A podcast for new atheists, lifetime atheists, ex-evangelicals, truth-seekers, and free-thinkers
Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to strap in and prepare for departure. Your hosts are here and ready to pilot this bird out of space dock. I'm Spider...
And we are about to boldy go into an in-depth discussion of one of what I think to be one of the more underrated of the Star Trek movies: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Yes, the story is kinda basic and it's told in a way that just screams “Shatner wrote this but Harve Bennett cleaned it up nicely,” but it definitely makes several valid points about the dangers of blind faith. What DOES God need with a starship? We'll have the answer to that question and more in just a few, but first...
A brief acknowledgement of the elephant in the room, more parents killing their kids because... Jesus, and grifters gonna grift because... well, Jesus. It's CBB: Jesus H. Crime edition...
I could almost overlook how damaging Evangelical Christianity and its related cults are if their only victims were adults. But it never is just adults, unfortunately; so many children suffer from the delusions their parents hold. Eight year old Elizabeth Struhs of Queensland, Australia is one of those latest victims.
The little girl needed insulin to control her Type 1 diabetes. Lots of children all around the world live happy lives living with Type 1 diabetes, as long as they monitor their blood sugar and take their insulin. But for some reason, this wasn't good enough for the Christian cult her parents belonged to.
Over the course of six days, Elizabeth's parents, Jason and Kerrie, along with at least 12 other members of the cult called “The Saints” withheld insulin from the girl, instead, they sang and prayed to God that he would “take over” and Elizabeth would be healed. Instead, the girl soon died from the denial of insulin. This took place this past January. While Elizabeth's parents were arrested soon after their daughter's death, recently another 12 people have been arrested in connection with the girl's death.
Speaking out about the arrest, Detective Acting Superintendent [Garry] Watts said: “It will be alleged that 14 people in total allegedly made the choice to deny this young girl her right to medical care.
“The arrests are the result of a six-month investigation, in which all officers involved were dedicated to ensuring those alleged to be responsible for her death, are brought before the court.”
I don't care what you believe as an adult, the problem is once you bring the kids into it, the stakes get higher. Go ahead and treat your cancer with prayer, you're an adult. But give your kids their freakin medicine! And if you don't, and they die, you (and anyone else who was there praying) should be treated as a murderer.
Elizabeth had five other siblings living at home with her parents, and her oldest sister, 23 year old Jayde Struhs, has been trying to get custody of her younger siblings. Jayde left the church at 16 after coming out as a lesbian. She's been sharing her story with the media, and those children would definitely be safer with their older sister than staying around the other cult members.
And the grift goes on...but hopefully, these churches are gonna get caught.
The FBI recently raided three churches in Georgia and Texas, all of which are affiliated with the House of Prayer Christian Churches (HOPCC) and all of which were said to target soldiers specifically. Here's the story:
A group called Veterans Education Success, which helps military members and their families with higher education, asked the department of Veterans' Affairs to look into the HOPCC for potential GI Bill program abuses. The HOPCC runs seminaries, and is located closely to several military bases. The alleged abuses include:
1. Keeping students enrolled in the schools without providing them with an actual education.
2. Telling veterans applying for disability benefits to give any compensation to the church through tithes.
3. Engaging in mortgage fraud by taking out mortgages in parishioners’ names while forging their signatures, using their personal data and social security numbers, all with the help of in-house notaries.
4. Telling students to lie to VA inspectors by saying they were in class when they were actually doing chores for church leaders.
5. Lying about when and where classes were being taught.
6. Charging veterans higher tuition than civilian students.
7. Lying about the ratio of veteran to civilian students.
8. Lying to the VA about its teachers’ qualifications.
9. Using students rather than staffers to recruit new members. (Some of those students were as young as 16, as one girl said, which raises additional concerns.)
10. Purposely lengthening the curriculum to keep students enrolled for a longer period of time.
11. Providing students with a certificate of completion (i.e. diploma) that was effectively useless outside the HOPCC.
12. Refusing to provide students their financial or academic records.
13. Operating like a cult, humiliating students who question the church’s leader, stalking and harassing church members who leave, and controlling the lives of certain members.
While all of these are just allegations, the coordinated raids of the three affiliated churches seem to indicate that they're trying to get evidence before the leaders could get their stories straight.
