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The Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker The Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker

The Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker is pastor/head of staff of United Presbyterian Church in Peoria, IL

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United Presbyterian Church, Peoria, IL


Star Trek: Into Darkness and Out of Clothes

June 05, 2013

You’ve probably seen Star Trek Into Darkness by now, or  at least seen the previews. Either way, you’ve seen Alice Eve, the one new female lead with speaking lines, in her underwear. There have already been multiple posts across the Internet commenting on the needlessness of the scene from every angle you can think of by Jezebel.com, io9, and this one on Den of Geek.

There was so much chatter about the randomness of the scene that writer Damon Lindelof took to Twitter to admit that it was gratuitous and that he needed to be more mindful of such things in the future. You can read Den of Geek’s follow-up article addressing that here.

So, we don’t need to talk more about the fact that there’s a scene in Star Trek in which Alice Eve strips down for no apparent reason. We can talk about why though.

Let’s just jump beyond all the sexual reasons; there’s plenty of that already on the web. I think what it really comes down to is a lack of trust. The writers and producers didn’t trust that their story stood on its own. They didn’t believe in their story enough to not have to put in a little bit of eye candy to keep people interested. If they really believed in their story, they wouldn’t have thought they needed that to draw people in or get people interested. What was those five seconds going to do anyway? They didn’t trust their story.

They also didn’t trust their audience. They didn’t believe that their audience could appreciate the movie for its plot, its dialogue, or its characters without some gratuitous, sexually suggestive, scene. Perhaps they trusted the die-hard Trekies would be all in, but maybe they were worried about those new to Sci-Fi movies or Star Trek. They didn’t trust those people to be okay with the movie without sex, because well… sex is everywhere now.

I think it’s an issue of trust. The church has the same issue. We don’t trust in our story, God’s story. I recently did a sermon on the story of the rich man and Lazarus around the question: Is the Bible enough? That was the rich man’s point. Just having the Bible isn’t enough to get anyone to change their lives, but if someone were to get up out of the grave–  well that’d be something.

We are quick not to trust in the story anymore. We think we need spectacle for people to come to church and stay in church. The story isn’t enough to draw them, keep them, or change them and so we think we need some kind of wow factor. Sometimes churches play the sex card (okay too often churches play the sex card). Churches have put up signs and sent postcards to all the houses in their neighborhood advertising, “better sex” if you come to this class or this sermon series. Some churches go to such lengths to keep you from having sex until you’re married and then quickly use it as a tool for their own growth and control.

It isn’t limited to sexuality though. Churches will try almost anything to enhance what they’re offering because they don’t trust the story. You can have light shows and smoke machines and a big production because just the story isn’t enough anymore! Some churches bring in special guests: Mrs. South Georgia Watermelon will be here next Sunday to say a little word for Jesus. Or I’ve even heard of body builders who will bend metal and smash things with their heads while reciting scripture and witnessing for Jesus. How can the Bible compete with beauty queens, body builders, and rock shows? At least that’s how we sometimes think, because we don’t trust the story.

I’m guilty of it too. I think if we can only have more programs then that will bring in people, that will get people more involved and more invested in the church. Are programs bad? No. The church should be able to serve people on many levels, but sometimes we try to replace the story with entertaining programs, because we don’t trust the story.

Churches also don’t trust the congregation. Churches don’t trust the people to be drawn in and changed by the Word of God. That’s why so many churches try to have so many extras thrown in, because they don’t trust the people to be satisfied with bread from heaven. Again, I’m guilty of that. Maybe it’s because of all the depressing statistics about shrinking churches. Maybe it’s because people are so quick to church shop now that we think, “Hey people can get the story anywhere but can they get this childcare, or this light show, or this coffee bar across the street?”

What are some of the ways you don’t trust your story or your audience? In your own life are there times you just throw in a gratuitous scene to attract people, to keep people happy, or divert their attention?

If you participate in the life of a church, are there ways your church doesn’t really trust God’s story or the congregation? What are the ways that lack of trust manifests itself in the life of your church and its worship?

As pastors, elders, and church members, I think we can follow Damon Lindelof’s lead and pledge to be more mindful of the choices we make. Is this necessary, or it is just a gratuitous act meant to appeal and appease to the people we don’t trust enough to respond to the story we equally distrust?

Faith is all about trust and that isn’t limited to our personal relationship with Christ; it is foundational to who we are as a church, what we do, and even how we worship. Do we trust our brothers and sisters? Do we trust the Word?

To Read Similar Posts on God and Geekery visit http://theologeeky.com


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