Archive for the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Tag

The Importance of Being Morally Fit for Triumph   1 comment

Above:  The Confession of Captain Benjamin Sisko in In the Pale Moonlight (1998)

A Screen Capture I Took Via PowerDVD

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Or, What Reinhold Niebuhr Has to Do With Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine

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So… I lied. I cheated. I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all… I think I can live with it. And if I had to do it all over again, I would. Garak was right about one thing, a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant. So I will learn to live with it. Because I can live with it. I can live with it… Computer, erase that entire personal log.

–Captain Benjamin Sisko, In the Pale Moonlight (1998)

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Recently I completed my rewatch of Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine (1993-1999), the best of the Star Trek series.  I had recorded most of the episodes from 1993 to 1999, but I had not sat down and watched the series from beginning to end, skipping certain really bad episodes.  DS9 was the last great Star Trek series–certainly heads and shoulders over Voyager (1995-2001) and Enterprise (2001-2005), two series notable for, among other faults, playing it safe and ignoring continuity much of the time.  DS9 did not play it safe, especially after its troubled first season.  The Dominion War arc certainly took the series into dark and morally ambiguous territory, only part of which I consider in this post.

The Neo-Orthodox theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), a Cold War liberal, had a strong moral compass and an awareness of human sinfulness.  He opened The Irony of American History (1952) with a statement of the possibility that the means by which the free world, led by the United States, might have to win the Cold War might leave the victors morally unfit to govern.  The use of atomic weapons would not only endanger civilization, kill many people,  and cause much physical destruction, he wrote, but lead to moral complications for the victors:

The victors would also face the “imperial” problem of using power in global terms but from one particular center of authority, so preponderant and unchallenged that its world rule would almost certainly violate basic standards of justice.

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As Commander William Adama stated in Resurrection Ship, Part II (2006), an episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (2003-2008),

It’s not enough to survive; one must be worthy of surviving.

In the story lines of Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine the Dominion War raged for years and endangered the great powers of the Alpha and  Beta Quadrants–the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, and the United Federation of Planets.  (Aside:  The scripts tended not to mention the Beta Quadrant, but, according to official Star Trek lore, the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, and much of the Federation were in the Beta Quadrant.)  Forces of the Dominion, an empire presided over by the shape-shifting Founders, fought to conquer the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.  The body counts were staggering and the Dominion seemed to be on the verge of victory.  Times were desperate.

In In the Pale Moonlight (1998) Captain Benjamin Sisko, with the approval of the Federation Council, conspired to trick the Romulan Star Empire into abandoning its non-aggression treaty with the Dominion.  The plan was to convince one Romulan senator, Vreenak, that the Dominion was plotting to invade the Romulan Star Empire.  There was no evidence of this, so Sisko, with Federation approval, arranged for the forging of evidence.  Certainly the Dominion would invade the Romulan Star Empire in time, given the nature of the Dominion and the Founders’ sense of superiority to solids.  Furthermore, the Federation needed for the Romulans to enter the war on its side.  Vreenak recognized the forgery as such, but Elim Garak, who hired the forger then killed him or had him killed, planted a bomb on Vreenak’s shuttle craft.  The leadership of the Romulan Star Empire blamed the Dominion for Vreenak’s death and declared war.  The Federation had a new ally.  Sisko admitted his crimes in private and confessed that he could live with his guilty conscience.

As I have pondered this episode and others, all the way through the end of the series, I have realized that, as the writers presented the story of the Dominion War, Sisko was correct; his crimes were necessary.  The Romulans were crucial to the defeat of the Dominion, after all.

In The Maquis, Part II (1994) Sisko analyzed the difficult situation of a group rebels-terrorists succinctly:

On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it’s easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there in the Demilitarized Zone, all the problems haven’t been solved yet. Out there, there are no saints — just people. Angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with Federation approval or not!

However, later, in For the Uniform (1997), Sisko poisoned the atmosphere of  Maquis colony world and prepared to do the same to other Maquis colonies.  A vendetta against one Maquis leader, Michael Eddington, inspired this plan.