According to Deseret News, HOPCC received “at least $708,145.53 in post 9/11 GI Bill funding” in 2018 alone. If they’ve been at this for years, and if the allegations are mostly accurate, who knows how much money they conned the government out of over the years. There’s also a website in which people who attended HOPCC can leave (unverified) stories about their own experiences. Many are detailed and damning. There are also former members sharing their HOPCC horror stories with local reporters.
I'm going to keep an eye on this one. It sounds like a crazy ride.
Patreon/Promo Next week: Vacation Bible School
Captain's log, stardate 2931-4. I have reached the conclusion that stardates are every bit as random as most statistics but they sound cool so we feel compelled to mention one at some point in every movie or episode. I am about to embark on a journey with my second in command. One that will bring us into the great barrier and beyond and disappoint the shit out of everyone involved. I like to give fair warning, after all. Number One?
SHELLE: Yes, captain
Is the movie cued up and ready to go?
SHELLE: Aye, Captain
White screen fades in on a desert hardpan. We are told that this is Nimbus 3 “The Planet of Galactic Peace.”
And in rides the lone horseman of the apocalypse who totally freaks out some dude drilling into the hardpan. He looks like a cast member from The Hills Have Eyes.
The horseman draws closer, the local points a gun at him.
SYBOK: I thought weapons were forbidden on this planet. ... Besides, I can't believe you'd kill me for a field of empty holes.
J'ONN: It's all I have.
SYBOK: Your pain runs deep.
J'ONN: What do you know of my pain?
SYBOK: Let us explore it ...together. ...Each man hides a secret pain. It must be exposed and reckoned with. It must be dragged from the darkness and forced into the light. Share your pain. ...Share your pain with me and gain strength from it.
J'ONN: Where did you get this power?
SYBOK: The power was within you.
J'ONN: It is as if a weight has been lifted from my heart. How can I repay you for this miracle?
SYBOK: Join my quest.
J'ONN: What is it you seek?
SYBOK: What you seek. What all men have sought since time began, ...the ultimate knowledge. To find it, we'll need a starship.
J'ONN: A starship? There are no starships on Nimbus Three.
SYBOK: Perhaps I have a way to bring one here.
J'ONN: But how?
SYBOK: Have faith my friend. There are more of us than you know.
J'ONN: You're a Vulcan!
FFS Sybok even looks like a messianic figure
He laughs maniacally as he thinks about this plan he's concocting. He needs a starship. He thinks he can basically summon one and before too long we will learn how.
Kirk is in Yosemite free climbing a big rock (El Capitan)
Lots of lens flares. JJ would be proud
Bones is at the safety of their campsite nervously watching the captain make his ascent. “Playing games with death....”
And suddenly... Spock! He's been monitoring Kirk's progress and basically distracts him until he literally falls, but Spock and his jet boots take care of it. Kirk makes a tasteless joke about dropping in for dinner... and now back to Nimbus 3.
So now the film takes us down to Paradise city where the saloons are seedy and the girls look like kitties.
Shatner wrote this all right...
Now some sort of panel is having a back office meeting. We find out that they are ambassadors from a collaborative that was trying to... improve the socio-economic condition on this planet by sending the cast of The Hills Have Eyes to clean up Dodge. Apparently this entire planet was some kind of experiment and these three ambassadors are here to try to figure out what the fuck went wrong and how to fix it. One is Romulan, one is Terran, and the last one is a Klingon. Who came up with this panel?
So these three people who will have precious little to do with much within the narrative besides setting up Sybok's impending coup and communicating his Svengali charm are talking about the goings-on on Nimbus 3.
CAITHLIN: Twenty years ago, our three governments agreed to develop this planet together. A new age was born.
JOHN TALBOT: Our new age died a quick death. And the settlers we conned into coming here, they were the dregs of the galaxy. They immediately took to fighting amongst themselves. We forbad them weapons, but they soon began to fashion their own.
CAITHLIN: Right! Then it appears I've arrived just in time.
Just in time? Excuse me, but, have you taken a look around?
Sybok has amassed a pretty big following in not a long expanse of time. Kind of like Jesus gathering his disciples and doing a few token tricks to get them to stick around...
Amazing how easily the weak-minded can be swayed. I mean, look at 45. Nothing he says makes any sense but people follow him like he's the second coming... And you can apply the same psychology to anyone sitting in the pews of an evangelical church, members of hate groups, you name it. January 6 is another example...
