It's time for cosmic theology as we examine the spiritual depths of Star Wars and Star Trek. Covering everything from Jedi to Klingons, Michelle Maldonado and Ryan Dunn are going boldly forth seeking the spiritual in space.
Join us as we explore the theological reflections found in these iconic franchises.
In this episode:
Star Trek shows and movies, including: Discovery, Lower Decks, Picard, Prodigy, the original series, the movies, and Strange New Worlds are all on Paramount+
Star Wars shows and movies, including Book of Boba Fett, Rogue One, Ahsoka, and The Mandalorian are all on Disney+
Want to take the quiz?
Your job is to figure which franchise the following quotes came from. Can you beat Michelle?
- Live long and prosper.
- I find your lack of faith disturbing.
- Resistance is futile.
- To boldly go where no man — where no one — has gone… before.
- Lieutenant, you are looking at the only man to beat the no-win scenario.
- Why you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf-herder!
- What does God need with a starship?
- Get the cheese to sickbay.
- The only emotion I wish to convey is gratitude.
- I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you; and I intend to go on hurting you.
- I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.”
These next few quotes could be from Star Trek, Star Wars or The Bible!
- But good words; that’s where ideas begin. Maybe you should listen to them.
- Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.
- So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause.
- Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.
- Your focus determines your reality.
- Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.
- There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can’t explain what happened.
Ready to see how you did?
Here are the answers:
- Live long and prosper. TREK
- I find your lack of faith disturbing. WARS
- Resistance is futile. TREK
- To boldly go where no man — where no one — has gone… before. TREK
- Lieutenant, you are looking at the only man to beat the no-win scenario. TREK
- Why you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf-herder! WARS
- What does God need with a starship? TREK
- Get the cheese to sickbay. TREK
- The only emotion I wish to convey is gratitude. TREK
- I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you; and I intend to go on hurting you. TREK
- I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. WARS
These next few quotes could be from Star Trek, Star Wars or The Bible!
- But good words; that’s where ideas begin. Maybe you should listen to them. TREK
- Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end. TREK
- So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause. WARS
- Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. BIBLE
- Your focus determines your reality. WARS
- Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. BIBLE
- There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can’t explain what happened. WARS
- Streaming recommendations for theological reflection
- Art and your spiritual journey
- From heroes to villains with Diana Butler Bass
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- Email our hosts Ryan Dunn and Michelle Maldonado about future topics and feedback.
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Thank you for listening, downloading, and subscribing.
This episode posted on August 9, 2023
Ryan Dunn [00:00:02]:
Hi there. Welcome back to the Compass podcast, where we dive deep into the divine and try to connect that to the everyday. Michelle Minal Donato. Let me say that again. Michelle, Monaldonado, welcome back to the Compass podcast. How are you?
Michelle Maldonado [00:00:17]:
I'm happy and great to be back. Yeah, you totally butchered my name there, but so good.
Ryan Dunn [00:00:24]:
I don't know what that was. Sometimes you start thinking a word or two ahead and it just butts into the word that is coming out of your mouth as you speak. Happens all the time.
Michelle Maldonado [00:00:35]:
Imagine with another language in there.
Ryan Dunn [00:00:38]:
Oh, yeah. No, I can't. I wish I could kind of lean on that, but that's not what's happening. Well, how goes it with your soul?
Michelle Maldonado [00:00:47]:
My long pause probably says more than I can explain.
Ryan Dunn [00:00:52]:
Wars that a pensive, exasperated sigh of a long pause, or was that just kind of a contented it's a Friday afternoon long pause.
Michelle Maldonado [00:01:05]:
A little bit of both. That's why I paused. I was trying to decide which one do I feel more? But I felt both equally.
Ryan Dunn [00:01:14]:
Yeah, it's kind of like when you butcher somebody's name, it's like everything wants to come out at. Yeah. Well, hopefully we're going to have quite a bit of fun with this episode. Michelle and I are opposites in so many ways. I mean, we share so much in common, right. But when it comes to entertainment and some of the cultural stuff yeah. We just seem to gravitate in different directions. Where I say marvel, Michelle says DC. Where I say Star Wars, you say Star Trek all the way. So here's what we're going to do in this age where I feel like everything is kind of polarized. We're going to find the middle ground, Michelle, and we're going to do that even in discussing our preferences for the opposite Star franchises. So in this episode of Compass, we're going to give five reasons why our preferred Star franchise, either Star Wars or Star Trek, is a good platform for theological reflection. Did I describe that well enough? Is that kind of what we're after?