Above:  Dr. Julian Bashir Confronts Admiral William Ross in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges (1999)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Sisko, the greatest of all the Star Trek captains, did not live in paradise, neither was he a saint.  Neither was Admiral William Ross, as in Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges (1999).  In a story reminiscent of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,  a great Cold War thriller, Admiral Ross plotted with Section 31, the Federation’s black operations agency that officially does not exist, to frame an innocent and  patriotic Romulan senator and thereby improve the political standing of a double agent.  After all, as Ross said in Latin, quoting Cicero,

In time of war the law falls silent.

Later in the series Dr. Julian Bashir, who takes his Hippocratic Oath seriously, learns that Section 31 was responsible for infecting the Founders of the Dominion with a fatal virus–that the Federation was responsible for attempted genocide.  The Federation, as Gene Roddenberry conceived of it in the 1960s, was a noble and idealistic organization.  DS9 did more to expose the dark underbelly of the Federation than did any other filmed incarnation of Star Trek.  DS9 gave us Section 31, for example.  The writers seemed to present Section 31 in such a way as to make plain its moral dubiousness as well as its practical necessity.

Roddenberry’s Federation is an analog for the United States of America, just as the Klingon Empire is an analog for the Soviet Union.  Thus, in Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country (1991) the two powers begin to end their cold war.  Since the Federation stands in for the U.S.A., the moral questions the Federation faces during the Dominion War might remind one of morally questionable policies of the U.S. Government over time, especially in the context of the Cold War and events since September 11, 2001.   Overthrowing democratically elected governments that are merely inconvenient to U.S. business interests and installing military dictatorships that victimize their own citizenry for decades contradicts U.S. ideals, does it not?  Supporting brutal regimes–whether fascist or military dictatorships–because they are not communist should trouble one’s conscience, should it not?  Also, committing and condoning torture makes one morally unfit.  Whom would Jesus torture?  As Niebuhr reminds us down the corridors of time, we must be morally fit, not just victorious.

All of this brings me to a point:  How can we defend ideals that are in peril by violating those ideals?  We cannot, of course.  Yes, we might have to get our hands dirty, so to speak, but, if we get them too dirty, we compromise ourselves morally and render ourselves morally unfit to serve the interests of justice.   How we treat others is about our character, not theirs.  We may not live in paradise, but how close to the standard of sainthood can we live?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/the-importance-of-being-morally-fit-for-triumph/

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1 Samuel and Acts, Part II: Answering the Call of God   1 comment

shiloh

Above:  Shiloh, 1898-1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005002884/PP/)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 3:1-21

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

Acts 16:1-22

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Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/proper-4-year-b/

Acts 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fifth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-seventh-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

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When God speaks to us, do we recognize this reality?  And, if we do, how do we respond?  Samuel came to know that God was calling him.  Eli accepted the harsh news regarding his family.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy responded to God’s call by preaching to others.  Lydia and her husband responded by extending hospitality to those who had converted them.

The Larger Westminster Catechism begins:

Q:  What is the chief and highest end of man?

A:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

That is an excellent summary of Christian vocation.  It is also a general statement.  Particulars depend on circumstances and other factors, such as who one is, where one is, and when one is there.

Recently I have been watching the Ronald D. Moore version of Battlestar Galactica from beginning to end again.  In one of the last episodes President Laura Roslin tells Lee Adama that she has one concern about him:  He is so determined to do the right thing that he does not always do the smart thing.  Indeed, managing to be wise yet innocent can prove difficult.  And, once one has lost innocence, can one regain it?  And how dirty can one get while trying to perform good deeds (or at least the best ones possible) in the real world before one becomes corrupted?