Caithlin and Talbot stand there bewildered but trying to figure out what to do while Korrd (who we will have more dealings with later) pours himself a drink. Because, ya know, it's the Klingon thing to do.
Sybok walks in looking very, very smug. It's almost like a Darth Vader entrance but less threatening.
He declares the council his prisoners.
Our governments will stop at nothing to ensure our safety
“That's what I'm counting on.”
Now we get to see the new Enterprise. The old one was destroyed in the last movie.
Scotty is complaining about all the bugs in the system, Uhura brings him lunch. There seems to be a little something going on between them.
Starfleet Command breaks in. There is a Priority 7 situation in the Neutral Zone.
Scotty is a bit perturbed because, apparently “this new ship must have ben put together by monkeys” and there are things that need some tweaking. But duty calls, so....
Shore leave is canceled but apparently Sulu and Chekhov get the memo first because we jump from a sunny day to late night around the campfire with Bones, Spock, and Kirk.
“You really piss me off Jim...”
McCOY: You piss me off. Human life is far too precious to risk on crazy stunts. Maybe it didn't cross that macho mind of yours that you should have been killed when you fell off that mountain.
KIRK: It crossed my mind.
KIRK: And, as I fell, I knew I wouldn't die.
McCOY: I thought he was the only one who's immortal.
KIRK: It isn't that, Bones. I knew I wouldn't die because the two of you were with me.
SPOCK: I do not understand.
KIRK: I've always known ...I'll die alone.
Spock and the marshmelon, the singalong... love this scene
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Spock fails to see the logic of the song because life is not a dream. Bookmark this idea.
Why have these people not been recalled to the Enterprise yet? Oh yeah, Kirk left without his communicator.
That's OK they'll come get him.
Uh oh... jump cut back out into the depths of space. Voyager II floats by as a Klingon Bird of Prey Decloaks. That's a wrap for Vger. Again.
Oddly enough, it's the Klingons who actually respond first to Nimbus 3. Time to go rescue Korrd but the ship's equivalent of Jack Sparrow, a dude called Klaa, is only interested in bullying other ships. He wants a target that fights back and he has always wanted to engage a federation starship. Oh boy...
Now for one of those extra long scene where the audience is supposed to be in awe of the Enterprise...
And, in all fairness, the ship does have its issues.
So Kirk has his orders. Ready or not, the Enterprise is on its way to Nimbus 3.
Now comes the distress call...
CAITHLIN (on viewscreen): A short time ago we surrendered ourselves to the forces of the Galactic Army of Light. At this moment, we are in their protective custody. Their leader assures us that we will be treated humanely as long as we co-operate with his demands. I believe his sincerity. He requests that you send a Federation starship to parlay for our release at once. Be assured we are in good health and would appreciate your immediate response.
Then Sybok shows up....
SYBOK (on viewscreen): I deeply regret this desperate act but these are desperate times. I have no desire to harm these innocents but do not put me to the test. I implore you... I implore you to respond, ...immediately.
Spock is looking VERY taken aback and Kirk notices
KIRK: What is it? You look like you've just seen a ghost.
SPOCK: Perhaps I have, Captain.
Kirk and Bones come to talk to Spock about what he might know about Sybok.
SPOCK: There was a young student, ...exceptionally gifted, ...possessing ...great intelligence. It was assumed that one day he would take his place amongst the great scholars of Vulcan. But he was a revolutionary.
KIRK: What do you mean?
SPOCK: The knowledge and experience he sought were forbidden by Vulcan belief.
SPOCK: He rejected his logical upbringing. He embraced the animal passions of our ancestors.
SPOCK: He believed that the key to self-knowledge was emotion, ...not logic.
McCOY: Imagine that. A passionate Vulcan.
SPOCK: When he encouraged others to follow him, he was banished from Vulcan, never to return.
Now keep in mind, this is all Spock cares to divulge at this point, but there's more.
So the Enterprise arrives at Nimbus 3, as does Klaa's ship.
Their transporters aren't working so the plan is to get the hostages out “the old fashioned way.”
They have Chekhov pose as Captain to stall Sybok and give a gentle nudge to release the hostages.
Kirk comes up with a diversion to get Sybok's goons out of the way. It involves Uhura doing a sexy dance and since these guys probably haven't gotten any in a while, they walk right into the trap.
So now the federation is able to breach the city and Sybok freaks. He apparently thought this was going to be a lot easier.
Kirk is having a look around the now deserted lounge and still manages to get some pussy...