Michelle Maldonado [00:02:27]:
Ryan Dunn [00:02:28]:
Michelle Maldonado [00:02:29]:
It might sound wild, but when we get into it, you'll be like, oh.
Ryan Dunn [00:02:33]:
I can see that it works. I think it's helpful to kind of use like culture is allegory for exploring deep theological ideas. I think it helps us put things into perspective. So in my mind, something like this isn't just frivolous, it's really kind of valuable, too. So that's why we're doing it. Well, before we get into our shared lists, Michelle, I did want to set the table a little bit in kind of setting our level of expertise up some. So I developed a quiz, and I'm going to ask you to kind of stand proxy for the listener, since you have the microphone and they do not. So you get to answer on their behalf on parts of this quiz. But the quiz is I'm going to read a quote, and you have to tell me which franchise it came from. Is it a Star Wars quote or a Star Trek quote? Easy enough. And this is me living out my fantasy that I always wanted to be a game show host. So this is such a thrill on so many levels for me. Love it.
Michelle Maldonado [00:03:40]:
I'm going to have to search back 60 years of Star Trek in my head.
Ryan Dunn [00:03:46]:
I know. It's so much of a deeper franchise in the longevity. People don't realize. Okay, so you had the show, which started in what, the late 60s?
Michelle Maldonado [00:03:55]:
No, early 60s.
Ryan Dunn [00:03:57]:
Michelle Maldonado [00:03:58]:
I want to say maybe 63, 64 around there, it started okay, but even.
Ryan Dunn [00:04:04]:
Before that, you had books, right? Roddenberry was writing I don't even know when, but yeah. So there is a whole dearth. Well, so I don't think any of the quotes that I'm sharing come out of the Star Trek books, but it might be movie, or it could be television show as well. Same for the Star Wars. All right, so this first one, we're going to go tough right off the bat. Long live and prosper.
Michelle Maldonado [00:04:33]:
Oh, that's Star Trek. Come on.
Ryan Dunn [00:04:36]:
Michelle Maldonado [00:04:36]:
Okay. I'm making the Spock live long and prosper symbol with my hand.
Ryan Dunn [00:04:44]:
Is that one of those genetic things? Can everybody do that? Like rolling your tongue?
Michelle Maldonado [00:04:49]:
I think it's more of a muscle practice, because you have to be able to separate those four fingers in the middle. As you can see, I'm used to it.
Ryan Dunn [00:05:00]:
Did you ever find yourself practicing when you were younger?
Michelle Maldonado [00:05:03]:
Yeah, of course.
Ryan Dunn [00:05:05]:
Okay. All right, next question. I find your lack of faith disturbing.
Michelle Maldonado [00:05:11]:
Ryan Dunn [00:05:12]:
That is a Star Wars. Yes, that was a Darth Vader quote. All right, how about this one? Resistance is futile.
Michelle Maldonado [00:05:19]:
Oh, that's the Borg. That's star Trek.
Ryan Dunn [00:05:22]:
It is. I was wondering if that was perhaps in both, but in my sources, I could only pull it up in Star Trek. Okay. To boldly go where no man where no one has gone before.
Michelle Maldonado [00:05:37]:
Ryan Dunn [00:05:38]:
That is a Star Trek, and it must be one of the more updated ones. Okay, how about this one, Lieutenant? You're looking at the only man to beat the no win scenario.
Michelle Maldonado [00:05:48]:
That could easily be a Picard line. Yeah, I'm going to say Star Trek. Probably Picard.
Ryan Dunn [00:05:55]:
You are correct. Yes. I do believe the context for that was a Picard line. Okay, so with that, this might be the most controversial question that we addressed the whole time. Do you have a favorite, Captain?
Michelle Maldonado [00:06:10]:
Ryan Dunn [00:06:11]:
Okay. And it is all right, so for those who are still listening, why is Picard your favorite?