I lack good answers to these important questions.  They are hard questions, so easy answers will not suffice.  But, by grace, we can shed light in the real world, enjoy and glorify God, do the right and smart thing, and obey the call of God as it plays out where and when we are.  God has the answers; look there for them, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, FOUNDER OF THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH ABOLITIONIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/devotion-for-july-20-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Showing Mercy   1 comment

Above:  Commander William Adama, from the Second Season of Battlestar Galactica

(A screen capture I took via PowerDVD)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Samuel 24:2-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks.  And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself.  Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave.  And the men of David said to him,

Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, “Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem to you.”

Then David arose and stealthily cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe.  And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.  He said to his men,

The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing that he is the LORD’s anointed.

So David persuaded his men with these words, and did not permit them to attack Saul.  And Saul rose up and left the cave, and went upon his way.

Afterward David also arose, and went out of the cave, and called after Saul,

My lord the king!

And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth, and did obesiance.  And David said to Saul,

Why do you listen to the words of men who say, “Behold, David seeks your hurt”?  Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you today into my hand in the cave and some bade me to kill you, but I spared you.  I said, “I will not put forth my hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’s anointed.  See, my father, see the skirt of your robe in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off the skirt of your robe, and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands.  I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it.  May the LORD judge between me and you, may the LORD avenge me upon you; but my hand shall not be against you.  After whom has the king of Israel come out?  After whom do you pursue?  After a dead dog!  After a flea!  May the LORD therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and you, and see to it, and plead my cause, and deliver me from your hand.

When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said,

Is this your voice, my son David?

And Saul lifted up his voice and wept.  He said to David,

You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, where as I have repaid you evil.  And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the LORD put me into your hands.  For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe?  So may the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.  And now, behold, I know you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand….

Psalm 57 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful,

for I have taken refuge in you;

in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge

until this time of trouble has gone by.

2  I will call upon the Most High God,

the God who maintains my cause.

3  He will send from heaven and save me;

he will confound those who trample upon me;

God will send forth his love and his faithfulness.

4  I lie in the midst of lions that devour the people;

their teeth are spears and arrows,

their tongue is a sharp sword.

5  They have laid a net for my feet,

and I am bowed low;

they have dug a pit before me,

but they have fallen into it themselves.

6  Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God,

and your glory over all the earth.

7  My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed;

I will sing and make melody.

8  Wake up, my spirit;

awake, lute and harp;

I myself will waken the dawn.

9  I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD;

I will sing praise to you among the nations.

10  For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens,

and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

11  Exalt yourselves above the heavens, O God,

and your glory over all the earth.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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The lesson to forgive one’s enemies and leave judgment to God is consistent with the Bible.  However, like other Biblical lessons, it has insincere echoes on tee-shirts and bumper stickers.  So, in the same vein as “DO UNTO OTHERS BEFORE THEY DO UNTO YOU,” one might read, “FORGIVE YOUR ENEMIES–NOTHING ANNOYS THEM MORE.”  I prefer the Biblical version.

Saul had tried to kill David more than once.  When 1 Samuel 24 began, David found Saul in a rather vulnerable position in a cave and chose not to kill him or even to harm him.  David did, however, inform Saul of what he would have done, had he been inclined to do so.  This did not end the conflict between the two men, but it did have at least a momentary affect on the troubled monarch.

It can be difficult to choose not to wield the sword or another weapon; some might even call it being “soft,” as in “soft on defense.”  There are subcultures where being “hard,” as in the opposite of “soft,” is considered a virtue.  (Prisons and jails come to mind immediately.)  But consider this:  David, in 1 Samuel 24, was not being passive.  Nevertheless, he did choose not to assassinate his king and father-in-law, who had tried to murder him more than once.  David acted properly and informed Saul, thereby appealing to the conscience of the king.

As Commander William Adama said in Resurrection Ship, Part II, an episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica,

It’s not enough to survive; one must be worthy of surviving.

How much suffering would not have occurred in human history had someone, in a certain time and place, shown restraint and therefore broken the cycle of violence?  How much suffering might one prevent in contemporary times by demonstrating similar restraint?  I wonder.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.), 1983

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA, 1925

THE FEAST OF SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/week-of-2-epiphany-friday-year-2/

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