Prepare for a deep dive into dorkdom.
Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic (even in these earliest days of Minnesota’s shelter-in-place mandate) I’ve watched a few old-school movies. One such guilty pleasure was Star Trek: First Contact (1996).
(If one can have a spoiler alert for a 24-year old movie, here it is: *spoiler alert*.)
Star Trek: First Contact is the story of the Borg’s (cyborgs, not Swedes) journey to the past in order to defeat and assimilate the human race in the past.
In response, the Enterprise and her crew, following the Borg through a temporal wake, struggle to defeat the Borg, and ensure the safe launch of Earth’s first warp-capable ship and the following “first contact” with an alien, the Vulcans.
It is, classic Star Trek fun, and (believe it or not) an entry to the Old Testament.
For my money, the best scene in the film comes in an exchange between Captain of the Enterprise, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Lily Sloane (Alfre Woodard), a human from Earth’s past.
The Enterprise itself is about to be overrun by the Borg, and the crew has urged Picard to start the ship’s self-destruct. Picard refuses, wanting to stay and fight the Borg, preserving both the Enterprise and the Earth.
The scene goes like this:
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Six years ago, [the Borg] assimilated me into their collective. I had their cybernetic devices implanted throughout my body. I was linked to the hive mind. Every trace of individuality erased. I was one of them. So you can imagine, my dear, I have a somewhat unique perspective on the Borg, and I know how to fight them. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.
Lily Sloane: I am such an idiot. It’s so simple. The Borg HURT you, and now you’re going to HURT them back!
Picard: In my century, we don’t succumb to revenge. We have a more evolved sensibility.
Sloane: BULLSHIT! I saw the look your face when you shot those Borg on the Holodeck. You were almost ENJOYING it!
Picard: How dare you.
Sloane: Oh, come on, Captain. You’re not the first man to get a thrill out of murdering someone! I see it all the time!
Picard: GET OUT!
Sloane: Or what? You’ll kill me, like you killed Ensign Lynch?
Picard: There was no way to save him.
Sloane: You didn’t even try! Where was your evolved sensibility then?
Picard: I don’t have time for this.
Sloane: Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt your little quest. Captain Ahab has to go hunt his whale!
Sloane: You do have books in the 24th century.
Picard: This is not about revenge.
Picard: This is about saving the future of humanity!
Sloane: Jean Luc, blow up the damn ship!
Picard: No! Noooooooooo!
[Turning, he smashes a glass case and the models of the Enterprise kept inside.]
Picard: I will not sacrifice the Enterprise. We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! And I will make them pay for what they’ve done!
Sloane: You broke your little ships. [A long silent pause.]
Sloane: See you around, Ahab.
Picard: “And he piled upon the whale’s white hump, the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.”
Picard: Moby Dick.
Sloane: Actually, I never read it.
Picard: Ahab spent years, hunting the white whale that crippled him. A quest for vengeance. But, in the end, it destroyed him, and his ship.
Sloane: I guess he didn’t know when to quit.
Sloane calls Picard “Ahab,” and in so doing, shakes him out of his own blindness to his need for vengeance, a vengeance which will bring destruction not only to Picard himself, but to his ship and to the Earth.
Now to the Bible. Sloane calls Picard Ahab, referencing Moby Dick. Melville named his main character Ahab, after the biblical King Ahab. And the biblical Ahab is, to put it lightly, a troubled and troublesome figure.
Micah 6, which calls the people of Israel to covenant faithfulness, in those well-known terms,
6 “With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
In my church, we love those verses. They are almost as beloved as John 3:16. Probably more by certain folks.
But what is often overlooked is that the justice, kindness, and humility that God requires of us is set within a very specific context, in which Israel is condemned. Check out Micah 6:16,
16 For you have kept the statutes of Omri
and all the works of the house of Ahab,
and you have followed their counsels.
Therefore I will make you a desolation, and your inhabitants an object of hissing;
so you shall bear the scorn of my people.
What, you may ask, are the “statutes of Omri,” and “all the works of the house of Ahab”? You probably don’t know off the top of your head, most people won’t. And, most of the time, we don’t bother to chase down those things down.
So, here is what we learn 1 Kings 16
30 Ahab son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.
Ahab, did evil, more even than his father. And what do we learn about Omri?
25 Omri did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; he did more evil than all who were before him. 26 For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam son of Nebat….
Now, who is Jeroboam and what is his “way”? You may remember that little kerfuffle with the Golden Calves. If not, here it is in 1 Kings 12,
25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and resided there; he went out from there and built Penuel. 26 Then Jeroboam said to himself, “Now the kingdom may well revert to the house of David. 27 If this people continues to go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, the heart of this people will turn again to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah; they will kill me and return to King Rehoboam of Judah.” 28 So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one at Bethel and before the other as far as Dan.
The way of Jeroboam, followed by Omri and Ahab … and Captain Ahab … and Captain Picard. Now there is a tour deforce BibPopCult dorkdom.
I hope you’ve enjoyed.
Now go wash your hands.