Michelle Maldonado [00:06:23]:
I think it's because that show Next Generation ran significantly longer than any of the other shows did. So you got a lot of character development, so you got to be able to see literally decades of these folks. And because that story was able to develop over such a long period of time so many episodes, where, at the time, 23 episodes a season was the norm, versus now it's, like, eight to 13. I think it set up the show really well to really like him as the captain.
Ryan Dunn [00:07:03]:
Okay. Yeah. So you get a lot of growth alongside that character.
Michelle Maldonado [00:07:07]:
Ryan Dunn [00:07:10]:
Get it. Well, you're going to get more into that a little bit later as we talk about our first kind of exposures to the franchises, but we've got a quiz to tackle in the meantime. Where were we? Okay, next line is, why you stuck up, half witted, scruffy looking, Nerf Herder? Do you need me to read it again? I had a lot of fun with that one.
Michelle Maldonado [00:07:32]:
Ryan Dunn [00:07:35]:
I'll see if I can put a little bit more into it. Why you stuck up, half witted, scruffy looking, Nerf Herder.
Michelle Maldonado [00:07:42]:
I'm gonna have to say Star Wars.
Ryan Dunn [00:07:44]:
That is a Star Wars. Yep. That is Princess Leia addressing Han Solo, and his reply was, who's scruffy looking? Okay. All right, now we're going to get into the theological where does this quote come from? What does God need with a starship?
Michelle Maldonado [00:08:04]:
Ryan Dunn [00:08:05]:
That is a Star Trek. Yes. And I wish I could track down what the context was. You have any idea?
Michelle Maldonado [00:08:10]:
Ryan Dunn [00:08:12]:
Okay. All right. That's a listener challenge, then. Hey, tell us where that's said in the Star Trek franchise. What does God need with his starship? You can email Michelle.
Michelle Maldonado [00:08:24]:
It sounds very Enterprise. There's a show called Enterprise that in the timeline. It's technically the first Star Trek show if you were to watch it in chronological.
Ryan Dunn [00:08:37]:
Michelle Maldonado [00:08:39]:
And the show was shot, I want to say early 2000s, but it sounds like it might be from that because they're still in that process of beginning space exploration and building starships.
Ryan Dunn [00:08:53]:
Okay, so it's even as Star Command, the Federation is like yeah, it doesn't exist. Being born. Yeah. Okay. Gotcha. All right. Okay, how about this one? Get the cheese to Sick bay.
Michelle Maldonado [00:09:11]:
A Star Trek.
Ryan Dunn [00:09:12]:
That is a Star Trek. You seem to know that one. Where's that one from?
Michelle Maldonado [00:09:16]:
Okay, so that one I am pretty sure it's from the same show. I just said the captain's dog, Porthos, really enjoys cheese, so it is a point of reference to always take cheese to him whenever he's not feeling well.
Ryan Dunn [00:09:31]:
Okay, that's great. I couldn't leave that one out. Get the cheese to sick bag. Okay, how about this one? The only emotion I wish man butchered it again. I just have some mush mouth today. Okay. The only emotion I wish to convey is gratitude.
Michelle Maldonado [00:09:49]:
Ryan Dunn [00:09:52]:
Which is Star Trek. Yes. All right. Okay. Correct. I believe you're perfect so far. Okay. I've done far worse than kill you. I've hurt you, and I intend to go on hurting you.
Michelle Maldonado [00:10:08]:
Ryan Dunn [00:10:09]:
Actually, I have that. That is a Star Trek quote. I feel like that must be wrapped up in one of the con episodes. We have two of those. So there was the original Wrath of Khan, where you had Ricardo Montavan way back in I believe it would have been the late 70s or early eighty s. And then they redid a Wrath of Khan. Right?
Michelle Maldonado [00:10:36]:
Yeah, I think Cumberbatch. Who played him?
Ryan Dunn [00:10:39]:
Yes, that was it. I was trying to remember. Okay. Yes, that puts it all in there. So I got a feeling that it was one of those two cons who said that. All right, where are oh, this classic line. I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.
Michelle Maldonado [00:11:02]:
That could easily be riker on Star Trek, but I'm not sure.
