Thursday, April 05, 2012

First (and Last) Contact

Happy first contact day!

As any self respecting Trekkie/Trekker will be aware, April 5th is an auspicious day in Trek lore; this date marks the moment when for the first time, the human race made first contact with an alien species (the Vulcans).

Zefram Cochrane Greets A Vulcan in Star Trek: First Contact
Because the date falls in Holy Week this year, it has caused me to ponder the nature of first contact and how in some ways it relates to the great act of reconciliation performed by Christ on that terrible, precious and wondrous day, some 2,000 years ago.

"But wait!" I hear you cry, "Star Trek has nothing to do with religion. In the 24th century, humanity is completely secularised and has no belief in a deity".  I could cite several facts that dispute the absolutism of this claim from the show's own canon... but my aim here is not to say "Star Trek is religious" but rather instead to look at an event from Star Trek's timeline and look at how its subsequent effect parallels a spiritual truth. That said, if you want to read more about the case being made for religion in Star Trek, I thoroughly recommend the insights in this article by Chase Masterson, who played Leeta in Deep Space 9.

What really stands out to me about the first contact scenario in Star Trek, is that contact is prohibited with a species until they have passed a certain milestone... the achievement of warp drive (the rationale being that for a species to have acquired the technology necessary, they must have reached a certain level of intelligence and peaceful coexistence). Prior to April 5th 2063 in Star Trek's history, it is only through misadventure or villainy that humans encountered aliens at all... and they certainly don't have a day to day relationship with the visitors.

This to me is in many ways very similar to our spiritual condition and how we relate to God. In the ancient past God spoke to our ancestors and forefathers through prophets and teachers who were specially appointed by him. However we weren't able to broaden our horizons and have an intimate relationship with him, due to our brokenness and sinful nature (our way of life that was centred around selfish living and hostility towards God's desire for us to be dependent on Him). What we needed was a game changing event that drew us nearer to God... not a technological milestone, but a spiritual one.

In Star Trek, humanity finally passed the milestone of warp drive through Zefram Cochrane's development of warp technology and his first flight aboard his spaceship, The Phoenix. There was an irony in the design of the Phoenix... it's first stage engines were originally part of a nuclear missile... and so it was that a symbol of death and destruction became integral to the ushering in the dawn of a new age of peace and happiness on the planet Earth:

This for me is in many ways exactly what Jesus did for us on that other universally acknowledged symbol of death - the cross. It was Christ's willing sacrifice on the cross that made it possible for people to become close to God in a properly established relationship. Jesus Christ - The Alpha and Omega, the First and Last... became our first contact. The cross became the warp signature that lit up the night sky and brought us firmly into God's spotlight.

There are a couple of very important differences of course.  Zefram Cochrane was one man among many... if he had not invented warp drive, then it would certainly have been achievable by another character at some point in the future of humanity. Jesus was and is not just another human being. He was in his very nature, God as well as human.  There could never be another Jesus... only he was able to bridge the gap between man and God because of the fact that he was uniquely both.

Technology can be developed by many people but atonement was only achievable by The One.

As I previously mentioned, in Star Trek the achievement of warp drive is seen as an indicator that a race is refined and sophisticated enough to be worthy of contact by advanced alien species... but the cross exists because the very opposite is true. We are not worthy... we are not ready, but when God looks at the cross he sees us as ready because he sees us through the lens of his Son, Jesus.

As we move towards Good Friday, we remember the milestone that made our own personal first contact with God possible.... and just as the Vulcans descended to Earth to commune with those first humans, Jesus Christ stands at the threshold of each of our lives with the deep hope and intent that we too, will commune with him:
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me."
Revelation 3:20
The Most Important First Contact You Will Ever Make.
Jesus said that he had come that we may have life and have it in abundance... to the full!

In knowing him, may you live long... and prosper.

Things to share:
  • Have you made "first contact" with God? What was it like for you?
  • What are your thoughts about religion and Star Trek?

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