favorite characters make foolish choices time and again. Meluscia was my favorite character–a woman whose ailing father is debating whom to appoint as his successor. She works to become that successor, but her desires in other areas could throw her off her apparently single-minded quest. Winter, another character, is said to be a seer, but the visions she sees continue to show sickening danger. Does she share the visions to try to prevent what they foretell, or keep them silent in the hopes that sharing them will not cause them to happen? Each character, as I said, is full of depth and develops of the course of the story. They feel very real–with motivations, aspirations, and faults that drive them.

The plot itself is complex, with layers peeled away through the course of the book and in interludes between sections. The pace never lets up, and once readers start, they won’t be able to put it down.

Overall, Her Dangerous Visions is a simply phenomenal read. I highly recommend it, just be ready to read for a while, because you’ll want to dive into the next book ASAP.

There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Prophecy

Prophecy is clearly an important part of the book and the whole series. Winter’s gifting as a Seer means that she must try to understand what it means and come to comprehend it. There are portions where scenes with Winter remind me of biblical prophets and their own struggles. Think about it: how many prophets truly had it easy in the Bible? Nathan had to tell the King he’d committed great evil; Elijah was hunted for much of his career; John the Baptist ate bugs in the wilderness; etc. Similarly, Winter doesn’t have it easy, and finds herself questioning the wisdom of deity in this book. There is more to be explored in the coming books in the series, but at the end of Her Dangerous Visions, it is difficult to see where Winter may end up on her journey.

Evil

Evil is not often black-and-white in the real world, but there are some clear instances of it being such (i.e. Stalin/Hitler). Similarly, Barr’s book shows evil at times being black-and-white, but at other times it is much more subtle. Much of the evil in the book is from the characters themselves–finding themselves motivated wrongly by lust or vengeance rather than by virtues. It is a dimension that, as I said, makes the characters feel very real, and causes reflection in readers.

Hope

In our world, hope may be found in Christ, no matter how bad the darkness gets. Similarly, in Her Dangerous Visions, hope is found in trusting in others and the goodness of God. The spiritual realm in the novel is not fully revealed yet, so it will be interesting to see how it comes to be shaped over time.

Conclusion

I’d recommend readers pick up Brandon Barr’s book. He’s a man of faith who has written a phenomenal set of novels that are thought-provoking and thrilling.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Popular Books– Read through my other posts on popular books–science fiction, fantasy, and more! (Scroll down for more.)

 

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”- A Christian Perspective- Re-enchantment, Grace, and Loyalty

hpccThe new Harry Potter book is out, and people all over the world are diving back into the series. What kind of world does the latest adventure depict? How might Christians interact with the book? There will be SPOILERS in what follows. There will also obviously be SPOILERS for any other books in the series.

Harry Potter and Christianity… what?

Some may immediately object to the notion that Christians can or should interact with something like Harry Potter. What I say likely won’t convince anyone. But what I would say is that Harry Potter helps re-enchant the world, and our world is in great need of re-enchantment. The Bible speaks of a world created by God, inhabit by angels and demons, and full of the miraculous. The world we most often observe is utterly mundane in comparison: a world which we often think we have entirely figured out.

Harry Potter, however, opens the door to re-enchantment. The world of Harry Potter is magical–and the wonder of magic is similar to the wonder that readers have the first time they enter that certain Wardrobe from the Spare Room or see the White Wizard reappear. It’s a world that moves beyond the mundane and speaks to something more. And Christianity teaches that there is something more. The world is not just what we see with our eyes–it is a world that is utterly enchanted, full of mystery, and created by a loving God.

What’s more, the Harry Potter story so far ended in a kind of re-telling of the Messianic story. Potter laid down his life for his friends, was resurrected, and saved them. It’s a familiar story with different trappings, but one that each generation must learn anew.

Grace

One of the most important themes in “Cursed Child” is grace. Harry must have the grace to love his son, Albus, despite the imperfections. Albus must forgive his father and show grace to him to begin healing their relationship. Albus must learn the lesson Harry learned long before–that grace can defeat evil. He spares Delphi, an act of grace, despite her deserving great punishment. It’s a lesson that is brought forward time and again. In every relationship mentioned in the book, grace is needed to help heal wounds of doubt, of barbed words, and more.

Loyalty

Loyalty is another theme that shows up time and again throughout the series, and Serverus Snape’s loyalty to Lily and Dumbledore is perhaps the greatest example. Even in the alternative future that Albus visits, Snape remains loyal to the memory of Lily and his promises to Dumbledore. He fights alongside those who, in some cases, he has every reason to despise, at least historically.