Ryan Dunn [00:11:07]:
No, that is a Star Wars quote. One of the most maligned lines. You know, everybody kind of goes after George Lucas and people in the Star Wars franchise for not writing good dialogue. And that is one of the lines that people quote often when they're saying, like, how can you support a franchise that has dialogue like that? I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and gets everywhere. Okay, we're going to up the level on these next few clues because they could now be either from Star Wars, from Star Trek or from the Bible. So let's give this one a shot. But good words. That's where ideas begin. Maybe you should listen to them.
Michelle Maldonado [00:11:55]:
Ryan Dunn [00:11:56]:
That is a Star Trek quote. Again, I don't know the context of that one. So we'll need another listener to let us know. Okay, let's try this one. Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.
Michelle Maldonado [00:12:11]:
Ryan Dunn [00:12:12]:
That is a Star Trek quote. Yes, very good. How about this one? So this is how Liberty dies with thunderous applause.
Michelle Maldonado [00:12:20]:
Ryan Dunn [00:12:22]:
That is a Star Wars quote from the prequel trilogy. Okay, how about this one? Walk while you have the light before darkness overtakes you.
Michelle Maldonado [00:12:38]:
Ryan Dunn [00:12:40]:
That's a Bible quote. That one's from Jesus. I think it's also one of my favorite Norwegian death metal songs. Just kidding. Okay, how about this one? Your focus determines your reality.
Michelle Maldonado [00:12:56]:
Ryan Dunn [00:12:58]:
That's a Star Wars quote. Qui gon jin. I'll keep moving here. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.
Michelle Maldonado [00:13:10]:
Ryan Dunn [00:13:11]:
That is Bible. Yep. That's from Jesus. Warning to disciples. And one more. It goes like this. There was no father. I carried him. I gave birth, I raised him. I can't explain what happened.
Michelle Maldonado [00:13:26]:
Read it one more time.
Ryan Dunn [00:13:28]:
There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can't explain what happened. But that is actually Star Wars. But threw that in there because it could easily be, especially if I were using some kind of crazy translation. But it sounds like something that could have come out of the mouth of Mary, right? Yeah, no, it is.
Michelle Maldonado [00:13:53]:
Yeah. I was going to ask what version, what bible?
Ryan Dunn [00:13:57]:
The star wars version. And talking about anakin skywalker, the chosen one who became darth vader. Anyways. Michelle all right, so you flexed some knowledge here, both in the biblical realm and in the star trek realm. What are your first memories of star trek? Can you remember what it was that drew you into becoming a star trek fan?
Michelle Maldonado [00:14:24]:
It was probably my parents because as far as I can remember, one of the older movie was always at home. And I thought it was just cool that there were aliens and trying to explore the world and it was awesome. So I always had it in the back of my mind like, oh, I really want to watch this show. So when streaming started becoming a thing, I want to say maybe like dozen, eight, nine around there, I was like, oh, finally. Maybe now whenever they put everything because I wanted to watch the whole thing through. So netflix uploaded everything. I'm saying 2010, and I wars finally able to watch everything in order. And with that movie that I grew up watching and everything clicked and made so much sense, like, oh, my god, there was this whole world outside of that movie that led to all of that. And I already had an interest anyway in Sci-Fi. So I was just like, yes, this is going to be one of those shows that will forever be around. I want to get invested.
Ryan Dunn [00:15:30]:
And it has been forever around. I mean, they're still coming out with new stuff animated as well. Now they've gotten into the animated realm, too.
Michelle Maldonado [00:15:40]:
There was recently a crossover episode where the animated show, the new animated show turned real life on strange new world.
Ryan Dunn [00:15:49]:
Oh, really? Okay.
Michelle Maldonado [00:15:50]:
Yeah, it was awesome.
Ryan Dunn [00:15:52]:
Why was it so awesome?
Michelle Maldonado [00:15:54]:
It wars just very creative. The way that they took it started out as a cartoon in the cartoon version and then not to give it away for anybody who hasn't watched it, but they are on world doing some kind of survey. Something happens and they are transported to strange new world and they're in person. It's no longer cartoon. Everything's physical. So you get to see them as people, not us, cartoons. It's very creative, very cool.