Finally, Kirk and Co. find the hostages. It's almost over... except...
Looks like Sybok got to them and took away their pain. They're on HIS side now and our starfleet heroes are in custody.
They bring the prisoners to Sybok and of course Sybok recognizes Spock immediately.
Spock tells Sybok he's under arrest for violation of the Neutral Zone treaty to raucous laughter.
I'm not done... steal something... I need your starship
KIRK: You staged all this to get your hands on my ship?
SYBOK: Who are you?
KIRK: James T. Kirk, ...Captain of the Enterprise.
SYBOK: But I thought Captain Chekov. ...I see. Very clever, Captain. Spock, it would appear you've been given a second chance to join me. What do you say?
SPOCK: I am a Starfleet officer.
SYBOK: Of course. Then I'll take the ship without your help.
Meanwhile, the bird of prey has cloaked and this is never good news...
Enterprise needs to raise its shields but the shuttle that they believe to be carrying their Captain, First Officer, and Doctor and no one else who they might not want aboard can't dock with the shields raised. Sybok, of course is being a dick and telling them to stay on course... which will likely result in the Klingons blowing them to bits but this guy is about as good a listener as Anakin Skywalker so it's not easy convincing him to do anything but what he has his mind set on... He does allow Kirk to try to get them to the ship safely...
So the plan is to fly in manually. Shields are lowered, the bird of prey uncloaks.... Sulu pilots the shuttle badly into the bay. The Klingons fire...
Warp speed now!
And they escape. Sort of. Sybok and Kirk are headed to the bridge and there's a struggle. Because Kirk isn't just going to march this clown onto the bridge of the Enterprise. Sybok loses his gun in the struggle and it slides across the floor stopping at Spock's feet. This is it. It's almost over. Again... but wait! Spock picks up the gun and points it at Sybok telling him to surrender. Sybok says “no, you'll have to kill me” which Kirk very emphatically tells him to do. SHOOT HIM! Well, Spock can't do it and Sybok basically just takes back the gun. Kirk is somewhere between disappointed, utterly bewildered and pissed the fuck off.
Caithlinn tells them not to be afraid... oh she is DRUNK on the kool aid
Now we find out why Spock couldn't kill Sybok. They're half brothers.
Oh Jeez... Sybok has gotten to Uhura and Sulu and he's about to work his “Share your pain” act on Chekhov.
Back in the brig, Kirk is convinced they can escape but Spock bursts his bubble adequately. He says it's inescapable and he should know...
SPOCK: This is a new brig, Captain. It is escape proof.
KIRK: How do you know?
SPOCK: The designers tested it using the most intelligent and resourceful person they could find. He failed to escape.
KIRK: This person? He didn't by any chance have pointed ears and an unerring capacity for getting his shipmates into trouble, did he?
SPOCK: He did have pointed ears.
So now Sybok is going to explain everything...
Brave crew of the Starship Enterprise, consider the question of existence. These are the questions which man has asked ever since he first gazed at the stars and dreamed. My Vulcan ancestors were ruled by their emotions. They felt with their hearts. They made love with their hearts. They believed with their hearts. And above all else, they believed in a place in which these questions of existence would be answered. Modern dogma tells us this place is a myth. A fantasy concocted by pagans. It is no fantasy! I tell you ...it exists! My brothers, we have been chosen to undertake the greatest adventure of all time, ...the discovery of Sha Ka Ree.
Isn't that a Reiki symbol? Oh NVM that's Sho-ku-rei. I'm sure that was accidental. It also sounds a lot like Shangri-La. You know what else it sounds like? When Christians start talking in their hopelessly extrabiblical way about the afterlife. But Sybok is offering a value added proposition and thinks he can prove this place exists without anyone dying.
Our destination, ...the planet Sha Ka Ree. It lies beyond the Great Barrier, at the center of the Galaxy.
KIRK: The center of the Galaxy?
SPOCK: Where Sha Ka Ree is fabled to exist.
KIRK: But the center of the Galaxy can't be reached. No ship has ever gone into the Great Barrier. No probe has ever returned.
SPOCK: Sybok possessed the keenest intellect I have ever known.
Oh don't tell me you believe him... even smart people can be pretty fucking stupid at times.
KIRK: Spock! My only concern is getting the ship back. When that's done and Sybok is in here, you can debate Sha Ka Ree until you're green in the face. ...Until then, you're either with me or you're not.
