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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Resistance is Futile...?

Even if you're not very familiar with Star Trek (my family used to watch the shows, though our interest never rose to the level of fanaticism), you know about the Borg, the relentless, half-man/half-machine monsters who would forcibly conscript their victims, robbing them of their minds and their memories, and integrate them into the "hive mind" almost instantly. The Borg couldn't be outrun, and it was almost impossible to kill them, since they could "adapt" to protect themselves from even the most powerful weapon. They even took a Star Fleet captain to be one of their own, in a classic two-part episode of the Next Generation series. Despite all of these powers to scare, I always thought the worst part about the Borg wasn't any of that stuff. It was that moment when one of their ships would suddenly appear, and in a thousand voices talking as one, we would hear the Borg chant that creepy line, We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

I was fairly small the first time I watched these fictional monsters, and I remember thinking, "I'm so glad it's all just make-believe, because I don't know how the good guys are gonna win this one." I was too small to understand the cultural statement the series writers were trying to make (basically, their belief that technology threatens to rob us of individuality and humanity), but I could definitely understand the basic concept of a powerful, inhuman enemy that wanted to wipe out seemingly defenseless good guys. I could admire the brilliant story idea, because I knew that the underlying concepts of good vs. evil were actually pretty accurate.

Mind you, I've never believed in the Borg, or extra-terrestrial beings, or unicorns and fairies, for that matter. I often shy away from mainstream sci-fi or fantasy/Christian parallels, because I don't think the two categories are universally comparable, and I wouldn't want to lead people to believe that they are. However, I do believe that, just as we see in some fictional stories, there is an enemy out there who is unlike me, who is too powerful for me to overcome with my human strength, and who hates me with such diabolical intent that I shouldn't take him for granted. If he could take me prisoner or murder me, he would, and without help, I couldn't escape him. Who is this foe? His name is Satan.

A Parallel?

So why would I choose to talk about the Borg today? Why would their creepy "Resistance is Futile" line bother me more than the television makeup and eerie green lighting?

I think, in my own mind, I've long had a terrible fear of being outnumbered and outgunned. When it feels like me against the whole world, it's hard not to shake in my boots at least a little bit. If the Borg were real, the most frightening part is that there were many of them, and at any point, they could turn my own friends into more of them, until eventually I was the only one left to be hunted--and that's a scary thought, right?

In real life, Satan hunts us. Even though we can't usually see our enemy, quite often he is there. The Bible says, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). If you are truly a Christian, trying to do what is right, you will be a target. Everyone who is not following God has already been swatted down by one of that vicious lion's paws.

So, is there any kind of hope to this situation? Does becoming a Christian mean we automatically become a lone target who is relentlessly hunted until we are struck down? Absolutely not! The Bible offers us several kinds of hope:
  1. That God will protect us from the enemy, the Devil, if we trust Him.
    For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. (Proverbs 2: 6-9 NIV)
    A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all. (Psalm 34: 19 NIV)
  2. That Satan is our enemy, even though sometimes he uses people to harm us.
    For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)
  3. That Satan will ultimately be punished, and that anyone who calls on God when under Satanic attack will be restored.
    The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (Romans 16:20 NIV)
    And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5: 10 NIV)
  4. That God is always with us, and nothing that is done to us ever sneaks by Him.
    Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9 NIV)
    Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10: 29-31 NIV)
So, I guess what I am trying to say is that the fear of Satan, who does evil and works through our own friends to hunt us and try to destroy us, is not unlike the fear the characters felt when they encountered the Borg, or perhaps the sympathetic fear that the Borg inspired in TV viewers. However, unlike in the fictional tale, the enemy, Satan, may be ugly, and he may appear to be many, but he is defeated already. He may make trouble for us, but ultimately God will destroy him for his wickedness, along with all his evil handiwork.

That's what they left out of the Star Trek shows--a super villain like the Borg needed a super victory. Instead, the Borg were defeated by human effort and the captives were restored by the power of human will alone. I'm so glad that is not how it ends, in my story, or I would be doomed. Fear would get the better of me, and I would be plowed under by the enemy.

Now About Those Drones...

The "Borg drones" that do the "assimilating" in the TV series were really just regular guys who were being controlled, body and mind, by an evil that worked through them. One minute, you were looking at your best friend, and the next minute, a Borg drone had infected him and your best pal was just as anxious to hunt you down as the rest of them.

The Devil does that, too. In such cases, it is not possible for us, by our human strength, to fix our friends when they turn against us and try to do harm to us. However, it does help to know what is motivating their behavior. Armed with that perspective, we understand that it is nothing personal (even if they think so), and that it is not an entirely hopeless situation. The enemy may be powerful, but God is more so. If you are facing trouble from a friend, you need to pray for that friend and bravely continue to speak and model the truth for him (as far as God leads you to do it), so that he will see God in you, and perhaps will seek God. If he does, God can go into the enemy camp where you cannot, and steal your friend out of there.

As the Bible puts it
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray....And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5: 13a, 15-20 NIV)
Through our prayers, both ourselves and our friends can be delivered from any trouble, because through prayer, we get God involved in the solution.

Oh, and I wanted to answer another question that you might be thinking right now: I've been talking about postmodernism for the past two weeks. Why the sudden shift in my topic? Well, what does the postmodern movement in our churches and our culture have to do with the Borg? I think that's simple enough to answer. Real followers of Christ in this world are being invaded by just another manifestation of Satan's will to destroy and demoralize us. I've been concerned that sounding the warning about postmodernism might be inspiring fear and uncertainty in my readers. Well, folks, take heart! Postmodernism, Satan's latest trouble, is everywhere, and Satan may seem like an unstoppable enemy, but even this trouble will fail. If we follow God, we will not be "assimilated," and our resistance through prayer and faithful obedience is definitely not futile.

I shared the passage earlier about Satan prowling around like a lion. Let's read that passage again, now, in context:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5: 6-11 NIV)
Feel better? I hoped so.