That history is another major theme of the book: does one’s past determine one’s present and future? Delphi felt as though she must follow a prophecy that would allow her to be reunited with her father. Snape had to get beyond the history that he had with Harry’s father to continue the fight against darkness in an alternative future. Harry and his son Albus’ relationship is strained both by their own history and by the history of Harry. Who you are, it seems near the beginning, is determined by what you–or your parents–were. But that myth is dispelled as it becomes apparent that current action and decisions can break away from the bonds of history. Through the power of grace, as already mentioned, relationships may be healed, people may move forward.

But is it good?

Okay, okay, we get it. There are themes that interact with Christianity in Harry Potter. Is the new book worth reading?

I’d say absolutely, for fans of the series already. It’s not as detailed as the novels are, because it’s a script. But it is a good script, and the characters do develop quite a bit. There are some moments that will make you gleeful as you pick up references to previous books. The main complaint I’d have is that because it is a script, there is so little description of the environment and the characters’ internal struggles–something Rowling excels at. It’s a good entry in the series that won’t make you completely disappointed, but it isn’t as fabulous as the previous books in the series.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Popular Books– Read through my other posts on popular books–science fiction, fantasy, and more! (Scroll down for more.)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Star Trek: Beyond”- A Christian perspective- Humanism, Unity, and Fear of the Unknown

An official movie poster. Used under fair use.

An official movie poster. Used under fair use.

Star Trek: Beyond has just released, and it is garnering critical praise. Full of special effects, the film has more heart and humor than might be expected. I quite enjoyed the movie. Here, I will discuss the movie from a Christian perspective. There will be SPOILERS for the film in what follows.

Humanism

One of the earliest scenes of the movie is a breathtaking view of a space station, Yorktown. The space station has rings encircling the interior and intersecting each other, with gravity presumably holding people down in a kind of inverted globe with trains and other vehicles zooming past. Huge crowds are observed milling about. It is a kind of utopic vision of the future. One can’t help but sit back and think: look what we could accomplish if we just set our minds to it!

Star Trek has always been about offering a kind of humanist vision of the future. Of course it goes beyond humanism and into a kind of inter-species unity in which we can hopefully learn to interact without conflict. What is striking, however, is how swiftly this vision falls.

Unity vs. Conflict

The most prominent theme in the movie, one that is repeatedly emphasized, is that of unity vs. striving and conflict. Krall is obsessed with the idea that humanity has grown weak through unity. It has made humans complacent and taken away their drive. He seeks to push humanity to new heights through conflict, bringing destruction in his wake. As he put it, the Federation has been pushing into the frontier, but now “the frontier pushes back!”

Of course, this shows a significant contrast with the vision of humanism offered early in the film. Indeed, Kirk and others do everything they can to show that unity is strength rather than weakness. Ultimately, they succeed, but only through striving and conflict.

Is it therefore possible that Krall actually succeeded in his plan, in some way, after all? He did force conflict–he brought it to the Federation–and in doing so, he made Kirk and others strive for something further, seeking new solutions and pushing new heights. It’s a subversive way to interpret how the film ended, but the implications are interesting to pursue. Krall’s vision is one that is so similar to the humanist vision it is difficult to pull them apart. When we make humanity the measure of all things, we inevitably must strive to continue to better ourselves. We will never find a limit beyond which we cannot or should not push.

Unity is a worthy goal, but without something to unite us, it is a vain hope.

Fear of the Unknown

The message of exploring the frontiers and having the frontiers push back is particularly poignant in this film. We approach a time–and are in many ways already in that time–in which changing DNA is possible, we push more and more boundaries every day. How long until we push a boundary and find that we have delved too deeply? Such a fear of the unknown ought not to forestall any advancements, but it should serve as a cautionary reminder that we should not rush blindly into the beyond.

Women

One thing I have really appreciated about the new Trek movies, and Beyond in particular, is their treatment of women. Lieutenant Uhura is assertive, decisive, and intelligent. Jaylah is a character who offers the kind of complexity that is too rarely seen in female leads in film. Moreover, her innovation and power help to save the day on multiple occasions. I hope that she continues to show up in future iterations of the franchise.

