Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why We Should Elect William Shatner (aka Captain Kirk) to be Canada's Next Prime Minister

Recently when asked by fans if he would like to become Canada's Governor General (chief of state, but more of an honourary figurehead), William Shatner turned them down saying that rather than a ceremonial role he would want to be Prime Minister of Canada, an active role in which he could "lead Canada into even greater exploits."

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Just as Arnold Schwarzenegger could do well as California Governor, and wanting to improve on the Global National piece above, I believe a case can be made for William Shatner, or better yet Captain Kirk, to be the next great Canadian Prime Minister.

  1. Star Trek and Captain Kirk (aka William Shatner) present us with a better, ideal future—where technology solves all problems, there is full equality and no racism. There's no more poverty, no more war and no global financial crisis—they don't even use money anymore! Star Trek has always been about "boldly going where no one has gone before." That's the kind of leadership we need in a Prime Minister.
  2. No matter what the challenge, Captain Kirk always came up with a plan that prevailed so that every episode of Star Trek could end with the Enterprise and her crew ready to fly to their next mission. Faced with the worst case scenario, the Captain questions himself, "What have I done?" And Dr. McCoy encourages him saying, "What you had to do, what you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live." image
  3. The starships, aliens and phasers are really cool, but Captain Kirk always focused on the human drama (or human-alien drama). He excelled as a Captain not because of the Enterprise's incredible phaser power and photon torpedoes, but because he knew how to get inside his opponent's head and win (think "The Corbomite Maneuver").

Regular readers of my blog are probably wondering, What in the universe is this all about? Isn't Ken's blog about the Bible, interpretation and contemporary issues facing Christians? For you, here's a more suitable title for this posting:

Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Revelation (and apocalyptic writings),
I Learned from Captain Kirk and Star Trek

ussenterprisea104mh6And, yes, I am serious. The church has been plagued with the most strange, alien and bizarre interpretations of the book of Revelation (as well as the other Biblical apocalyptic writings). We need a new and better way of understanding Apocalyptic writing.

We don't write apocalypses in 2009; it's not a genre used today, but science fiction is everywhere around us, on TV (Fringe), in movies (new Star Trek movie coming soon!) and in novels (Twilight). We would have a much better chance of rightly understanding biblical apocalyptic writings like Revelation if we think of them as being like science fiction. No Trekkie expects to get in a fight with a Klingon tomorrow, but to learn something about honour and loyalty—well, this is quite possible. Reading Revelation like we read science fiction is far more respectful and insightful than reading it like the authors of the popular Left Behind novels who see it more as a Farmer's Almanac or horoscope which can be used to scare people into believing.

My three points above promoting Captain Kirk for Prime Minister are actually about how Star Trek can help us to understand Biblical apocalyptic writings like Revelation.

  1. Apocalyptic writings like Revelation give us a vision of a perfect future, but present no hope for us to get there apart from the incredible intervention of "the Son of Man." The writings assure us this future will come in spite of present circumstances.
  2. Revelation does comfort us in the present crisis we find ourselves in. It sometimes shows despair about anything getting better in our world, but still it constantly affirms that God is in control and despite appearances, his plan is in motion. God will bring about future victory through our present defeats, just as Jesus Christ prevailed through dying on the cross. The resurrection turned death into a chance to live, and to live life to the full! image
  3. Symbols, wild imagery and fixation on special numbers are found throughout apocalyptic writings (the Beast, ten horns and seven heads, 666), but the focus should be on the human drama and how Christ, the Son of Man, is leading us. Ignoring this Christ-centered focus, many have come up with the strangest ideas of what Revelation is all about. Personal recommendation: don't get so caught up in the symbols, imagery and number that you lose sight of Jesus!

As it turns out, both Revelation and science fiction may seem to be describing the future, but they both have a lot to say about the present. They both offer quite a critical social commentary on how we live today, on how we treat others and on how much we need to change. To conclude, the following video shows three scenes from three eras of Star Trek. Each clip is followed by a verse from Revelation showing how both have much the same message and graphic method of presentation.

