Gods from outer space: the good, the bad and the silly

“He’ll be a god to them.” So says Jor-El, the father of Superman, as he sends his son to Earth in the latest trailer for Man of Steel.

In the immediate context, Jor-El seems to be referring primarily to the fact that his son will have powers that the other residents of Earth will not. But his voice-over, later in the trailer, goes on to speak in even more elevated terms of Superman as someone who will give humanity “an ideal to strive towards,” thereby allowing humans to “join [him] in the sun.” Lois Lane adds to the mythology, as it were, by noting that some people think of Superman as a “guardian angel”.

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Fantasies and fairy tales speak to our spiritual needs

MAGIC is everywhere you look these days. From bookstores to movie theatres, stories about wizards, witches and mythological beasts are all the rage; and for a person like me, who grew up with hobbits, aliens, flying horses and Jedi Knights, the current fantasy craze — and the various Christian responses to it — bring back a lot of memories.

How popular is fantasy right now? The most successful movie of the year (so far) is Shrek, a cheeky parody of the fairy tale genre that turns conventional wisdom about ogres, dragons and beautiful princesses on its head. That film’s box office performance could be surpassed in a few weeks by Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first film based on J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular novels about a young orphan and his classmates at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

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Some things are just wrong / A new Star Trek movie can explain how but doesn’t seem to know why

While the show’s premise is rooted strongly in secular humanism, Star Trek is, at the same time, profoundly concerned with issues of truth and morality. But only to a point.

Star Trek: Insurrection, the latest movie in this TV and film franchise, offers a striking case in point. In it, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) discovers that the Federation is secretly planning to relocate an alien race, the Ba’Ku, against its will. This is in violation of the Federation’s Prime Directive, which prohibits interference with alien cultures, but Picard’s superior officer, Admiral Dougherty (Anthony Zerbe), rationalizes that it is a trivial matter: the Federation would be moving only 600 people.

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A fascinating examination of Star Trek’s ‘double vision’

Mike Hertenstein: The Double Vision of Star Trek: Half-Humans, Evil Twins and Science Fiction, Cornerstone, 1998.

FOR A SHOW rooted so strongly in secular humanism, Star Trek has quite the Christian following. Theologian Stan Grenz has lectured on the TV series at Regent College, and Phil Farrand, author of the fannish Nitpicker’s Guide series, openly acknowledges his love for Jesus.

Now that books on the physics, metaphysics, biology and meaning of Star Trek have become a literary genre in their own right, the time is more than ripe for an analysis of this phenomenon from a Christian perspective.

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