SPOCK: I am here, Captain.
So in the midst of this discussion, we start hearing tapping....
Apparently not everyone has drunk the Kool Aid. Scotty is on the outside of the brig tapping in morse code... S...T...A...N...D...B...A...C...K
Boom! They've been sprung.
So now they need to send a distress call which means either going to the Bridge (bad idea) or using the emergency sending apparatus which is, for reasons unknown, in the forward observation deck. That's a little less risky. Not much but a little. Only one problem. They literally have to climb to it through good ol' turbo shaft #3. It's closed for repairs. Like most of the rest of the ship. Bones and Kirk start climbing, Spock ducks out and at this point I'm thinking “fuck me, he's with HIM” and I'm getting a tad nervous, but remember those jet shoes? Not sure where he was hiding them or if he just knew where to find more but... this trip just got a lot shorter. Sort of...
Too heavy... falling into the hands of Sulu and crew... but there's another setting on these things....
There's enough thrust in those things to create an express elevator to Forward Observation.
So they make it and Kirk puts out a distress call that is quickly picked up. Yay! By the Klingons. Shit.
They are about to leave the observation deck... right through the front door, mind you, when pirates have taken over the ship... Sybok meets them at the door with a few of his thugs...
SYBOK: I trust your message was received?
KIRK: You can't expect us to stand by while you take this ship into the Great Barrier.
SYBOK: What you fear ...is the unknown. The people of your planet once believed their world was flat. ...Columbus proved it was round. They said the sound barrier could never be broken. ...It was broken. They said warp speed could not be achieved. The Great Barrier is the ultimate expression of this universal fear. It is an extension of personal fear. Captain Kirk, I so much want your understanding. I want your respect. Are you afraid to hear me out?
KIRK: I'm afraid of nothing.
SYBOK: Wait outside. ...I'm sure you have many questions. Here, ...amid the stars of our own galaxy, we shall seek the answers together.
Well he sure does have the cult leader thing down, doesn't he?
To be fair, he's a bit more honest than most. He is AT LEAST willing to provide proof, or at a minimum, he hopes that in the end he'll have proof to provide. But just like religion, if he's wrong, everyone will be dead and unaware that they were ever so badly duped.
Scotty wakes up in sick bay to the awful truth of his girlfriend's conversion and then we get one of the pivotal conversations in this movie.
SYBOK: Sha Ka Ree. ...'The Source'. ...'Heaven.' ...'Eden.' ...'Call it what you will. The Klingons call it 'Qui'Tu.' To the Romulans, it's 'Vorta Vor.' The Andorian word is, ...is unpronounceable. Still every culture shares this common dream of a place from which creation sprang. For us, that place will soon be a reality.
KIRK: The only reality I see is that I'm a prisoner on my own ship. What is this ...power that you have to control the minds of my crew?
SYBOK: I don't control minds. ...I free them.
SYBOK: By making you face your pain and draw strength from it. Once that's done, fear cannot stop you.
McCOY: It sounds like ...brainwashing to me.
And isn't this the point of the Gospel and how it's presented? Hell, this is the heart of ALL good marketing: pushing PAIN POINTS. All products exist to solve a problem. The Gospel is no exception. Jesus doesn't want to control your mind. He wants to free it. You are mired under the weight of your sin. This is why you aren't happy (or “in pain”). You face your sins and call upon the power of Christ to forgive them. Once that is done, all fear is gone. Your eternity is sure. Perfect submission, all is at rest. I in my savior am happy and blessed. It's the same manipulation with a slightly different objective.
And now we get to see one of the other major devices of the Gospel – guilt.
We learn something about Bones that actually explains a lot.
So apparently Bones helped his father die. He had an incurable illness and he was in a lot of pain. He begged his son to help him die. “Son, release me.”
So Bones shuts down the life support and holds the lifeless face of his father in his hands. But this is about to get way worse....
“not long after, they found a cure...” and Sybok first takes on the role of the summoner, pretty much calling Bones a murderer, and then instantly becomes the pardoner.
Bones succumbs to Sybok's “pain sharing” ritual and now he's a meat puppet.
Now Sybok is after Spock. He makes Spock witness his own birth and Sarek's indignant reaction to Spock's “so human” appearance. He stand there, very contemplative but not all spacey like Bones.
And now we get the next pivotal conversation for this movie:
KIRK: What have you done to my friends?
