socraticcoyote

Forbidden Planet

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2010 at 10:32 pm


Good morning. As you know, I love all the the Star Wars movies. But my favorite science fiction movie of all time is the 1956 classic, Forbidden Planet. Anybody seen Forbidden Planet? Forbidden Planet is about a planet in a distant solar system that was once populated by an incredible race called the Krell. The Krell were amazingly advanced. They had eliminated sickness and suffering, they were ethically and morally stellar, they had travelled the galaxy, and they were technologically light years ahead of earth. But, on the threshold of their ultimate cultural achievement, the Krell perished in a single night.

Two different expeditions from earth visited this Forbidden Planet long after the Krell had disappeared, and discovered that something dark and evil still haunted this world. At the end of the movie we learn that the Krell had been murdered, and this murderous evil still existed, threatening to kill all of the earth visitors.

What was this evil? The Krell heard subtle but devilish cultural voices tempting them. The Krell succumbed to these cultural voices and temptations, and by giving in, they created an evil that caused their extinction. The Krell listened to the voice of the tempter, and perished.

The cultural voices the Krell faced are the same cultural voices and temptations that Jesus faced while He was in the desert. The same evil tempter tempted both. And, the same cultural temptations, and the same evil tempter, tempt us in exactly the same ways. As we all begin the journey of Lent, I want to look this morning at three cultural voices and temptations that the Krell, Jesus and we all wrestle with. By looking at how Jesus and the Krell faced these three cultural temptations, we will learn what the devil’s cultural temptations are, how to resist them, and, what the tragic consequences are if we don’t.

Let me begin by painting the scene in Luke. The big picture that we so often miss is that when the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, Jesus was going on a classic vision quest. Many cultures then, and still a few today, sent their young people away from society for a period of time to help them prepare for their public vocation or ministry. On a vision quest the goal is to get away from all the voices of family, culture, and civilization, and to clearly hear the voice of God, the voice of your own soul, and, the voice of evil.

Through fasting and isolation, the vision-quester is more open to hearing these important voices. This is why the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert. Jesus didn’t go into the desert simply to individually wrestle with Satan. Jesus went into the desert on a vision quest to turn off cultural voices, and turn other voices on.

But, voices we try to turn off always come back full force. Prepared by fasting and isolation, the very voices of culture that Jesus was trying to get away from on his vision quest came back at Him full force.

The first cultural temptation that Jesus faced was the tempation of compensating for human fraility with omnipotence. After living in the desert for over a month, Jesus is very hungry. The tempter says, “if you’re starving, turn these stones into bread. You are all powerful, use your omnipotence to compensate for your human frailty.” Human beings are frail. We are prone to sickness and suffering. We get weak from hunger, and we get scared when we are all alone. Culture, our shared human community, helps us with our frailities, healing us when we are sick, comforting us in our sorrows, feeding us when we are hungry, and providing us companionship when we are all alone. But, the voices of culture also tell us that we can compensate for our human frailty by becoming omnipotent.

Look at what humans have done to compensate for our frailty. We’ve turned deserts into oasis, we’ve cured diseases, we feed the world, we shelter ourselves from violent nature, and, if we continue on this path, who knows what else our power might accomplish. We just might become all powerful. We just might be able to turn stones into bread. This is the voice of the tempter, speaking through culture, telling us that we can become God.

The Krell also heard the voice of the tempter. They were so powerful that they had eliminated sickness, suffering, fraility, and vulnerability. There was nothing they couldn’t do. They were virtually omnipotent. They compensated for their fraility by almost becoming God.

This first cultural temptation we must battle on our lenten vision quests says if our fraility makes us insecure, then maybe our power can make us secure. Jesus responds to the voice of the tempter by saying that humans do not live by bread alone. Our security does not come by turning stones into bread, but by trusting God. We are secure not by becoming God, but by trusting God.

This is a tough battle. I feel this cultural temptation all the time. If I can make enough money, then I can turn that money into bread, and I will be secure. If I do just the right exercises, and take just the right supplements, then I can avoid sickness and disease, and be secure. If I can just develop myself enough psychologically, then I can turn that hoped-for maturity into mental security against rejection, failure, or political and economic unrest. And on and on.

I’m sure you feel similar temptations too. The cultural temptations to compensate for our human fraility by becoming God are everywhere. Like Jesus, when confronted by the voice of the tempter, we all need to compensate for our human fraility not by striving to become omnipotent, but by trusting our fraility to God.

The second cultural temptation that Jesus faced was the temptation to compensate for being limited to one place, by being able to go to all places. After a rough season in the wilderness, Jesus was feeling powerless and alone. Surely He was tired of living in the desert. The tempter leads Jesus to a high place and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world. “All their glory and splendor will be yours,” Satan says. Jesus, trying to get away from the voices of culture, is immediately hit with a powerful cultural temptation to be somewhere else.

The tempter says, “You can be everywhere at once. You need not be limited to one place. From this high ground all the kingdoms of the world are right here before you. There is no place you can’t have. There is no place you can’t reach” This temptation is about power, authority, and omnipresence.

The Krell, from their high place, were also tempted to be omnipresent. On the threshold of their greatest cultural achievement, Krell technology was so advanced that their computers and machinery could connect to the electromagnetic signals of individual Krell brains. This allowed individual Krells to project their presence instantaneously to any place of their planet. The Krell overcame the physical limitations of a body, and achieved virtual omnipresence. They listened to the voice of the tempter.

