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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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“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.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens- a Christian perspective 

sw-faI have read over 100 Star Wars books and watched all the movies dozens of times (probably well over 100 for each of the original trilogy). In other words, I’m a Star Wars fan. I absolutely loved The Force Awakens. It was fantastic. It was wonderful. It was Star Wars. I’m also a devout Christian. Here, I will evaluate the movie from a Christian perspective.

SPOILER WARNING: There will be SPOILERS in what follows. I want to make that as clear as possible. Read no further if you don’t want to read SPOILERS. I’m serious. Big ones. Are we clear? Read on if you have seen the movie, or don’t care about spoilers. I’m sure the comments will also have spoilers.

The Force

One of the most pervasive images of the Star Wars universe is that of the Force. Wait, imagery? Of the Force? Well, you can’t see the Force!

Yep, that’s right. We can see Jedi or Sith using the Force. We can see the effects it has on people, and its power. But we cannot see the Force. One might say it’s just a bunch of hokey religions (thanks, Han). But in The Force Awakens, Han Solo admits what he has known for a while: the Force is real.

What is interesting about this admission is how much people of all varieties have been attracted to the notion of the Force and the Star Wars universe in general. In reality, the Force is a metaphysical concept. It goes beyond the mundane, physical universe and reaches for something more. The drive for that “something more” is pervasive in humanity, I think. Inwardly, we know that the world is not limited to those things we can see through direct observation. Thus, we are drawn to even fictional portrayals of a deeper reality such as the Force. Like Han, we may talk the talk, but when push comes to shove, there is more to our world than meets the eye.

Family, Darkness, and Natural Consequences

Exodus 34:7 reads, in part, “[God] does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (NIV).

Many see this as a kind of vindictive verse. In fact, it is an example of human choices bringing about consequences. One of the things I have learned since becoming a parent (and I’m still learning) is that natural consequences are the most effective way to teach my son. If he stands on a chair, he gets removed from the chair until he is willing to sit instead of stand. The verse above shows how our actions and choices have natural consequences.

Anakin Skywalker’s choices have impacted his family in profound, terrible ways. Sure, he saved Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi, and he was reunited with the Force. But think about what his choices visited upon his children: they had to be separated at birth and whisked into hiding. Vader even cut off his son’s hand!

In The Force Awakens, we see those consequences being visited upon the next generation as well. Kylo Ren, Han and Leia’s son, appears to be trying to follow his grandfather’s footsteps. But instead of trying to follow them back towards the Light side of the Force, he is attempting to complete the Dark work of his grandfather’s alter ego, Darth Vader. Can a more poignant reminder of the punishment that can be carried on from generation to generation be given?

In the world we live in, we can see these same systems of injustice bringing punishment on one generation after another. World War II was, in part, brought about by crippling economic hardships imposed after World War I. Systemic racism continues in the United States, demeaning not just those against whom racism is directed, but also bringing darkness onto those who engage in it.

The passage from Exodus above can be read simplistically, but when taken in perspective like this, it is immensely profound. The poignancy of that statement: that the actions we take now can bring about punishment on our children, and their children… should lead us to consider what it is we are doing. Kylo Ren wasn’t created in a vacuum.

Redemption

The Force Awakens also points ahead to a hopeful reality, one which resonates with the Christian worldview. Han and Leia each believe that there remains good in Kylo Ren–Ben–still. Han risks his life on that evaluation and even sacrifices himself for it. Though we don’t see this coming to fruition, the seeds of hope are there. Will Ren follow his grandfather’s Dark choices to a logical end, or will he be brought back to the Light?

The movie ends with Luke Skywalker and Rey on a remote planet. This guru-like setting is also reminiscent of the Desert Fathers of the ancient Christian church (though ironically in a very watery setting!). Will redemption and hope be brought forth once more through Rey? That remains to be seen, but the seeds have been planted. Han’s willingness to believe in goodness in his son is the same kind of willingness we need to have when we confront evil. Yes, we need to be prepared to stand up against evil, but we also need to realize that we were yet sinners when Christ saved us. The “other” is like we were, lost to sin and in need of redemption.

