RESPONDblog: Galaxy Quest + My Limited Worldview

The movie Galaxy Quest tells the story of a group of washed up actors, tired and bored of living with the enduring fandom around their old space opera TV show from 20 years ago. It introduces us to Jason Nesmith, the actor who played the captain on the NSEA Protector space ship in the space opera. And he’s signing autographs at a fan convention…when suddenly and finally he explodes in a “Shatner-istic, get a life” way. Who does he explode at? Branden – a geeky fan who is asking for an autograph, while also pressing him on a tricky episode plot hole that Nesmith couldn’t care less about.  
Nesmith roasts him.

“It’s just a TV show. You got it?!”

The movie also tells the story of a group of alien beings – the Thermians – who have been watching Nesmith’s old TV Show from outer space…and have come to believe that the stories told in the show are actually real, rather than just hokey entertainment.

Now, in addition to their viewing habits, we learn the peace loving Thermians are facing an oppressive and controlling space gangster called Sarris who wants to oppress them. They fear Sarris…yet are actually quite technologically advanced. So they decide to emulate their heroes on the TV show and build an advanced space ship to fight Sarris…and they make the ship look and behave just like the NSEA Protector.

They make it work in exactly the same way as the ship on the show. So…the computer will only work if the girl on the bridge repeats all the data the computer provides the bridge team. And the controls for the ship’s pilot are laid out just as the actor playing the pilot pretended to fly the ship.

BUT – the Thermians have a problem – they cannot use their cool spaceship technology to defeat Sarris. They are smart enough to build their ship. They aren’t brave enough to use it.

Their solution? They decide to naively travel to earth…find their heroes from their favourite space TV show…and take them back to their planet to pilot the ship and defeat Sarris for them! After all…these guys are their heroes…and have defeated evil many times on the show. They’ve watched it on their equivalent of TV. They think its all real.

And for some cool and interesting reasons – read pride and boredom here – Nesmith and his crazy, LA based actors from the cast say “yes” to the Thermians’ request…and travel to their alien planet to man the new and very real NSEA Protector space ship. What they don’t bank on, however, is the very real jeopardy this puts them in. And so these actors must work out a way to cope in this conflict…and survive.

I’ve been sitting in a class at BIOLA University taught by PhD professor John Mark Reynolds this week. And he reminded me of the coolest part of Galaxy Quest.

What’s the coolest part?

During their conflict with Sarris – Nesmith and his crew find themselves running through the bowels of the ship to find the engine room…so they they can diffuse the reactor and stop the ship from exploding. While doing this, they realise that – in the course of the original TV show run – they never did an episode of the show where they visited the bowels of the NSEA Protector. So – they have no idea where to go to find the reactor to diffuse it. Worse – they have no idea what do do if and when they get there.

That’s a big problem. So what do they do?

Genius idea. They contact the geeky kid Branden that Nesmith roasted during the fan convention at the start of the movie. The kid who had grown up watching the show, who bought and pored over the deck plans of the NSEA Protector. Who knew this show and the ship inside out.

Nesmith contacts Branden…but before he can ask him for help finding the engine room…Branden stops him. Not realising the very real jeopardy Nesmith is in, Branden blurts out…”Look. About the convention. I know its just a TV show. I understand completely that’s its just a TV show. There is no ship…I’m not a complete brain-case…you know?”

And Nesmith responds with three words that transform Branden’s life.

“It’s all real.”

And without hesitation…and with a whoop of confident delight…Branden explodes. “I knew it. I just knew it!!!”

Here’s what’s cool about this scene. It poses a question to us.

What if my settled view of reality…actually is more about me just settling for a narrow perspective…the little bit that I understand. And dismissing the notion that there is so much more to know! Right now – I simply don’t fully understand everything that could be known about life and reality. But there’s a future awaiting me…

Further – what if that future reality is bigger…and more amazing than I could understand today. What if it truly is bursting with goodness, with truth and beauty in a way that I’ve yet to know on this planet…so its greater than I can fully comprehend right now. So much so…that when I finally DO experience it…I might just go slack jawed…and then burst with something like…

“I knew it!! I just knew it.”

Just like Branden.

And maybe then we will reflect back…and remember. We had a suspicion that there was more to life than just this one…we had this inner sense of it…maybe from our time as a child. But we’ve grown up since then. We’ve allowed other people to convince us otherwise. We’ve cooperated as others have systematically robbed us of our hope for ultimate goodness, truth and beauty.