SYBOK: I've done nothing. This is who they are, didn't you know that?
KIRK: No, I didn't.
SYBOK: Now learn something about yourself.
KIRK: No. I refuse.
McCOY: Jim, try to be open about this.
KIRK: About what? That I've made the wrong choices in my life? That I turned left when I should've turned right? I know what my weaknesses are. I don't need Sybok to take me on a tour of them.
McCOY: If you'd just...
KIRK: To be brainwashed by this con man?
McCOY: I was wrong. This 'con man' took away my pain!
KIRK: Dammit, Bones, you're a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They're things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. ...If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain.
And I love how Kirk just completely shoots down the Gospel of Sybok with that last line and, of course, the same applies to why giving your life to Jesus is a bad idea. Christianity promises freedom and delivers bondage. It promises release from things like guilt for past actions. Some people never believe that the magic wand worked, while for others it actually works so well they forget they still have business with the people they've wronged and responsibility for the damage they've done. And, no, Jesus is NOT the only one who matters in the way of forgiveness for the things we do to others. If you are still one of the ones who think it is, I hope, for your sake, you figure out better. Because Kirk is right. And it would seem his resistance is enough to snap Bones and Spock back to reality. Amazing how short a shelf life this kind of rhetoric has when logic is following right on its heels...
UHURA (on viewscreen): Sybok!
SYBOK: Captain, I'm afraid you'll have to remain here. Spock, ...Doctor McCoy, ...come with me.
SPOCK: I cannot go with you.
SYBOK: Why not?
SPOCK: I belong here.
SYBOK: I don't understand.
SPOCK: Sybok! You are my brother, but you do not know me. I am not the outcast boy you left behind those many years ago. Since that time I found myself and my place and I know who I am. I cannot go with you.
McCOY: I er... I guess you'd better count me out, too.
SYBOK: Then I'll see you on the other side.
KIRK: Wait! ...You know we'll never make it through the Great Barrier.
SYBOK: What if we do? Will that convince you that my vision was true?
KIRK: What vision?
SYBOK: Given to me by God. He waits for me on the other side.
KIRK: You are mad.
SYBOK: Am I? ...We'll see.
So... into the barrier they go, into the barrier based on a vision, into the barrier they go, don't know if they're returning
Well.. so far so good... lots of psychedelia... and just like that they're through it and there's this odd looking planet right beyond
Chekhov says There's a power source emanating from the planet like nothing he's ever seen
Of course Kirk is intrigued so he's sending a shuttle to the surface with just himself, Bones, Spock, and Sybok. I mean, let's face it, whether it was his “superior intellect” or sheer dumb luck, he... seems to have been right. So far. Then some outside force assumes control of the shuttle... and lands it safely. They get out and of course the air is breathable. This is never a problem on any planet visited by the Federation. Neither is having the right pull of gravity. Or atmospheric pressure... Ok, fine. It's called science fiction for a reason. Okay...
Sybok says it's just like what he saw in his visions. He truly believes that God has called him here. Most of the crew are watching what's going on with rapt attention. So rapt that no one notices the bird of prey that just uncloaked.
At the moment it looks like they're alone. Like, very, very alone. They're searching for this “god” creature where Chekhov spotted the energy surge and there is literally nothing.
Sybok decides to just yell at it... “We have traveled far... by STARSHIP.”
There it is. The magic fuckin' word.
Suddenly, it's dark and a bunch of pillars start poking up out of the ground. Think Stonehenge. Shatner was. It's more like flanking columns that eventually got me thinking of the end of The Wizard of Oz which I'm also not sure wasn't intentional. Then we get a huge surge of light that literally shoots up and out away from the planet. Whatever this thing is, it has power. But since I mentioned the Wizard of Oz, it's the same basic thing. The disembodied head that talks a lot of shit. It has *some* power but we're about to learn that maybe this “god” figure ain't really all that. So from within the light, first we get a voice...
GOD (OC): Brave souls. Welcome.
McCOY: Is this the voice of God?
GOD (OC): One voice, many faces.
GOD: Does this better suit your expectations?
SYBOK: Qual se tu?
GOD: It is I. ...The journey you took to reach me could not have been an easy one.
SYBOK: It was not. The Barrier stood between us ...but we breached it.
GOD: Magnificent. You are the first to find me.
SYBOK: We sought only your infinite wisdom.
GOD: And how did you breach the Barrier?