Conclusion

Star Trek: Beyond is a phenomenal film that will make viewers think. There are many more avenues to explore that I haven’t even touched upon here. What I think is most interesting, though, is the idea that unity is what we ought to strive for. I agree it is a worthy goal, but it is one that requires something around which we can all unite. Christ, I believe, has provided that something- we may guide our lives by his commands, and rely upon God’s grace when we fail.

Links

“Star Trek: Into Darkness”- A Christian Perspective– I take a look at the previous film

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Read more movie reflections (scroll down for more).

Eclectic Theist– Follow my “other interests” blog for discussion of sci fi, fantasy, movies, sports, food, and much, much more.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants” – Deconversion, Hope, and Strife

fog-follet

Ken Follett’s “The Century Trilogy” is a sweeping series . I just finished the first book, Fall of Giants, and realized there were several themes found therein that begged comment here. Here, I will analyze the book from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

I will not go over the plot of the book. A brief summary may be found here.

Deconversion

Billy Williams is a Welsh boy who goes to work in a coal mine. The first day on the job he is left alone in the pitch black–his lamp went out. Rather than wandering lost in the tunnels he keeps working until someone comes to get him. To keep himself from being too frightened, he sings Christian hymns and draws comfort from them. At the end, when the light is restored, he sees a fleeting vision of Christ just at the corner of the light and says “Thank you.”

If that sounds like the start of a storyline that will be an example of a life of faith to you, you would be disappointed. After an explosion in the coal mine, he is distressed by the problem of evil–why does God let bad things happen? As he grows older, Billy is exposed to textural criticism. He is disturbed that we don’t have copies of the original texts from which we get the words of the Bible. His father, who often preaches at their worship services, has insufficient answers. Later in life, Billy’s sister gets pregnant and is judged sharply by his father and their town because she is not married. He is strongly put off by the apparent hypocrisy of the people. He never returns to church.

I admit that “deconversion” may be a bit of a misnomer because it is never specifically said that Billy doesn’t believe in God anymore, but the implications are there. He has a deep distrust of and distaste for Christianity, it seems, after this.

The story illustrates the need for a firm foundation. Textual criticism is not something Christians should fear, as it allows us to recover the text of the Bible more accurately. The problem of evil is not unsolvable. And, unfortunately, Christian hypocrisy is actually something to be expected. Indeed, the Christian worldview would expect hypocrisy at times because we are still sinners in this world and will continue to commit wrongs, despite being people of faith. None of this was hinted at in the novel, but I suspect that this is due in part to the fact that Follett is himself an avowed secular humanist. There seems to be an agenda here (and see below).

Unfortunately, Billy’s story is similar to one we can see repeating in churches and families all over. We have not studied our faith. We have not worked out the hard problems related to Christianity, so when we are confronted by them, we are often found with pat answers rather than the truth. We need to actively seek out answers and be aware of our own limitations. Unable to answer every question, we should commit ourselves to a life of faith seeking understanding.

Hope

There is hope found in the darkness throughout the coming World War and the plights of the individual people. Hope is found largely in the actions of other people–the small kindnesses that are done even in the face of evil. As the world seems to be crashing down all around, it is relationships which keep people going. Some of these are vaguely religious in nature, though the persisting theme seems to be that people need to do for themselves whatever they’d like to accomplish.

Religious Leaders?

One persistent theme throughout the book is that those involved in the church are mean, nasty, and most likely sexual deviants. Any time a priest-whether Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodoxy or Anglican–is mentioned or encountered, it is almost always in context of some offhand remark about how they sexually harassed a child or how someone who is now an adult remembers when they were asked to have sex with the priest, etc. It’s actually quite tiresome. While on the one hand it is important to note that there are those within Christianity who have abused power throughout time, on the other hand, to suggest that everyone in some sort of position in power was a power-hungry sexual predator is uneven, to put it mildly.

Those who are not in established religion–like Billy’s dad–are portrayed as aloof, distant, and largely uncaring. Billy’s dad does get a chance to redeem himself as he accepts Ethel back into the family, but only after he had to consider the possibility of having his whole family fall apart.

Conclusion

Follett has woven an intriguing story with a very strong premise. It is unfortunate that throughout there also seem to be straight polemics against Christianity. A better balance was needed to make it seem realistic and not so much a diatribe against Christianity. Some good takeaways can be had from reading the book, but the worldview it presents is largely bleak and hopeless.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Popular Books– Check out my other posts on popular books, including several other science fiction works. (Scroll down for more.)

Source

Ken Follet, Fall of Giants (Signet, 2012).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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