It was fun to re-connect with the old characters: Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, “Bones” McCoy, Scotty, Mr. Sulu, Lieutenant Uhura and their nemesis, Khan. Of course the original actors are gone, except for a cameo appearance by Leonard Nimoy as the aged Spock. Through the magic of cinema and imagination we were transported back to their youth and the beginning of the five-year voyage to “go where no man has gone before.”
I didn’t grow up with Star Trek. But Gene Roddenberry’s Original Series, launched in 1966, caught my imagination. My son did grow up with Star Trek, the Next Generation, and taped every episode on VHS (If you wonder what VHS is, look in a museum). When he was twelve, we gave him a book detailing the schematics of the Starship Enterprise.
In the Original Series most episodes had underlying moral and social themes exposing racism, bigotry, greed and blind ambition; promoting friendship, loyalty and self-sacrifice. Invariably the age-old conflict of good and evil was played out among the stars. Often, the plot sought to reveal the conflicts resident within each of us.
Except for vastly improved special effects, this newest Star Trek movie stayed true to the original pattern. After two hours of violence and vengeance, woven with the interplay of logic and emotion, the young Captain Kirk draws the final conclusion in his address to an assembly of Star Trek Cadets: “Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us. But that’s not who we are.”
His conclusion echoes lessons passed down to us from centuries past, lessons lodged in history and reality. Jesus said, “Do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two.” “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.”
These are hard lessons in a world where senseless murder and the slaughter of innocent men, women and children has become commonplace. Indeed, our first instinct is vengeance. But there must be a better way. There must be a higher road.
Jesus showed us the way by how he lived, what he said, and the way he died. When He was cursed, slapped and ridiculed with a crown of thorns, he refused to fight back. When He was nailed to the cross, He refused to curse his tormentors and, instead, prayed for their forgiveness.
Inspired by His example and empowered by His resurrection, His followers transformed the Roman Empire within three centuries. Jesus’ life and teachings inspired such social reformers as Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Most movements to free the oppressed, relieve the poor, heal the sick and care for the outcast, the widow and the orphan can trace their origins to Jesus.