For a contrast between the state of the world and Star Trek, see Part 1. For the similarities between Captain Picard and Pope Francis, see Part 2. For the differences between Captain Picard and Pope Francis, see Part 3.
Some readers will no doubt take offense at the connection I have made between a religious leader and a franchise that is most often described as “humanist”. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, was himself a vocal atheist. I can only reiterate that I am inspired by Star Trek-type reminders wherever I happen to see them, and I see them in Pope Francis.
To the pope’s mind I don’t think there is a zero-sum conflict between humanists and Catholics. He once asserted that the litmus test for spiritual utility is not faith, but doing good for others. To atheists the pope expressed without cynicism the expectation that they can “do good. We will meet one another there.” This invitation to cooperation is as close to a Star Trek overture as First Contact with the Vulcans.
If any of us are inspired by the philosophy of Star Trek, let us begin to live out its ideals. Let us treat one another as co-equal participants in an open and inclusive federation. Let us make our life’s work about self-improvement and the discovery of breakthroughs that will improve many lives. Let us go boldly to the frontiers and fringes, where people of goodwill are simply awaiting an invitation.
You don’t have to be a pope to do that. You simply need to say with a loving heart, “Come to me”.
For an Introduction please read Part 1!
Pope Francis is a man who has washed the feet of people traditionally excluded from this loving ceremony, including women, Muslims, Hindus, Copts, and prison inmates. If foot-washing were a Starfleet custom, I think Captain Picard would have gladly done the same. The pope has engaged in ecumenical outreach and shared prayer services with Rabbis, Imams, and other holy people. Captain Picard as well was no stranger to cooperation with people not entirely like himself.
Pope Francis has centered his energy on reforming his own institution rather than criticizing the traditions of others. Likewise, Captain Picard was never afraid to confront and expose the hypocrisies and errors of Starfleet. The pope called for unity with the Lutheran church, which has historically been the Catholic church’s biggest foil. In similar fashion Captain Picard solidified unity with the Klingons, the Federation’s former enemy, by accepting the first Klingon Starfleet officer aboard his vessel and later promoting him to Chief of Security.
Both Pope Francis and Captain Picard in their ecumenism are counter-cultural as compared to the “tribal” social climate of today. The pope’s call for radical unity, and the Star Trek vision of peaceful cooperation between diverse peoples, contrasts starkly with the “struggle” of us vs. them that characterizes so much of the dominant cultural discourse. Not to put too fine a point on it, but just consider how totally consonant the Gospel values are with the Star Trek ideals I have described, and how dissonant they are with the antagonism and mistrust that characterize so much social intercourse.
How is the Pope Francis not like Captain Picard? Read Part 3!
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