There's the first red flag, and I'm sure Kirk picked up on it...
SYBOK: With a starship!
Wait... God didn't hear him the first time?
GOD: This starship. ...Could it carry my wisdom beyond the Barrier?
Hold on, so... the Bible? That's not you?
SYBOK: It could. Yes!
GOD: Then I shall make use of this starship.
Sybok very enthusiastically answers
SYBOK: It will be your chariot!
...but Kirk is concerned and breaks in
KIRK: Excuse me.
GOD: It will carry my power to every corner of creation.
KIRK: Excuse me. ...I'd just like to ask a question. ...What does God need with a starship?
GOD: Bring the ship closer.
KIRK: I said ...'What does God need with a starship?'
McCOY: Jim, what are you doing?
KIRK: I'm asking a question.
And here's where it starts to fall apart...
GOD: Who is this creature?
KIRK: Who am I? Don't you know? Aren't you God?
Sybok plays the role of the apologist but “god's” eyes are set on Kirk.
SYBOK: He ...has his doubts.
GOD: You doubt me?
KIRK: I seek proof.
And really, isn't this all any of us are looking for? But just like the average Christian, being asked for proof makes this god-thing... a little uncomfortable. Bones adds his two cents...
McCOY: Jim, you don't ask the Almighty for his I.D.
Then “god” gets a little smug... as he does...
GOD: Then here is the proof you seek.
(blue light rays shoot from God's eyes knocking Kirk backwards)
KIRK: Why is God angry?
SYBOK: Why? Why have you done this to my friend?
GOD: He doubts me.
Hold on, maybe this IS him. If not, he's got Yahweh's act down. Got a problem? Respond with violence and punishment and MAKE THEM WORSHIP ME UNDER PAIN OF DEATH. Now Spock joins the debate. Knowing full well he's about to get this movie's version of a dose of force lightning...
SPOCK: You have not answered his question. What does God need with a starship?
(blue light rays shoot from God's eyes again knocking Spock backwards)
Because of course that's how he's going to respond.
GOD (to Bones): Do you doubt me?
McCOY: I doubt any God who inflicts pain for his own pleasure.
One thing I'll say about these three – they've got brass balls. All of them. And they really have each-other's backs even under pain of death.
SYBOK: Stop! The God of Sha Ka Ree would not do this!
Or: Stop! God is a God of love! He wouldn't act this way! Now for a little inconvenient truth from an unlikely source. God snaps back with...
GOD: Sha Ka Ree? A vision you created. An eternity I've been imprisoned in this place! The ship! I must have the ship! Now ...give me what I want!
Yeah, he throws tantrums like Yahweh, too.
SPOCK: Sybok, ...this is not the God of Sha Ka Ree, ...or any other God!
SYBOK: I don't understand... Reveal yourself to me!
And here comes the quintessential “Sad But True” moment... Metallica fans will get that one...
(an image of Sybok strides out of one of God's eyes)
SYBOK/GOD: What's wrong? Don't you like this face? I have so many but this one suits you best.
“I'm inside, open your eyes. I'm you. Sad but true.”
SYBOK: No! No, ...it's not possible.
GOD: Bring me the ship or I will destroy you!
SYBOK: The ship.
GOD: Bring it closer so that I might join with it. Do it or watch these puny beings ...die horribly.
Now the truth hits. Sybok is understanding the dangers of blind faith.
SYBOK: What have I done?
KIRK: Kirk to Enterprise. Listen carefully.
SYBOK: This is my doing! This is my arrogance, ... my vanity...
Sad but true, Sybok. Sad but true.
SPOCK: Sybok, we must find a way...
SYBOK: No! Save yourselves! ...Forgive me, brother. Forgive me.
With no other card to play, Sybok responds to... um God? Himself? Whoever...
...I couldn't help but notice your pain.
GOD: My pain?
SYBOK: It runs deep. Share it with me.
(Sybok boldly enters the shaft and embraces his evil twin)
So now Kirk tells them to basically torpedo “God”, which they do, and which does little more than piss this thing off. A lot. They get all the way back to the shuttle and of course it won't go anywhere. The god creature is growling outside the shuttle. They finally have the transporter working on the Enterprise but they can only beam two of them. Kirk orders that Bones and Spock be beamed up. And they are. Then as it's time to grab Kirk... blam! The Klingons attack.
