Posts Tagged ‘theology’

I think that Destiny and Revelation have common denominators.  Not only do both posses a massive feeling of “otherness” or “beyondness” to them, but I think the two are both often inconvenient; neither, as Optimus Prime said, “calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.”  Rather, they present themselves in the midst of moments wherein nothing can be done about them “right then” and, as such, things must wait and risk the moment fading away.  Recently, I had a moment like this and only now record it, willing it to stay within the foreground of my memory.

When considering a instance of destiny in modern American culture, few are more poignant in my mind than the tale of John Connor in the Terminator films.  The story of a young boy possessing the knowledge of not only what he will become, but what must happen to the world in order for him to become it; always racing against time to prevent it and stave off disaster.  It is within this story that a recent revelation arose. In the first Terminator film, the T-101 cyborg is sent back in time to the year 1984 by Skynet, a self- aware artificial intelligence system bent on the destruction of humanity.  The programmed mission a simple one: kill Sarah Connor, the mother of John Connor.  John was to grow up and save humanity by leading the human resistance in defeating Skynet in the future.  The Terminator pursues this mission relentlessly, with a detached ruthlessness beyond human capacity.  The T-101 nearly succeeds, but for the valiant efforts of John’s father, Kyle Reese, a solider from the future sent back to protect Sarah.

In 1991, Terminator 2 released and changed the Terminator mythos, forever.  The year is 1995.  Sarah Connor has been committed to a facility for the mentally unstable and 10 year old John Conner is living with foster parents.  Once again, Skynet has sent a Terminator back in time to kill the Connor family, and the resistance has sent a new protector as well: a Terminator; encountered, reprogrammed, and re-purposed by John Conner to protect him and his mother. 

J.R.R. Tolkien is often credited with the idea that any Myth is ultimately reflecting the truth of Christianity.  While the Terminator franchise is certainly myth, I find that it actually supports Tolkien’s idea and reflects the story of a central character in the New Testament: The Apostle Paul.  When Saul/Paul is first mentioned in Acts 7, at the stoning of Stephen, he is approving of those taking part in the actions against Stephen.  Just a chapter or so later, he is actively pursuing violence against the newborn Christian church, seen as a threat to Jewish religious thought.  As recorded in Acts 9, Saul is en-route to Damascus, the Capital City of Syria, to quell the fledgling church there when he has an encounter with Jesus Christ and the path of his life is altered and Saul, now named Paul, is repurposed to work on behalf of the growing church he dedicated his entire life to decimating before his conversion.  Ultimately, the fate of the Terminator and the Apostle are the same – a life with new purpose and death while in the service of the one who gave them new purpose.

And as an an interesting aside, John Conner possesses the same initials as Jesus Christ and in both cases, powerful forces attempted to kill them as children, before either could fulfil their destinies – fictional or actual.

Advertisements

“Don’t let your pride get in the way of forgiveness” – Lion-o, Lord of the Thudercats

I have memories of watching the original Thundercats alongside the Silverhawks when I was very young, and when Cartoon Network aired both series together when I was in High School.  Last fall, Cartoon Network launched an updated reboot of the Thundercats which I have grown to enjoy more than the original series, as it is structured as a weekly serial instead of a daily afternoon cartoon, thus allowing for episodes to build one upon another in ways both large and small.

The new show establishes the Thundercats living in peace in the land of Thundera on the planet Third Earth, having long triumphed over their mortal enemies the lizards and the ancient evil known as Mum-Ra, the ever living.  Mistakenly thought to be forever vanquished, Mum-ra returns and lays waste to Thundera, leaving Lion-o and Tygra – the sons of Claudis, Lord of the Thudercats – among the few survivors of the attack.  Joining with General Panthro and Cheetara, the last of the clerics of Thundera, the sons of Claudis set out on a quest to gather the artifacts described in the book of Omens and once again defeat Mum-Ra.

In the latest episode, Native Son, Tygra and Lion-o discover a long tribe of tiger-like beings,who are fearful of creatures born of darkness who torment their people.  It’s quickly established that the leader of this tribe is actually Tygra’s birth father, and Claudis and his Queen adopted Tygra in a scenario similar to the Kent’s in the Superman mythos or the biblical story of Moses.  Understandably, Tygra is conflicted about these circumstances having just discovered the truth of his origins and holds it against his new-found father.  As always, the story is never so simple.  Lion-o learns that to save the tiger tribe years ago  from a deadly disease, the elders – including Tygra’s father – make a deal with the Ancient Spirits of Evil (the ones Mum-Ra calls upon to transform his decayed form). To uphold the tigers’ end of the deal, Tygra’s father would have to kill him  (for the Ancient Spirits knew that one day Tygra would oppose them).  Instead, the father puts his son in a flying basket of sorts wherein he is later found by Caludis and the Queen (furthering the Moses/Superman nod).  Now that Tygra is once again among them and fighting on the side of the Thundercats, his life is endangered as some within the tribe seek to keep their end of the old bargain.  Ultimately it is Tygra’s willingness to forgive the prideful actions of his tribes-people that frees them from influence of the Ancient Spirits and showcases his opposition to them.