Ryan Dunn [00:16:27]:
Yeah, that is pretty cool. I mean, I always find that when they have animated things like that, sometimes I get a little lost in trying to figure out like, oh, if they made a live action, who would play that role? Do you feel like they were spot on in their casting?
Michelle Maldonado [00:16:43]:
It felt like it. Yeah.
Ryan Dunn [00:16:46]:
Well, I think I got swept up into star wars just because it was such a part of the culture, like during my developmental years. So I was born like a little over a year before the first star wars came out, so it was just part of my formative years. We grew up with the action figures in my house and then during my youngest years, it was just like the cool, captivating fairy tale story to follow along with these misfits in outer space who were kind of going against all odds to bring hope and light to the universe. I don't want to let the cat out of the bag of some of the things I'm going to talk about there, but it was just captivating to me, and it probably didn't hurt that it know, such a bonding experience both amidst my family, but also gave me some commonality with so many other people around. You know, I could easily just pack up my Star Wars figures and walk down the street to my friend Matt's house, and we had things to do together, we could play together. So I think that was my swing into it. And I'll admit that probably a lot of my fandom now is based in that nostalgia. At the time, Star Trek just didn't seem that accessible. The show wasn't on anymore when I was young, and the movies that they were coming out with were really for older audiences. So I remember The Wrath of Khan came out probably, I don't know, maybe I was like, six years old or something like that. I don't remember exactly when it came out, and I just remember how risque it was for us to be talking about it because they had this violent scene where they implant these little bugs in some people's ears and it eats their brains out. And we were just as young kids, we were blown away by this, like, oh, my gosh, this is so graphic and violent. It just wasn't as accessible to a six year old as Star Wars was something that was more fantasy based than Sci-Fi based in that way. So I think really, that's why I got swept up into it. But then there were other things that I guess the traditional storytelling tropes that have just kept me engaged over the years, and I think that it can help in, again, providing some allegory for our theological reflection, which we're going to get into. How about right about now? You ready?
Michelle Maldonado [00:19:22]:
Ryan Dunn [00:19:23]:
Ready to do some deep theological reflection? Okay. So we had set out that we were going to each provide five reasons that our franchise of choice was a great lens for thinking theologically and aid us on our spirituality journeys. You want to take the first stab?
Michelle Maldonado [00:19:40]:
Sure. I wrote all five of mine down with a little commentary of it. So my number one exploration of moral and ethical dilemmas. Star Trek frequently delves into complex moral and ethical issues, often challenging characters to make decisions based on principle rather than personal game. The Prime Directive, which mandates non interference with other civilizations, is a recurring theme that raises questions about intervention, the greater good respecting cultural diversity. While Star Wars has its own moral conflict, star Trek focuses on moral dilemmas that can be seen as more explicitly theological in nature.
Ryan Dunn [00:20:32]:
Yeah, I can see how that really kind of plays out in the Star Trek universe in a way that it doesn't quite in the Star wars universe. There is a diversity in the Star wars universe, but they don't really address the issues of, I don't know, cultural respect the way that Star Trek did. When you talk about the prime directive, there of non interference that in a sense, I don't know, would you say that it takes kind of an anticolonial stance in that regard?
Michelle Maldonado [00:21:09]:
Yeah, the human society at that point, it's about 400, 500 years in the future from our time now. They've resolved all those issues. So when they find another species going through the same thing or the topic comes up, they try and mediate a way to help everybody eliminate that. But it all depends on the prime directive because those are the parameters that they can operate in. So there is no savior complexes or anything like that.
