Monday, November 17, 2008

Charlie X (ST:TOS Marathon)

I apologize for skipping Friday. That morning I decided I needed some fun so I went to see Quantum of Solace, the latest James Bond flick with Daniel Craig. [Yeah it was cool, though the earlier film was better plotted and had more gadgets.] So I skipped my blog for a movie. Nyahhh, nyahh, nyahhh!!

But as I finished Wednesday's post, I found pure gold in the video/DVD shelves on the second floor of the library at the College of DuPage: Star Trek, the Original Series First Season! Twenty-nine episodes of action/adventure sci-fi with heart and passion and drama, written by some very notable SF writers of the day, including Harlan Ellison and Theodore Sturgeon.

IMHO, only Farscape got anywhere close to this series in terms of pulse-pounding drama. ST:TNG had a few righteous episodes, but percentage-wise, ST:TOS beats them hands down. ST alumni David Gerrold (The Trouble with Tribbles, The Galactic Whirlpool [novel]) understood why this was so. He said ST:TOS was about people who were family. Everyone argued with everyone. No one was perfect. It was this humanity in space and amongst alien cultures that made Star Trek worth watching.

And what I have learned is that de-humanization was the most terrible event in all these ST:TOS parables. De-humanization by psionic abilities, by technology, by medical advances, by possession, etc. are all presented again and again. In searching for a way to be like God ("Where No Man Has Gone Before") to conquering the flesh ("What Are Little Girls Made Of?") to finding a twisted form of immortality ("Miri") to even renewing the mind ("Dagger of the Mind"), Star Trek shows the failure of man by his very flawed human nature to accomplish these things without terrible consequences. We simply lack the wisdom - or the heart - to use such power.

"Of all things, a 'god' must have compassion!" shouts Kirk defiantly at his old-friend-turned-deity, Gary Mitchell. [Side note: Kirk was right, and Jesus showed precisely that - Matthew 15:32 ]

But scariest of all was to watch "Charlie X." Charlie, abandoned and alone for over a decade on an ancient world is going through teen adolescence in desperate need of guidance. He wants to be liked, to be loved, to be accepted by the crew. He has little to no social wisdom. He works very hard to be accepted, presenting lavish gifts out of nowhere (perfume for heart-throb Janice Rand), and then performs the most amazing card tricks for the amusement and joy of the crew.

How can he do these miraculous things? He has power no seventeen year old should have: the power to move and transmute matter at will. This was granted by the benign Thesians to save his life when he was an orphaned child, but now Charlie uses it to make anyone who isn't 'nice' to "go away". Like out of reality. Like permanently.

The spiritual Thesians did not realize this danger. Charlie had left their world before they noticed it and so, when the Enterprise is under Charlie's dictatorial rule and everyone is utterly terrifed at this angry 'teen god' gone rampant, they re-appear, wanting to undo the damage he has done and take him back to their world, among their kind where he will no longer be a threat.

Faced with this 'non-corporeal' purgatory, Charlie begs and pleads with the crew of the Enterprise to be allowed to stay with them just before he is transported away by the Thesians. "They can't feel - not like you. They don't love! Please - ! I want to STAY...Stayy... stayyyy....." [Full episode, CBS channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmjVOUW3Szo , advance to the 48:00-49:05 mark - it'll play from there. ]

Kirk's last minute intercession for this boy is touching. The sympathy of each crew member is apparent. But the fact is, Charlie is dangerous and has to be removed. He can never unlearn his power, and the Thesians sadly admit that either Charlie - or the humans he would meet - would destroy one another. Why is this so?

Charlie has incredible power without compassion. It is not tempered by love.

This danger exists for all empowered saints: those who, like Charlie, may be granted truth or abilities that go beyond a normal man's. Such saints have power to bless and to destroy, make no mistake. From Elijah calling down fire from heaven to Samson wrecking city gates, from Moses striking a rock so water gushed forth and to Paul blinding a magician with a word, each and every empowered saint must reign in his desires and accept God's love for humanity - fighting their own self-pity and anger - or the collateral damage they can cause will take years to undo.