It’s hard NOT to see threads of the Gospel woven into this episode, as the power of both spiritual evil and forgiveness are highlighted in addition to seeing a character struggle with the identity of what he was born into versus what he later becomes and the events that under-gird that transformation.   I would bet that Tygra’s father never thought he would one day be reunited with his son and that his son would be the agent of his redemption, much like the redemption story of Darth Vader in Star Wars and the echoes of the Gospel which emanate from it.  When creators of movie and television content create these threads (such as in Spiderman 3), I wonder if it is intentional; if not, it further points to the Wisdom of Tolkien when he observed that all mythology that we create is a splintered reflection of the One True Myth:  The Creator’s story of the Gospel.

I look forward to spying similar threads in other shows like Green Lantern:  The Animated Series or even Young Justice.

Aaron

PS:  No, the FENX is nothing like General Panthro’s ThunderTank…

Author’s note: I’m spoiling the plot for a few of the original Star Trek films here, so if you have never seen them and plan to, stop. reading. now.

The genesis of a blog post will often come in like The Flash, swift and mind jarring, and at the most random times.  Recently I was thinking back to a few summers ago when a local cinema in Washington, DC was showing some of the original Star Trek films at midnight in preparation for the imminent release of the reboot directed by J.J. Abrams.  As such, when some friends of mine asked if I wanted to go see Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Kahn with them at midnight I couldn’t turn down the offer to see the finest film in the series on the silver screen, as it was released shortly before I was born.  Over the years I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the film (and it’s sequel) because of how it handles issue of life, death, loss, love, and responsibility (or lack thereof) and the reality that “no one is ever safe” in the midst of characters that for many are synonymous with popular culture.

The tale begins with Admiral James Kirk overseeing a batch of cadets at Starfleet Academy undergoing the Kobyashi Maru scenario, a test of command ability that everyone fails.  It’s Kirk’s birthday and he struggles with aging and riding a desk job instead of exploring the galaxy from the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Soon enough, they are asked to take the Enterprise on a mission with the training crew of cadets to investigate an incident at a Federation starbase, Regula I.  Meanwhile, another Starfleet vessel, the U.S.S. Reliant, has been hijacked by an old enemy of Kirk’s, an enemy bent on revenge for actions from 15 years prior.  This enemy comes across knowledge of the Genesis Device – technology that can create life from lifelessness (as well as the reverse), which happens to have been created and stewarded by an old flame of  Admiral Kirk’s and the son Kirk never knew.  After a brutal battle fueled by the rage of his old enemy, Kirk’s best friend makes a great sacrifice to keep the  “ship…out of danger…” telling James that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one” and the film concludes with the hope of new life from lifelessness.

Star Trek III begins with little time having passed.  The father of Kirk’s best friend visits him, begging him to find his son and return him to his home planet so he can be restored.  To do this, entails great risk and possible loss, because he must return to the planet that the Genesis Device was unleashed upon, something the United Federation of Planets has forbidden, as wonderfully expounded upon by a minor character in the film with “Genesis?!  Genesis allowed is NOT, Genesis forbidden…”  Gathering his willing crew members, Kirk steals the Enterprise from Starfleet and returns to Genesis to find his friend, only to find his son (and his friend) planet side and in danger from the   mortal enemy of the Federation, the Klingon Empire.  Rescuing the friend entails great personal  loss to James Kirk and when the the friend is restored he asks Kirk “why?  Why did you come back for me?”  The unspoken secondary questions being why did you sacrifice your ship and the chance to save your son to save me?  Why did you allow yourself to risk and ultimately lose the things that have defined you for as long as we have been friends?”  Kirk simply responds, “because sometimes the needs of the one, outweigh the needs of the few or the many”.

I ruminate on this idea every so often because we live in a culture that loves to talk about “the greater good” or the “greatest good for the greatest number” and yet in our actions it is more about “I want what I want and I wanted it two days ago so why isn’t it here yet?”  Two conflicting ideas that very rarely work together and always live contentiously within one another’s orbits.  Neither of them are always right and sometimes neither of them are the proper choice in a given situation.  I think about Christ’s parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18:12-14, wherein he asks if the Shepherd won’t go in search of the one who is lost and leave the ninety-nine to do it.  The answer is of course “yes, he would” as the question is a rhetorical one.  It flows into the same sort of question that the Apostle Paul asks in Romans 8:31 “If God is FOR Us, then who can be against us?”  Answering the question is GOD for you?” is much easier than answering the question”Is God for YOU?” or to put it at eye level “Is God for ME?”  The answer is yes, but coming to terms with that answer in our finite confines is a challenge that can take a lifetime to overcome, because we often do not see ourselves as God sees us:  worth the risk and the potential for loss.  Spock didn’t see himself as Kirk saw him.

Sometimes when I meet others as a result of the FENX, occasionally I will be asked the question of “why did your dad do this?” after I tell them the tale of it taking three years to build.  Some don’t ask the question because the answer is an obvious one, but to those that ask it I simply say that he built it because he loves me, he built it because he sees me in a better light than I see me, he built it because I had a need, and sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the few or the many.