Sunday, September 15, 2013

What's Wrong with Roddenberry

        Like many of my generation, I was raised on the television series Star Trek, weekly watching Captain Kirk, Spock, and McCoy “boldly go where no man has gone before”.  (A later feminist canon would excise the offending word, and they would boldly go “where no one has gone before”.) I was therefore all the happier to watch the latest Star Trek film Into Darkness.  It was a good enough film and no bad way to blow a few hours on a rainy afternoon.  I enjoyed the examples of homage paid to the original series and was not surprised to see the name of Gene Roddenberry featured prominently in the credits, although he died in 1991.
The world created by Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry was a wonderful one, in which all the nations on earth united to form one harmonious society, with all races and peoples living in peace and prosperity.  War, hatred, crime, and poverty were things of the past.  White Americans worked side by side with Afro-americans, and Russians, and Chinese, and Scots in a single prosperous and progressive community, where no task remained but to venture into the final frontier to seek out new life and new civilizations.   Humans even lived harmoniously with aliens, such as Vulcans (and in the next generation, with Klingons).  Roddenberry deliberately offered this world as a shining vision of what mankind could be and eventually would be. 
This vision shone all the more brightly in 1966 when the original series premiered.  It came into the lives and living rooms of a nation torn by racial violence, and divided by politics and views of the Vietnamese conflict, a nation locked into the Cold War against the U.S.S.R and Communism, and thus it offered welcome relief.  One day not too far away mankind would finally unite and live in peace, and all war, tyranny, and poverty would be things of the past. 
As would be religion.  Roddenberry made no secret that in his shining vision of the future everyone would be atheist, and that the world would be immeasurably better off for it.  Accordingly there was no chaplain on board the Enterprise.  The idea was that religion was one of the things that mankind would inevitably outgrow, and leave behind in the dust-pile of history, along with war and poverty.  Mankind was evolving, and if religion once formed a part of that evolutionary process, it would be outgrown soon enough.  It was only a matter of time, and if we just waited long enough, this shining and glorious future would be ours.
As anyone can see, we are still waiting, and the glorious future of harmony and peace envisioned by Roddenberry seems no nearer now than it was in 1966.  Indeed, at time of writing, it might even be further away, since even after the fall of Communism a new Cold War with Russia seems to loom.  The Middle East remains in upheaval and turmoil, and the gap between the rich and the other 99% grows ever greater.  So, what seems to be the problem?  What’s wrong with Roddenberry’s vision?
It appears clear enough for anyone not totally blinded by the dogmatic ideology of secularism that more than the passage of time is required to bring peace to the human race.  Murder and war remain abiding characteristics of the human race and constants in human history.  War is what we do, and it has been a part of the human story for as long as that story has been told.  If war was simply an unfortunate feature of our passing evolutionary development and something which we eventually outgrow, we would expect that the number and ferocity of wars would lessen somewhat as time progressed.  As a matter of sorry fact, it has not lessened.  Rather, it seems to be actually increasing.  Roddenberry was simply wrong in imagining that mankind would naturally outgrow war and hatred and enter the shining future as a part of evolutionary progress.   It is clear now that time alone will not banish hatred from the human heart.
What will?  In a word, Christ.  The hearts we have are hard and fatally diseased.  What we need is a new heart, a heart of flesh to replace our heart of stone (Ezek. 36:26).  We don’t need more time to evolve; what we need is a new birth, one by water and the Spirit, and a new nature.  Without it, we are doomed to keep on repeating the same pattern of hatred and war that has characterized our species until now, and to be locked into the vicious and endless circle of mutual vengeance.  The Church calls this teaching “original or ancestral sin”, and it teaches, not that we were born guilty, but that we were born into a world of spiritual entropy and mortality, a world where we are drawn always down, a world where selfishness comes easy and virtue comes with difficulty.  It is odd that some people have contradicted this teaching.  As Chesterton once remarked, the Church’s teaching on original sin is the only one of its dogmas that can actually be proved.  And it doesn’t take long to prove it; any book narrating human history provides plenty of examples.  
Roddenberry was right in wanting a better world than the one we have now; he was wrong in thinking that it would come of its own accord.  There is only one hope for the human race and for peace, and only one place where opposites can be united, where the lion lies down with the lamb, the Russian with the American, the black with the white.  That place is the Church of God, where dividing walls have been torn down and divisions transcended, where there is no longer division between Greek or Jew (or possibly between human and Vulcan).  Instead, God has created one new man, with a single new nature (Col. 3:11, Eph. 2:15).   With Christ alone we can boldly go into the future—and not because of our technological superiority, but because the future belongs to Him.



  1. Au contraire, on one episode a chapel was depicted on board the Enterprise. In another (the one with the aliens who thought they were the Greek gods of ancient Earth times), Kirk definitely makes reference to "the one" god the humans preferred over the many.

  2. Thank you for providing a link to Roddenbury's statement about faulty humans and god blaming them for its own mistakes. Never heard it before. A refreshing thought.


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