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The pictures and video clips used here are being used solely for academic purposes and no profit of any sort is being derived. Credits as follows:
1. Star Trek: The Original Series, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" (CBS/Paramount Television)
1b. picture of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and most of the cast of the original series of Star Trek at the dedication ceremony of the test Shuttle Enterprise (renamed due to a massive letter writing campaign by Trekkies)
2. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (CBS/Paramount Pictures)
3. Star Trek: Phase II, "Blood and Fire, Part 1" (James Cawley Productions) You've really got to check this out! It's an all new web-based Star Trek, continuing The Original Series, year 4 of the 5 year mission: Star Trek: Phase II. They've even had Original Series stars like Walter Koenig (Chekov) and George Takei (Sulu) included in their production. "Blood and Fire" is the fourth episode and the first teaser for this episode said that it was dedicated to "all the men, women and children who have died of AIDS because of the silence, the inaction, the cowardice and the hypocrisy of those few who had the opportunity to speak up and make a difference—and did not. " That, in my opinion, is classic Roddenberry Star Trek.
3b. picture from Star Trek: Generations (CBS/Paramount Pictures)

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Friday, March 13, 2009

What Ads Have Theists Run on Buses?

The claim has been made that the current Atheist Bus ads are being run in response to ads containing "Christian doomsday preaching that suggested that you would go to hell if you didn't believe in God particularly their belief system." I have not heard the people behind the Atheist Bus ad campaign making such a claim; instead they said they wanted "to bring awareness to the general public about atheism, humanism.... we hope to spark conversations between believers and non-believers." I think that's cool and I welcome the respect and conversation, so I wanted to respond to the more "inflammatory" claim. Personally, I would not approve of damning ads, though as previously mentioned, I did like the Die Hard 4 parody ad (see previous post).

When Global's Darryl Konynenbelt interviewed a representative from the British Humanist Association which originally designed the Atheist Bus ads, she said that their ads were in response to some Christian ads that ran on UK buses with a link to www.jesussaid.org (see previous post for the video). Then she commented that these ads "clearly said that anyone not following Jesus would be condemned to eternal damnation and hellfire." These ads were Bible verses about Jesus which so far as I could see never condemned anyone to hell, but did at times present an exclusive message: Jesus is THE Way, for example. Here's my quick mock-up of the bus ad shown on a UK bus in the documentary:

It was said of JESUS: Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. 
                                                                                   John 1: 29

I liked this one from the UK bus ads:

JESUS said: When the Son of Man comes, will He find Faith on the Earth?
                                                                                   Luke 18: 8

Anyhow, what about ads in Canada? The atheistbus.ca website gave a link to a blog with links to some Ottawa bus ads that Christians have run. I remember some of these also running on the TTC, in particular the "busstopbiblestudies" ones which always included the name of a local church with service times. See what you think....

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Monday, March 9, 2009

There's Probably Something to Talk About

ttc bus ad

Atheists are taking it to the streets in Canada, with the Atheist Bus Campaign. Some people are outraged; the ads have been banned in Halifax, but accepted in Toronto and Calgary. For what it's worth, I was reminded of a quote from Philosophy for Dummies which claims that "Atheism is an urban phenomenon."

Global TV's new investigative journalism show, 16x9 The Bigger Picture, ran quite a good story on the bus campaign and debate. Watch it! It might give us something to talk about... video

tmlPersonally, I think this bus ad campaign gives us an opportunity to discuss something more significant than the Maple Leafs losing yet another game. All too often we spend most of our social time talking about nothing that really matters. This discussion, I think, matters. And on this, it would seem that many atheists in Toronto agree with me, a Christian! In the FAQ section of their website, they give this as the reason for the bus ad campaign:

Through our ads we hope to spark conversations between believers and non-believers so that we may better understand each other and learn from one another.

That sounds reasonable to me. The ads have given me a couple opportunities to have a couple very brief conversations and I hope for more, so here I am blogging about it. Post a reply, let's dialogue.

Now some Christians are among those who are outraged about these atheist ads appearing on buses. I would encourage a more even response. Outrage over Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code only worked to make it more popular. Rage at schools reading Harry Potter books or more recently The Golden Compass books also seems misplaced. We can do better than "rage" as we respond to popular things happening around us, can't we?

A retired professor of Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, who now serves at my church as an associate priest came up with a counter-slogan to the bus ad as well as some advice:

"There probably is a God--so stop worrying, the world is not a runaway bus."

That's theologian David Reed's offering, when asked to give an alternative to the atheistic slogan that's been plastered on [buses] .... Like his slogan, the approach Reed recommends in responding to these ads is creative and non-polemical: “Don't get grouchy and defensive and reactionary; treat it much more lightly.”

I agree with him (the full article can be found here). The atheists sponsoring these bus ads want to spark conversations, not fireworks, so let's talk. Maybe we will find it helpful to better understand where they're coming from, and maybe then they too would like to hear where we're coming from. And maybe we can go there together on the TTC.united church ad

P.S. Does anybody remember the bus ad that was all over buses everywhere promoting Die Hard 4? Isn't it odd that it was never controversial? I even looked up John 6:27 before I fully clued in.

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