The Prime Directive

I was once a great fan of Star Trek, the Next Generation.  Although it still entertains, I find this third time through the series I’m irritated by all the judgment.  I’ve heard often heard that we hate the judgmental God.  We don’t like to hear about sin.  And, yet, one of the most common themes in Star Trek is a superior alien race like Q judges humanity.  The Star Trek crew is also judgmental of the humanity of the people of the “late 20th century–us.  In an episode where the crew finds people cryogenically frozen, the doctor comments, “They were afraid to die,” as if they had moved beyond that fear.  It seems that the writers have to prove that humanity has become more than we are, a precondition for being able to build star ships, and not interfere with life on other planets.  So, it is suggested, the
problems of poverty and possessions, of hunger and disease, have all been solved on earth.

I wonder by what criteria we would like to be judged.   It seems to me if solving all the troubles of our world is a precondition to being an evolved humanity, we may never reach
the stars.  And if death doesn’t make us afraid, at some level, perhaps we’ve become out of touch with ourselves.

God’s way, as seen through Jeremiah, is simple by comparison.  There are two criteria by which God judges:  how we relate to God and how we relate to people in need.

So God cries out when forgotten, “They have spoken falsely of the Lord, and have said, “He will do nothing (Jeremiah 5:12).”  And, “You know no bounds of wickedness—you do not defend the rights of the needy (Jeremiah 5:1).”

The scripture’s plain sense is of people ignoring God and others because they are, to use an expression from Jeremiah, “well fed lusty stallions each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.”  Imagine, Jeremiah screams from the page, how this must hurt God.  Do you not care?

Do you not care that your actions can hurt God just as they can hurt another?  How long?  When will you stop?

This is not judgment.  This is more like the cry of my daughter to pay attention to her despite all I need to get done that day.

Unlike Star Trek, there’s no suggestion that all the problems of the world can be solved by acts of faith and goodwill.  Indeed, Jeremiah is frustrated when the people seem to repent, to come back to God, and the evil nation from the north continues their march southward.  The goal of scripture is not an “evolved” humanity but one in a continuing
relationship with God.  The sign that we are with God is not an easy life but how much we care for others.  Being with God helps us to love.

There will be those who say they can do it without God.  Sadly, Star Trek seems to take this
position.  And, for awhile, youthful aspirations and dreams can carry you through.
But I’ll never forget a woman pastor who entered the ministry after years of being a social worker.  She passionately explained, “After years of helping people, I finally learned I
cannot do it on my own.”    I wonder how many lives she saw go the wrong way even though she gave it her all to help.  She faced a continuing stream of people that could not be “fixed” and found the only way she could continue to care was to be in relationship with God.

In my own experience, when I meet with people, I have, in the past, given lots of advice and am still prone to do so.  I am a fixer.  But if someone really seeks change I’ve learned that I do better to pray with him or her, to connect them to the Holy One using their own imagination.  Together we seek God’s help, an image, a word, an insight.  And, because it comes from God, and not from a mere human, the light that shines is bright, and
lasting change happens.

So let me suggest a Prime Directive.  If you want to love well, if you want to care deeply, if you want to change the world:  Involve God.


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