star trek

Trekkies, Klingons and the Language of Worship

© 2013 Chalice Press, by Suzanne Castle & Andra Moran

Image: from BRIM: Creative Overflow in Worship Design, © 2013 Chalice Press, by Suzanne Castle & Andra Moran

Star Trek’s High Chancellor Gorkon raises his glass: “I offer a toast to the undiscovered country.” And then Mr. Spock chimes in: “Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1.” The scene goes on to reveal that each group does not understand the language and actions of the other, but is willing to be at table together, uncomfortable though it may be. Both realize that they must forge together. And then a Klingon asks Captain Kirk if he would be willing to leave Star Fleet, intimating that for the future to happen, something must be given up. 

When I was a girl watching the various iterations of Star Trek with my daddy, I didn’t know that it would be helpful in church dynamics, much less worship planning. But often I return to my favorite Star Trek movie, The Undiscovered Country, and find that from early on I was being formed to bring people that have differing cultural assumptions — differing languages — together at the table. 

Star Trek: Into Darkness: A Call to Change Course

Star Trek: Into Darkness movie still. StarTrekMovie.com

Star Trek: Into Darkness movie still. StarTrekMovie.com

Star Trek: Into Darkness is a fascinating and complicated story that is well worth watching. Instead of providing a summary, I want to explore three related aspects of the movie: sacrifice, blood, and hope for a more peaceful future.

Live Long and Prosper – The Sacrificial Formula

In a reference to my favorite Star Trek movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the current movie’s Spock (Zachary Quinto) restates the sacrificial formula: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” This formula has generally been used throughout human history to justify sacrificing someone else. As René Girard points out, from ancient human groups to modern societies, whenever conflicts arise the natural way to find reconciliation is to unite against a common enemy.

Of course, there’s a lot of this going on throughout the Star Trek franchise. One conversation in Into Darkness explicitly points this out when Kirk (Chris Pine) unites with his enemy Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), and explains it to Spock:

Kirk: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Spock: An Arabic proverb attributed to a prince who was betrayed and decapitated by his own subjects.

Kirk: Well, it’s still a hell of a quote.

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