What a shame that has happened.

One day – we will know. We will know it for ourselves in a fresh and wonderful way. And we’ll just exclaim, “You know what? I knew it!”

I’m looking forward to the day when I begin to really experience the full wonder of creation. In the here and now…I’m living in just a fraction of it…I sense that that’s true. But there is SO much more to come in the reality that’s to come.

Why do I think that? Well…because there’s this person in history called Jesus who transformed the world with his goodness, his beauty and the truth he brought to this planet. His beauty…in what he did and said. And it all culminated in his defeat of death and his invitation to join him in the bigger reality that is to come. This points to a future reality, a bigger sense of knowing reality as it truly is in all its goodness, its truth and its beauty…in a sense that I can only imagine today.

What a shame so many of us have been duped into thinking that our narrow view of the world is the right and only one…when we haven’t given ourselves the chance to consider that there is so much more that is awaiting us.

Do you know what? My anticipation is rising…there’s going to be a whoop of delight that’s going to burst out of me that day when I see that which I confidently expect to see in the reality to come with Jesus.

I knew it. I just knew it…!

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RESPONDblogs: Did Christianity Arise Among Ancient yet Ignorant People?

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I remember having a conversation with someone who was attempting to discredit Christianity based on what he perceived as the “intellectual backwardness of the ancient people”. In other words his argument to me was, those people were pretty uneducated and dumb back then. They didn’t have science like us. Of course they would swallow the Jesus story about his virgin birth and his resurrection from the dead!

 

I remember at the time being staggered by his argument.

 

Logically, the reason that a virgin birth caused such a stir amongst Jesus contemporaries was precisely because people knew “the birds and the bees” very well indeed! That conception is impossible without intercourse. Similarly, people did not rise from the dead. When someone died – that was it. Game over. Where today our medical advances can sometimes prolong life, and the average age in the West is growing longer…the ancient realities of life and death were well understood in first century Israel. Dead people stayed that way.

 

Further, the Bible records that people at the time of the birth of Christianity were very skeptical of the claims of the first Christians. Jesus birth was a scandal, and his parents were stigmatized for the precise reason that no one believed their story. They didn’t believe that Mary was pregnant because of God’s miraculous activity – instead they suspected that Joseph and Mary got “caught short” because they couldn’t wait before they were married.

 

Similarly – dead Messiah’s don’t rise from the dead. Jerusalem had a slew of Messiah wannabes at that time. Men who gathered a following around them. Yet they eventually died. And so when the reports of Jesus resurrection began to excite and perplex the Jewish population in Jerusalem, there was much skepticism in the air. In fact we read the oldest skeptical response to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead in the Gospels themselves. “The disciples stole the body.”

 

You might think people are skeptical about the claims of Christianity today. Well – the situation wasn’t too different back then either.

 

And what about the arrogant claim that the ancient people were ignorant? Well – Christianity arose in the Roman Empire. Anyone who has studied Roman history knows that this was one of the most advanced civilizations in human history. The city where I live is built on Roman design and foundation. The road my housing estate sits on – is itself originally a Roman road. They were technologically advanced – and we still benefit from their work today. Christianity took hold in the advanced Roman Empire.

 

But someone may complain – they didn’t have the Scientific advances we have. iPhone’s that give us instant communication, the Hubble Telescope that lets us see deeper into the Universe than mankind ever thought possible. Yes – that’s all true. Yet at the same time – first century people weren’t glued to their iPhones like so many people are today. They had a better relationship with the world around them – because they engaged within it. Nature was a source of inspiration, and the place where advances were made in these people’s lives. Further – they were so much further on when it came to philosophy and the nature of religious inquiry. They thought deeper, they engaged more vigorously within nature because they didn’t have the technological distractions we have today. And as far as the night sky was concerned – they could see it laid out before their eyes every night in all its vastness. While for us the light pollution from cities distorts our view of the Universe, they were not hindered in this way. And if you have ever visited Africa and gazed into the night sky you will know what I mean.

 

The ancients were more clued into the nature of life and death and our place in nature. The Christian faith took hold in the most sophisticated human civilization to date.

 

You know it strikes me that if we are tempted to look back at these ancient people scornfully – we don’t get what they were about at all. Perhaps we are really only seeing our own ignorance being reflected back at us.