I am 10 years old, sitting in front of a console TV, watching a first-season episode of Star Trek. The situation is dire, as the Enterprise is being sucked into an inescapable black hole. Captain Kirk, acting on instinct, had ordered the crew to veer off-course in order to save a distressed ship, whose commander (an alien female) happens to be stunningly beautiful, despite being bald and green. Overcoming the different-species-cultural-barrier problem, Kirk and the alien commander hit it off immediately. But Kirk has put the Enterprise in the gravitational clutches of an immense black hole.
They’ve burned out the Warp-drive engines (Scotty told Kirk that ‘she cano’ take it’, but he wouldn’t listen). Now, they are without power with only a few minutes left in the episode. I am on pins and needles, I don’t see any way Kirk will get them out of this one. Bones has already given up.
“Interesting,” Spock says, looking into his scientific-looking scope thingy.
“What is it?” Kirk says, noticing the Vulcan’s arched eyebrow.
“It appears that this black hole has fluctuating gravitation pulses…”
“That’s it!” Kirk exclaims and punches the intercom, “Scotty, can you cross-wire the anti-matter converter to a car battery?”
“Aye, Captain, but I don’t see how…”
“Just do it!” Kirk yells, “And then give her all she’s got!”
Moments later, the Enterprise is sailing on ‘to where no man has gone before’ with Kirk in the big, swivel, command seat with the beautiful and appreciative alien beside him. Somehow, Kirk came up with a solution in just a matter of minutes that had eluded physicists for centuries – using everyday Starship parts. Boy, did he think well under pressure, or what? I couldn’t wait until the next week, when he would do it again.
I watched hours of TV shows like this. When I say ‘like this’, I mean that they all promised salvation. Of course they did. Salvation sells. Everybody wants salvation. Everyone wants to know that in the end, we can, like Captain Kirk, think of something that saves the day.
In the case of Star Trek, salvation was a combination of amazing technology, an obedient crew and Captain Kirk’s last-minute hunch. With Westerns, salvation usually involved amazing hand-eye coordination and a fast horse. In medical shows, it was a doctor with a tender spot for saving life plus near perfect recall of his medical training. In detective shows… well you get the idea.
Even as a kid, I got the message: if you kept your wits, had the right gadgets and waited until after the last commercial break, then you can get out of anything – even certain death. Not only were you saved – but you were the hero. It was a ‘salvation’ that checked all the boxes; disaster averted, you get the girl, and you did it by the strength of your own wit and charm. That last box was especially a message that I wanted to believe. I don’t want to believe that salvation is outside my control. Show me a way that I don’t have to depend on anybody else and I will buy it. The fictional world of TV was more than willing to sell it to me.
But the real world’s message is almost always the opposite. You can’t make life on your own. You can’t make a family alone. You can’t have community without friends, you can’t manufacture meaning without building on a pre-existing beauty. You are like a green plant – yes, you can grow and flower – but you must have ground – to root into and draw from.
Everything in reality teaches this – particularly death and dying. I actually am in the clutches of an inescapable black hole, I always have been. It is slowly pulling me in. No amount of car batteries will matter (or anti-matter).
The movies show a temporary reprieve – we are saved – temporarily. But real life teaches us that Kirk isn’t big enough. We aren’t big enough, smart enough and we don’t have fast enough horse or Starship either.
We are dependent; we need a Savior.
God loves humans. He traversed the universe to seek us out, died in our stead and rescued us. The sooner we accept this, the more fully we accept this – the more human we become, the more loved we become.
Live long and prosper. Trust Jesus.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. He works with both with individuals and couples, helping people confess their need and embrace their available choices to lead healthier lives. Roger also teaches and leads discussion groups and retreats applying the Gospel to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean and they have seven children and nine grandchildren.