Emergency Clerical Hologram

Emergency Clerical Hologram October 16, 2019

I was delighted to have the chance to make a guest appearance in Steven Schweitzer’s class on theology and science fiction at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana. Steve is working on a book about theology and science fiction, as well as teaching a class on the subject, and it was a real delight to get to spend several hours talking about this topic – focusing mostly on Star Trek.

One line of conversation in the class will, I think, lead to an article, hopefully in collaboration with a student in that class, who suggested that Guinan might be the de facto chaplain on the Enterprise in The Next Generation. I think that is interesting not least because her formal role seems to bartender. And yet she offers a kind of conversation that one doesn’t get from most bartenders, and that one wouldn’t expect to get from Counselor Troi, either. And so I think there is something worth exploring there.

The doctor – sorry, Emergency Medical Hologram – on Voyager also came up often. And so I found myself thinking about a holographic chaplain and what one might or might not be able to offer. What do you think? Would a holographic chaplain be better than nothing when no human clergy are available? Sometimes better than a human chaplain? Always worse? That too could be an article, or part of the same article.

When this came up in the class, the words that were uttered seemed to me to call out to become a meme. And so here they are. Please do share one or both of them. Let me know which you like best. Or make a better one. But more importantly, please do share your thoughts on the topics I mentioned above. Is Guinan for all practical purposes the chaplain on the Enterprise-D? What does it say that Gene Roddenberry was adamant that Starfleet starships not have chaplains, and yet the scripts and characters called out for someone to fill that role? And on the other hand, what does it say that the characters sought a spiritual and insightful bartender rather than an official religious figure of some sort?

This has the makings of a great article, doesn’t it?

Also related to the class discussion (and featuring an image I was sorry I did not have somewhere in my Powerpoint):

Would Discovering Extraterrestrial Life Make us – and them – Platonists, Mormons, or Atheists?


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • davidt

    Clearly you aren’t familiar with John Muir. In a sense in Avatar the main character loses his mind but saves his soul. So avatar might be a better healthier religious approach if we are relying on movies as our spiritual guide. Just saying. Good healthy spirituality is also good healthy enviromentalism as well.
    ://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/61e35d06e2fbdd8c28cc7a2de5d2bb557f67a0240999227871442f9d77e1b891.jpg

  • Gary

    “Would a holographic chaplain be better than nothing when no human clergy are available?”
    Best idea I’ve ever heard regarding clergy!
    No LGBTQ problems. No sexual misconduct or molestation opportunities. No political activist agenda camouflaged as clergy advice. No hidden agendas regarding protecting the clergies’ future retirement allotment.

    But you would have to have a select button, when first energizing the hologram, to select your particular doctrine of choice.
    If liberal secularists want to vent their anger at a particular doctrine, they can select their doctrine of dispute, energize it, tell the hologram clergy how much he’s hated, and the hologram clergy won’t give a damn! I like it. No feelings are hurt.

    One Chaplin, with one doctrine, won’t make it considering the multitudes of alien cultures on board.

  • John MacDonald

    When the show first came on I thought there may be a joke in there somewhere because the actor’s last name is “Picardo,” lol

  • Lee Pfahler

    Steve Schweitzer was one of my professors when he was teaching at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary before he went to Bethany. I so wish he would have offered a class on science fiction and theology then! Anyhow, as a hospital chaplain I can see Guinan being the chaplain for the crew of the Enterprise. In our training as chaplains, as well as in spiritual direction, we use images to help us understand ourselves as spiritual care-givers and understand how we present ourselves to those we minister to. For example, Nouwen’s Wounded Healer image or the image of a midwife. A bartender could be an image as well though likely an unusual one but I could see how it could work. Bartenders listen to a lot of people unload their woes on them and as chaplains we do a lot of listening!
    I wonder if Roddenbery’s decision not to have a chaplain on the Enterprise was because back then when the U.S. population was more Christian the understanding of chaplains were that they would proselytize people and they only represented Christianity. So Roddenberry didn’t want that understanding to warp (sorry for the pun

    • Oh, now I so want to write something about religion on Star Trek and call it “Warping Religion”!!!

      • Lee Pfahler
      • Lee Pfahler

        Just give me credit please!