Ryan Dunn [00:21:45]:
Okay, all right. Well, I see your point. I'm going to disagree with you a little bit in saying that Star wars does not in your assertion there, that Star wars does not really address maybe the issues of good and evil. I think it does. It just does it in a much more primal kind of way, I don't know, or even primitive kind of way. It's very black and white, I think, in the Star wars universe. I mean, that in terms of contrast, things are either it seems good or they are explicitly evil and there's very little kind of gray matter in the middle there. And that, I think, in itself has some value in just providing this great play area for exploring issues of good versus evil. And to me, that resonates deeply because I believe that we are creatures who have a predisposition towards good. In my theological mind, that's because we've been imprinted by a creator who is ultimately good and loving, and we carry that within us and also carry then a predisposition for goodness and lovingness and justice and all that kind of stuff. But I think Star wars plays out in a way where it excites that want for goodness within us, that will for goodness within us, and it gives us a hope for seeing the goodness prevail. Like Star wars does have its tropes, and it goes back to them again and again. And one of them is that things for good are often led to the brink of being wiped out or extinction, and then, of course, good ends up prevailing in the end. I mean, we've seen this every trilogy where it seems like, oh, man, everything is just lost. And maybe not the prequel trilogy so much, but if you think about the original trilogy, where the empire is just so powerful and you just have this little band of rebels based around these four friends or I'm sorry. However, number of friends but a small number of friends, and somehow they're able to excite the galaxy in a way that restores hope and goodness. And then it happens in the most recent trilogy as well. I mean, the same trope, actually, that the first order is just so powerful and overcoming these huge odds all through the willingness of people to lay down their lives for their friends. So there's something that's inspiring for us in a way that we just don't get to explore when things are so kind of muddled in life. So I think that there's actually value in sort of the cut and driedness of the Star Wars storytelling, even though it can be a little rote sometimes, and you can so easily identify the storytelling techniques that they're often using in some way, that simplicity and the innocence of it is an attraction to us as well. So that's what I see in Star Wars. All right, what's your next one?
Michelle Maldonado [00:25:06]:
All right, number two, religious and spiritual exploration. Star Trek, particularly in the series Deep Space Nine, dedicates substantial storylines to the exploration of religious beliefs and their impact on culture. For example, the Bajoran religion and its prophets, for instance, offer insight into faith, prophecy and intersections of spirituality with everyday life. Star wars includes elements of spirituality such as the Force and the Jedi, but these concepts are more rooted in the fantasy and mythology rather than the theological exploration that does happen on Star Trek, where they will actually dedicate episodes to that.
Ryan Dunn [00:25:57]:
In your recollection, are there any specific episodes of Star Trek where it seems like they're explicitly kind of laying into a Christian parallel of reflection, theological reflection?
Michelle Maldonado [00:26:12]:
So most of the religions that are highlighted have parallels to Christianity because they make it a point of explaining that most species develop very similarly and develop similar concepts, similar social structures, similar religions. And it's a theory that is also in our history before colonization, how different? Like the Mayans and Sayinos, all these different ethnic groups, how they were developing. It was very parallel, even if they had nothing to do with each other and how they understood religion, that there is a greater deity out there. So it's very similar in how religion and different species is explained. On Star Trek.
Ryan Dunn [00:27:08]:
You brought up that there's kind of a void of God in the Star Wars franchise. I mean, they don't explicitly I don't recall them ever using the word God within the Star Wars franchise. Certainly they have this kind of mystical power of the Force, but the Force doesn't seem to have a personality to it, really. I don't know. It's something that is metaphysical, but it's unclear whether it has its own driving will. It doesn't really seem to it's directed by others. So in itself, we're missing a little portion of the trinity, I think, within the Star Wars universe. But I do think that Star Wars does provide, through the Force kind of an allegory for the Holy Spirit. And that's useful for me because I feel like whenever we try to describe the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit, we're bordering on heresy. Not in a bad way, but it's just like our words can't quite sum it up. So it helps to tell stories about what it's like and what it does. And I think that Star Wars gives us a lens for kind of imagining that through the know, the Holy Spirit is like this imponderable question. It's like, what is the sound of one hand clapping? And if a tree falls in the woods and nobody's there to hear it, does it make a sound? What is an analogy for the Holy Spirit? They're all kind of things that are without full, definitive answers. And I think that the Force gives us that anecdote for the Holy Spirit at work and how it makes the impossible possible, how it enables belief. What I don't like is that only some people seem to have access to it while others don't. Within the as we're talking about Star Wars and the Force, there are some people who are Force adepts and others who are not, whereas in God's universe, we all have access to the Force, right. The Holy Spirit works at us even before we're aware that the Holy Spirit is working within us and through our lives. So I don't know. Maybe that'll be my next sermon. But I do think that the Force works is like a Holy Spirit analogy and is helpful. All right, you got another idea for us? Cool.