Conclusion

Go see The Force Awakens. Be prepared to celebrate the joys of Star Wars again, but also to think. It’s a fun, delightful movie that is overlaid with much darkness. Yet, in the midst of all that darkness there is hope.

Let me know your own thoughts on the movie in the comments. I’d love to hear what you thought of the film.

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!

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.

“The Martian” – Hope, Humanity, and God- a Christian look at the film

the-martian-movieThe Martian is receiving some excellent reviews from critics, and for good reason. It is a stirring story about humanity and our capacities and drive to survive. Here we will look at the worldview htemes found in the film. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. I will not be summarizing the plot, but a summary can be found here.

Hope and Humanity 

A major theme of the movie is that of hope. Mark Watney, the astronaut left behind on Mars, becomes the center of hope of the entire world. All eyes were following as he continued to fight against the unforgiving Red Planet. When the mission to rescue him finally comes to a climax, there is a scene of people around the globe watching in anticipation and hope. They celebrate merely hearing his voice.

I can’t help but think about the hope of the shepherd in a certain story told be a Jew in Galilee, in which the celebration over but one lost sheep was immense. There is an inter-connectedness that humans experience as we seek to help others and exult in the triumphs even of strangers in need.

Perhaps the central theme in the movie is that of the very, well, human-ness of humanity. We need companionship, and the poignancy of that is found throughout the film. Mark fights against the loneliness he feels by fighting one problem after another. But simply hearing someone’s voice is enough to send him celebrating, and when the rest of his mission team come to rescue him–and he can hear his commander’s voice for the first time, the overwhelming sensation of emotion he feels leads him to tears.

Humanity was not made to be alone.

 

God?

By no means does this film offer much related to worldview issues about God, but there are a few moments worth mentioning. The first is when Mark has to whittle a crucifix in order to get some material to burn for making water. He looks at the figure of Christ on it and says that he thinks that Jesus wouldn’t mind him using it to save his life. Though this never develops beyond a joke, it is interesting to see how it ultimately is a kind of salvation through the cross–this time in a very literal sense.

Prayer is hinted at when the head of NASA asks the head of the Mars projects whether he believes in God. The answer that came was unexpected: with a Baptist mother and Hindu father, “I believe in several.” The response? “We need all the help we can get.”  Again, this joking moment does reveal a hint of truth: that God is the one who provides help. Of course, not the many gods of Hinduism, but the true God is the one who saves.

Conclusion

“The Martian” is a great film. It explores the human need more than most films ever even touch on. These needs reflect deeply ingrained desires that mesh well with the Christian worldview. Only in Christ can we ultimately find the consummation of hope.

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!

Andy Weir’s “The Martian” A Christian Look at the Book: Humanity, Community, and Hope– I look at the the worldview themes found throughout the book on which the film was based.

Also see my other looks into movies (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.

“Avatar”- A Christian reflection on the film

avatar-1I’ll admit it up front: I love the movie “Avatar.” I know that admission will immediately garner scoffers and the like, but I’d like to take this opportunity to look over some of the themes in the film to show why I like it so much. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

A Concern for Social Justice

First, it must be admitted that there is a strong concern for social justice throughout the film. This concern is borne out in three ways:

1) The disabled- Jake Sully is wheelchair-bound, and this leads to some overt  thematic elements related to this. Other characters make offhand remarks over his state. “That’s just wrong”–presumably referring to sending someone with such a disability to Pandora; Jake refuses help from others and relies on his military background to keep himself motivated to do whatever anyone else can. In the extended edition of the film, Jake is also bodily thrown out of a bar early on, which highlights his feelings of injustice and helplessness, while also  showing compassion demonstrated by his character. Jake’s veteran benefits can’t pay for a “new set” of legs, so he looks to Pandora for a fresh start.

