Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Boycotting Star Trek

Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

I became a Star Trek fan in junior high and high school. I loved Star Trek. I even wrote a Star Trek novel during my sophomore year in high school (and then William Shatner wrote his own novel that was similar enough mine would never get published! But I'm not bitter or anything….ahem). I loved the science fiction and the vision of a future where humanity had overcome many of the evils of its past. But at one point, I became disillusioned with it, even deciding to boycott Star Trek. In several of the novels and television episodes a thread developed which ridiculed and mocked religious belief in general and which seemed to attack Christianity in particular. But after a while I realized something. Star Trek had always had those elements within it. Star Trek had never hidden those elements and never pretended to be anything other than what it was - a secular science fiction show. So, I ended my boycott of Star Trek and came back to it with a healthier understanding of both it and myself.

Many of us have experienced similar situations in life, where we decide to stay away from a particular group or product because of the things they support, the ideas they promote, or the lifestyles they live. And while there are certainly times when such "boycotts" are warranted, we often level them at the wrong people.  In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, Paul wrote, "When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn't talking about unbelievers...What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don't even eat with such people." (NLT)

See, both to protect the integrity of the faith and to help straying believers understand the severity of their sinful behavior, we are to avoid people who claim to be Christians but consistently live like they are not. But nowhere are we told to treat unbelievers badly because they act like unbelievers. How else would we expect unbelievers to behave? 

Rather than targeting secular or religiously-other people and organizations for their behavior, we should be more concerned about those who claim to be Christians while presenting an absolutely horrendous witness to the world. But notice, Paul did not say to avoid people whose theology is different than ours or who disagree with us about portions of the faith. He said to avoid those Christians whose behavior is poor. In another example, in 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul warns against associating with Christians who are irresponsible and make themselves a burden for everyone else. 

One of the reasons so many people are turning away from Christianity today is that we allow sin to fester in the Church. We tolerate people who are abusive and greedy and are swindlers. Even outsiders understand that the Church is filled with imperfect people, but they rightly expect us to take a stand when people within our own ranks behave in despicable ways.

We cannot expect people to take our claims of the transforming power of Christ seriously when we tolerate consistent sin from those who claim to follow Christ.  Don't stay away from the sinners. Stay away from the people who claim to follow Christ but don't live like it. 

Only Casting Out the Annoying Demons

Suggested Reading: Acts 16:16-34 There is a sentence in Acts 16 that has always bugged me. Paul and Silas were in Philippi as missionari...