Michelle Maldonado [00:29:28]:
Ethical implications of Technology and Artificial Life star Trek often grapples with the ethical implications of advanced technology, including artificial life and androids. These discussions about the rights and moral status of AI as seen in episodes like The Measure of a man and Quality of Life, I can tie into philosophical debates about the nature of consciousness and the role of a creator.
Ryan Dunn [00:30:04]:
What was the name of the android in yeah, okay.
Michelle Maldonado [00:30:10]:
My favorite character.
Ryan Dunn [00:30:11]:
Yeah, I've heard that from a lot of people.
Michelle Maldonado [00:30:13]:
Why is it he is an android, he is a machine, and he is in this constant search for understanding humanity because he lives among mostly humans or humanoid beings who their entire lives are controlled by feelings. And this machine can approximate as much as it can to understanding what it is, but they can't feel, and that as much as he can, it bothers him, and he wants to search for that missing piece that he feels is missing. So most of his appearances is dealing with that he is not human, but he wants to understand humanity. He doesn't want to be human. He just wants to understand the drive that makes somebody keep going.
Ryan Dunn [00:31:15]:
So in this age, when AI. Is kind of the hot button topic and within the church, we're asking, what are the implications of utilizing AI in our theological work? Is there something to be learned from watching how the Next Generation treats Data? All right, all right.
Michelle Maldonado [00:31:34]:
I'll give it a his story barely just wrapped up in the last few episodes of Picard, which is the mini reboot. It's not a reboot. It's more of a nostalgic show where the original cast from Next Gen gets together and they go on a couple more missions and Data is still around. He is a machine, and there's a moment there where he makes the comment, I know you all are getting older, and I make myself look older so you all feel more comfortable.
Ryan Dunn [00:32:12]:
Okay, yeah. I would wonder how they would treat the aging of the actor, which is.
Michelle Maldonado [00:32:19]:
Pretty brilliant from production side, but then from the character side of him, we know that he does not have any humanity and doesn't have feelings, but he understands that he wants to make them feel better. So instead of showing himself as Data from the 80s, he looks like their peer.
Ryan Dunn [00:32:44]:
So here's the deep theological it's not even theological, but the deep question then that brings up, because that's an issue of compassion and is acting like you have compassion, is that actually having compassion?
Michelle Maldonado [00:33:00]:
Right, exactly. And they talk about this kind of stuff on Star Trek, too, and I would say yes.
Ryan Dunn [00:33:09]:
Yeah. It's not just like an approximation of compassion. It is actually I mean, the decision for compassion is compassion deep? I want to do the snaps on that one. That's deep. Yeah. Well, my next Star Wars claim here isn't quite as deep. It's one of the tropes that they use again and again in their storytelling, and it's just the value of community. We realize that as humans, we are social creatures. We long to have community around us, and Star Wars just gives a great formulation of what community looks like and how it empowers individuals and how big things can happen even when it's just a small community in action. So again and again in each movie, even in their TV shows, we have this tiny band of friends who are totally committed to each other, and then they overturn the systems of Empire and the systems of injustice and the little community kind of victors. Overall, it's inspiring and I think can be just a good analogy for what the church could be when it's committed to kind of laying down itself for itself, for the people in its midst, if that makes sense. All right, so that was a short one for me. I've done three. Have you done three?
Michelle Maldonado [00:34:37]:
I did four.
Ryan Dunn [00:34:39]:
You have one more.
Michelle Maldonado [00:34:40]:
Okay, but I have one written down. But I'm going to skip that and say because I was just thinking about this earlier, I'd say the fifth one is family. There is a very strong theme about family because this is 60 years of information. So when the starship started space exploration, they realized that because it takes so. Long and people are away from their families, it might be a good idea to have folks bring their families on the starship and it be a family environment where everybody's there, the starships have schools, daycares, anything you would need for families to stay together. So as the show keeps going, you have all these family dynamics, not just with the humans, but interspecie marriages, how those family values are different, if they are different, or how they have to respect this family based on their beliefs, even if it's a little weird. All those different scenarios come up throughout the decades. And it's been really interesting to watch because from the very beginning, they implemented those kinds of policies.