From these portrayals, one may draw two primary areas of discussion. First, the ultimate solution to Jake’s status is transcendence into the Avatar body. His state is ultimately not one he can overcome himself but one which is ultimately reliant upon others–even deity (see next section). Second, there is some concern here for those with disabilities: we should neither treat them as deficient nor should we ignore the possibility of increasing the well-being of those in such situations.

2) The Environment- Some may not consider notions of concern for the environment a “social justice” issue. However, it should be clear that impact upon an environment definitely brings about societal change. If a group lives in a jungle, razing that jungle to the ground will have profound impact on that people group. Although the portrayal in the film is very straightforward (perhaps even simplistic), the concern for how destruction of an environment can lead to societal ills is certainly portrayed. In the Bible, we are given the command to care for creation. This should translate into a concern for societal well-being as well.

3) The “Other”- The Na’vi (interestingly similar to the Hebrew word for “prophet”) are the “other” in the film. From the human persepctive, they are a strange people. They have a seemingly paganistic nature worship along with inherent pantheism. They prefer to live in trees and tribal communities than building roads and buildings. The way in which the humans interact with the “Other” is ultimately a question of major concern and conflict. By downplaying the needs and disrespecting the culture of the “Other,” humans fail to learn from them and perhaps come to mutual understanding and a better relationship. Rather, the “Other” is seen as one to exploit for one’s own ends. For some discussion of how the “Other” is used in religious contexts, see my post on “The Myth of Religion.”

Deity- Or, Avatar is not Pantheistic

One aspect of the film I have heard other Christians complain about is that the religion of the Na’vi is pantheistic. However, it seems clear that Eywa is no friend to pantheism. Indeed, this “goddess” is far from the pantheistic all-in-all. Rather, it turns out in the climactic battle near the film’s end that Eywa “had heard” Jake’s prayer and in fact answers in rather extraordinary fashion. Eywa (again, interestingly similar to the name of the LORD in Hebrew) turns out to be not so much a pantheistic, monistic One as a theistic deity capable of activity within the natural realm.

Thus, the ultimate reality of the film is that there is such a thing as deity interfacing with the prayers of persons and with power to answer them. This is not to say the film is entirely friendly to Christian theism. For example, one line Jake Sully says to Eywa is that the inhabitants of Earth “killed their Earth-Mother.” Surely this is not an affirmation of theistic faith but rather hints at a kind of pantheon of deities for each planet! Well, not so fast: Jake says this before he even knows that Eywa is truly a deity capable of activity on the planet. He is trying to describe the situation in his doubt, and his prayer is that of a skeptic trying to make sure he’s covered all his bases. The answer of the extent of Eywa’s rule over Pandora (or beyond?) is left unanswered.

Again, I am not trying to suggest that Eywa should be identified with Christian theism. Rather, within the context of the film, it is clear that a deity exists and acts within the “real world.” I think it must be admitted that this is a far cry from the outlook of many films which are either anti-theistic or generally ignore the question of deity altogether.

Conclusion

Avatar” is a film that’s worth talking about for more than its beauty. Although many mock it for its emulation of some story tropes (Pocahontas in space!), there are more thoughtful elements in the film worth discussing. In particular, the question of divine activity is poignantly brought to the forefront. Moreover, the themes of social justice brought forward call into question our own assumptions about what is the best way to address various needs and issues.

What I’ve written here is only the beginning of possible discussions. A whole slew of topics remained untouched (what of mind/body connections and the use of the Avatars themselves?; what of the use of mercenaries?; what kind of criminal justice system could one have in a corporate run entity like this?; etc.), so I’d love to read your own thoughts on the film.

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!

Escaping to Pandora– J. Warner Wallace notes other issues of apologetic importance of the movie “Avatar.” He specifically focuses on the real hope in heaven and the transcendent.

Caring for Creation: A discussion among evangelicals– I write about creation care from a number of perspectives offered at a recent panel of prominent evangelical thinkers in this area.

Also see my other looks into movies (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.

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