We get impatient. We get tired of the whining, the complaining, the lack of faith or the evil that we are facing, and we want to handle it NOW. We think 5 years or 10 years or 40 years is LONG ENOUGH - and God says "No. Be patient. I am still in control. Be calm."

At one point, Jesus even rebuked His disciples severely for wanting to call down fire from heaven. Now - please don't be such a emo-humanist to think "they shouldn't have wanted to do that!" The next time the bank screws you out of hard-earned money or you get a nasty e-mail or a car cuts in front of you, you too will have some righteous indignation at the injustice of it.

These men loved Jesus something fierce. They KNEW he was good and meek and righteous. Peter's mother-in-law was healed by Him. They were casting out demons in His name. They were aiding Him as He fed thousands and thousands of human beings. They weren't just being mean - this is a level of anger you and I would feel if our favorite leader - our favorite spiritual guide who had done great things for us - was spat upon. You'd get "all medieval on their [tail]", as Quentin Tarantino would say.

Jesus rebukes them sharply. But why doesn't He just laugh it off?

Because they can. They can call fire down from heaven. They DO have this ability.

If a child says "I gonna go shoot da pres'dent fer takin' away my daddy's job!!" and gets a toy gun, you laugh and maybe lecture him on having better manners, but you don't "rebuke him." Not if you are wise. He's just a kid. He's powerless.

But if you see a sharp-shooter cleaning a rifle and he says the exact same thing, you get busy. You call the police if you have to. This guy is dangerous.

Luke 9:51-56
Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.

Jesus had given these men authority and power over demons, over sickness, but it was to show the power of God's love, not His wrath.

Like Charlie, they were teens who were JUST coming to grip with their loyalties, desires, loves. They had power - how would they use it?

The power YOU have may not be supernatural. You may not even believe such things happen - though I assure you they do. But you CAN use the power you do have to destroy men's lives or save them.

In His wisdom, God removed His Spirit from mankind and took back His power and authority in our rebellion. We became victims of nature, of each other, of mortal flesh. Our technology is an attempt to conquer our weaknesses and grant us abilities we do not normally possess. It is by any sane measure, a limited success at best.

God does grant His power, authority and Spirit to a select few. Like those early disciples, I have either witnessed or aided such men in their tasks. They do amazing things. But it is in love and out of compassion.

"If I have the tongues of men and of angels, yet have not love, it profits me nothing," wrote the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 13. While this passage has been used by many a romantic to make a god out of love, Paul isn't trying to do that. He is contrasting love and the right attitude AGAINST the spiritual gifts and empowerments he mentioned earlier in chapter 12. He has discovered, type A perfectionist he is, that his HEART is the big problem, not his MIND, his KNOWLEDGE, his EDUCATION, his AUTHORITY nor his DUTY as a religious leader and church planter/missionary.

If we are to be sons of God - as Jesus wants us to be - we have to accept this:

Do it in love or do not do it at all.

We are not given our wisdom, power and abilities to straighten out others or burn them to ashes. We are given those gifts to do an impossible thing, to do something Satan cannot do: LOVE.

We are to love the unlovely, the foul, the indiscreet, the brutes of this world and those who do NOT want Jesus in their "village".

Or look at it like this - Jesus is King of the universe, right? He can crash their party anytime He wants to. It would behoove us to remember that and wait upon His timing in other lives.

So what does He want?

Jesus wants intimacy with us. He doesn't need our labors, He needs our attention (cf. Matha vs. Mary in Luke 10:38-42 ). He wants to change our hearts BEFORE we get busy and frustrated and angry and bitter.

"Above all things - a 'god' should have compassion!"

Captain Kirk said it right. A god should have compassion. So should any of his sons.

We receive that by hanging around Him, listening to Him and watching Him, just like Mary did.

Amen.

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