Funny thing is... they have no idea Korrd is aboard the Enterprise. Spock convinces Korrd to try to call off the pirates.
On the planet surface the God creature is doing its best Krayt Dragon impression, wailing and snarling. Kirk is done or at least that's how it seems... until the Klingons show up and just kinda blast it. God dies quite easily in the end. Federation torpedoes are apparently less effective than phasers. Go figure. Now it's time for Kirk to throw his standard “so it's me you want” line and the “Klingons” beam him up. Now he's on the bridge of the bird of prey. He is escorted to the bridge and Korrd orders him released. And... lo and behold, he sees a couple familiar faces. Apparently, in the end, it was Spock who avenged his brother. Never knew he was a good gunner, but...
This is one of the weirdest scenes in Star Trek history but I'll take it.
The next scene is a big deep space dinner party where Scotty gives Korrd his first sip of actual scotch. His reaction to it is non-existent. It's alcohol and that's all he cares about. The three ambassadors from the beginning all seem to have normaled up. No one seems to miss Sybok or his hocus pocus very much. Only Spock, at the very end, says anything about him. And then, the last of the really meaningful dialogue in this movie:
KIRK: Cosmic thoughts, gentlemen?
McCOY: We were speculating ...'Is God really out there?'
KIRK: Maybe He's not out there, Bones. Maybe He's right here ...in the human heart. ...Spock?
SPOCK: I was thinking of Sybok. I have lost a brother.
KIRK: Yes. ...I lost a brother once. But I was lucky, I got him back.
McCOY: I thought you said men like us don't have families.
KIRK: I was wrong.
There's danger in the idea of letting someone or some thing take away all of your defects of character, all your mistakes, all your bad decisions... that's the gospel message in a nutshell: lay your sins and your burdens at the foot of the cross. That's all well and good until you realize that the pain is still there and that any relief you might have felt was all emotional and temporary. The people we hurt remain hurt. The consequences of our actions remain. Sure, it may make us feel better to pray a prayer and give these things over to Christ, but it will never make us better individuals. In fact, it has the potential for making us more selfish and less able to face a little thing called personal responsibility. And it gives us the wrong perspective on the concept of forgiveness.
And just like Sha ka Ree, the concept of a loving god exists only in the minds of believers. It doesn't even exist in the Bible in any first person context. Sure, there are people from Jesus on down that talk about how much God loves people, but the proof is in the narrative, isn't it? The God of the Bible is not a god of love by any stretch and he breeds followers who spend their entire lives with this skewed notion of what love is. Because if God has to kill a bunch of Egyptian kids and livestock to demonstrate his love for the Israelites, what is that love really worth? And where was he when the Nazis were in power? Think about it...
Every interpretation of God, whether it is one of love like the one most of my Tres Dias friends had constructed or the one of violence and aggression that White Evangelicals, neo-nazis and the Klan constructed, is correct in the mind of the constructor. And each interpretation influences, thought and behavior. Sybok saw Qual Se Tu as a conduit to Nirvana. All of the questions of the universe will be answered if we can just be bold enough to go just one more place where no one has gone before. And, to be fair, his faith did facilitate the answer to the question of what lies beyond the Great Barrier, but what he sought wasn't what he found, was it? If this movie teaches us anything it's that what's beyond the Great Barrier is bound to disappoint. Spare yourself the disappointment. There is no observable higher power in this universe to pursue. Wisdom, maturity, enlightenment... these things are outgrowths of the things we do and experience – the good choices, the bad ones, and everything in between.
I'll close this conversation by encouraging you to go where many have gone before: to a place where your pain may follow you, but where you learn from it, grow and mature as a result of it, and take ownership of it. And that means forgetting about having your pain taken away and facing it headon either through better actions and decisions, or through competent avenues of exploration like therapy. That's one of a small list of ways I know to share your pain and gain strength from it. Laying it at the foot of the cross and pretending it isn't still there solves nothing. Because your pain – all the places where you've turned left instead of right, should teach you something. Sybok, much like your pastor, would like you to think that dragging your pain into the light involves immediately releasing it and bearing it no more. The reality is quite the opposite. Confront it, deal with it, and live through it. Fix what you can. Make amends where they're due. Take ownership of your imperfections. Because recognizing the value of self-assessment and taking responsibility for the things that cause that pain can make us stronger, smarter, happier, and better people. Better still, it will also make it easier to reach a place in our lives where we start getting unbound.