Star Trek is one of the most successful American TV and Film science fiction franchises. It includes six TV series (The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise) lasting a total of 27 years, and 11 films based upon The Original Series and The Next Generation. Star Trek has spawned a large number of fictional novels, video games and plastic action figures. In addition to its longevity and merchandise, Star Trek can boast one of the most devoted fan bases in the history of fictional worlds: Trekkies.
Star Trek has made an indelible mark on American culture. It is deeply rooted in the American mythos of manifest destiny and the frontier. It also projects a hopeful image of the future shaped by human progress. The Original Series, created by Gene Roddenberry, aired from 1966-69 – right in the middle of the cold war. At a time when political tensions ran high, Star Trek offered a vision for humanity without racism, war, and economic disparity. At its most basic level, Star Trek had a simple humanistic message: humanity will be okay.
How have Christians responded to and engaged with this powerful pop-culture phenomenon? Undoubtedly, there are many Christians who enjoy Star Trek (I’m one of them, and I know I’m not alone!). Surprisingly, however, there is very little serious Christian engagement with Star Trek.
Indeed, there are many who believe that Christianity and Star Trek are incompatible. Star Trek, according to some, pushes a secular humanist agenda. Commenting on the seeming absence of Christianity from the Star Trek world, one commentator writes that according to Science Fiction in general, including Star Trek, Christians have no future. One blogger points out that the closest we get to a genuinely divine being in the Star Trek universe is Q, who clearly bears no resemblance to a Christian notion of God. One writer feels that the main characters on Star Trek: The Next Generation are too perfect, and so the show fails to portray a human nature corrupted by sin. There is even a very humorous fake news story based upon the premise that the most recent TV series, Enterprise, would include a Christian captain.
In my online search to find constructive dialogue between Christianity and Star Trek, I did come across an exciting website called The Undiscovered Country Project. On this website, you can find some careful and interesting attempts to think Christianly about Star Trek. Also, the project sometimes hosts events and speaking engagements. I, for one, was sad to miss Spocktober.
This week on Transpositions, we are hosting a symposium that aims to challenge the narrative that Star Trek is merely pushing a secular humanist agenda. As we hope to show, Christian influences and themes are not absent from Star Trek. To borrow language from Timothy Gorringe, one might say that Star Trek is a “secular parable” for our time. We believe that Christians can engage in constructive, and not merely critical, dialogue with Star Trek.
To this end, we bring you five posts that reflect upon the intersections of Christian thought and Star Trek:
- Tuesday: “What Makes a God?: Wormhole Aliens and Bajoran Religion” by Cole Matson, regular contributor for Transpositions.
- Wednesday: “Torn between past, present and future: Seven of Nine and the Experience of Time,” by Jim Watkins, assistant editor of Transpositions.
- Thursday: “Star Trek Next Generation’s Secular Postmillenialism, Philip Tallon, Affiliate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Asbury Theological Seminary.
- Friday: “The Vulcan Messiah: Spock as a Christ Figure,” by Kevin C. Neece, founder and editor of The Undiscovered Country Project.
- Saturday “The Undiscovered Country Project: My Voyage Through Star Trek from a Christian Worldview Perspective,” by Kevin C. Neece, founder and editor of The Undiscovered Country Project.
Image Credit: Copyright 2007 Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios Inc. Fair use justification: the image, which is the current universal logo of the Star Trek franchise, is being used to comment on and illustrate the Star Trek franchise.