Ryan Dunn [00:36:05]:
Yeah, well, and at the very beginning, we look at that now as being somewhat normative, but at the very beginning, when Star Wars was star Trek was initially created, it wasn't the normative approach, was it?
Michelle Maldonado [00:36:24]:
Yeah, the original Star Trek, they broke so many records for the time, including the first black female lead, the first interracial kiss on television, the first interracial couple sharing the same bed, something like that. So even back then, they were breaking a lot of stereotypes and stigmas.
Ryan Dunn [00:36:47]:
Right on. Good on you, Star Trek. Well, my final one then for Star Wars is going to be the hope that it provides in a sense of rebirth. And I guess this goes back to the good and evil thing and the aspect that good prevails. But I feel like all the Star Wars stories kind of dive into this area of rebirth. That, to me reflects what Paul writes about in two corinthians. And that's the line about if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come, the old has gone, the new has come. And so in Star Wars, again and again, we get these little anecdotes and stories about characters who are reborn, who maybe seem lost to darkness but are brought into their fullness of goodness in the end. So Darth Vader is the big one for that. But I think my favorite allegory for it is actually Jen Erso from the Rogue One movie, which to me is kind of like the lost, forgotten gem of the Star Wars universe. I really like that movie, but Jen starts the movie as this self serving, really kind of self obsessed with survival kind of person and then ultimately gives herself as a willing sacrifice in the end so that others may have hope in life. Yeah, to me that's just inspiring. We can't tell enough of those stories. I think everybody needs to know that even when they're feeling kind of lost in their muddledness and darkness, that there is something within that holds on to a flame of hope and light. So for me, that kind of makes it for Star Wars. But I'll tell you what, I'm really intrigued, though. I've shared a little bit about my experience with Star Trek. I've seen the old movies. I've probably seen a good portion of the old the original TV series. Now, where do you think would be a good spot for me to pick up from there?
Michelle Maldonado [00:39:00]:
Next gen. Definitely.
Ryan Dunn [00:39:02]:
Michelle Maldonado [00:39:02]:
Because there's a lot of canon that gets built there because that show just lasted for so long.
Ryan Dunn [00:39:09]:
I know. That's the trick, though. It's like twelve seasons, Michelle.
Michelle Maldonado [00:39:13]:
Yeah, I know.
Ryan Dunn [00:39:16]:
Okay. Do you have to start at the.
Michelle Maldonado [00:39:18]:
Beginning after watching that? That bulk of it, you might go back and watch the new ones because it'll make more sense after watching that one because it's just the bulk of the fandom is there, all the bulk of the information, the philosophical dilemmas, everything's there. From there, you jump off to the other ones that make more sense.
Ryan Dunn [00:39:48]:
Michelle Maldonado [00:39:49]:
Rather than if you watched it from the very beginning in chronological order, jumping around from decade to decade, it gets a little lost. You'll get lost.
Ryan Dunn [00:40:00]:
Okay. Yeah. That's kind of the fear maybe I've had in approaching Star Trek, is that there is just such a big catalog of stuff out there. I mean, the Star Wars, it was so far between their releases that for a long time I was able to keep up with all of it. We had a little bit of a technical hiccup as we were signing off there, so my name is Ryan Dunn. I'm signing off on behalf of both myself and Michelle Maldonado, and we thank you so much for taking this journey through space and time and theology with us on the Compass podcast. Hey, if you thought that this was a good episode, I think that you'll also enjoy the episode that we did back in January of 2023, which is our streaming recommendations for theological reflection. The first episode that Michelle and I did together. It's a good one, so check that one out. You might also enjoy art in your spiritual journey. We did that one together back in July of 2023, so look for it in that date range as well. My name is Ryan Dunn again. Hey, I just thought I'd tell you what for the fourth time, and I appreciate you listening. This podcast is brought to you by United Methodist Communications. Compass comes out every other Wednesday, so we'll be chatting at you with a brand new episode again in two weeks time. In the meantime, do us a favor and leave a rating and or review on your podcast listening platform of choice. That'd be very much appreciated. Helps other people discover the Compass podcast and helps our exposure in bringing new guests to the episodes as well. Hope you have a great couple of weeks and we'll talk to you soon. Peace.