What are the high places in our culture from which we are tempted to become omnipresent? Militarily, omipresence means our army, navy and air force can fight the enemy anywhere and everywhere in the world. Tourism-wise, omnipresence means we can go to, learn from, and enjoy any place in the world. Internet-wise, omnipresence means we can connect to and communicate with anyone on earth, and, through fantasy, as super-heroes we can battle anyone we want, and, have sex with any image we want.

We can literally travel to the moon, and through our incredible telescopes see back to the beginning of the universe. We can go to the stars. We can color outside any lines. We are no longer tied to body, or to place. As the commercial says, we are without limits.

Jesus responded to the voice of the tempter by saying “you will worship God alone.” By worshipping God who alone is everywhere at all times, we are forced to remember that we are limited physical creatures. We do indeed have limits. There are all kinds of lines we can’t color outside of. There is no place high enough to get us everywhere. There is no place high enough to make us God. We must compensate for being physically limited to one body, in one place, at one time, not by being omnipresent, but by trusting God who is everywhere at all times.

The final temptation that Jesus faced was the temptation to compensate for being mortal, by being immortal. The desert Jesus was vision-questing in was not flat. It had hills and canyons, and certainly, weakened by fasting, Jesus must have worried about falling. So, the tempter took Jesus to the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God, Jump! Your angels will catch you. Don’t worry about falling. Scripture says you can’t be harmed. You won’t die. You are immortal.” Satan tempts Jesus to compensate for His human frailities by trusting in His divine invulnerability and immortality.

Again, the Krell were tempted by the same tempter and the same temptation. Having overcome sickness and suffering, having overcome being physically limited to one place, the Krell were on the verge of attaining immortality. Immortality not through their achievements, and not through their history, but immortality by living forever. The Krell compensated for the greatest fraility of all, death, by swallowing up death up in eternal life.

The promise of eternal life is a profound cultural temptation that we must battle ceasely on our Lenten vision quests. In spite of earthquakes, tsunamis, plagues, and wars, culture keeps promising us eternal life. Think of how much money we spend as a culture on make-up and hair dye to keep us looking young; light beer, shiny cars, and pretty women to keep us feeling young, and angioplastys, stents, and bypass surgeries to keep us living and young. These things aren’t bad in and of themselves. But the subtle cultural message we are hit with all the time is that if we do the right things, then, maybe, just maybe, we will live forever.

Jesus responded to this temptation by saying, “Don’t put God to the test. Don’t challenge God to show you how mortal you really are.” We should trust our mortality to God’s immortality. We should not try to compensate for our mortality by trying to become immortal.”

These cultural temptations are not just quirks of 21st century humanity. Put all these temptations together and humanity has a very serious problem. I want to look at a recent example of how all these temptations came together at one time: Wall Street and the economic meltdown. I want to preface this by saying that my observations are in no way political, and, the executives, accountants, and brokers of Wall Street are not the bad guys. They are just like us, tempted by exactly the same things we are. The only difference is that the drama of their temptations and failures are played out on a much bigger stage.

What do Wall Street executives refer to themselves as? Masters of the universe. Through extremely fast computers and the internet they have the power and authority to economically make all the nations of the world bow down. They are rich beyond their wildest dreams. They believe they have computer programs and economic strategies that remove all risk from their financial activities. These masters of the universe are all-powerful, omnipresent, and invulnerable. And it totally fell apart.

And we are no different. In our small realms don’t we strive with all our might to be masters of our universe? Don’t we arrange our lives to such an extent that we believe, or at least hope, that we are invulnerable? Don’t we dream of what we would do if we were economically or politically powerful? Don’t we way too often spread ourselves way too thin in our quest to be at way too many places at the same time? Wall Street is us. We are Wall Street. We have all given in to the same cultural temptation to think we are God. And it always falls apart.

It all fell apart for the Krell because they thought they could become God. At the very threshold of being technologically able to travel and create everywhere, the Krell destroyed themselves. Having unlimited power, when the Krell went to sleep murderous monsters from their unconscious, that they didnt even know were there, were free to roam and destroy. In striving to be God their inner demons, given unlimited power, destroyed everything, and the Krell never even knew what hit them.

We are in danger of the exact same catastrophe. We think we are becoming masters of the universe. The same energy that fuels the stars humanity has harnessed in our nuclear weapons and reactors. Think about how amazing that really is. And I read recently that we are on the verge of creating life. Think about that. Not genetically altering life, but creating life from scratch in our own image. It is almost unbelieveable. And these almost unlimited powers are in the hands of a human race that is tempted to be God, with all kinds of monsters and demons running around in our souls. To be honest, this scares me to death.

If we as a species believe the illusion that we are progressing towards omnipotence, if we believe the illusion that we are progressing towards omnipresence, and if we really believe the illusion that we are progressing towards immortality, if we really believe like the Krell that we are progressing towards divinity, then we will be destroyed, and just like the Krell, we won’t even know what hit us.

So what do we do? As each of us go on a vision quest this Lent, how do we battle the cultural temptations to become God? Let me tell you what I’m going to do. Since Lent is traditionally the time of “giving things up,” let me tell you what I’m giving up to resist the cultural temptation to think I can be God. Many of you will find this shocking, disturbing, and even unbelieveable, and if what I am about to say makes you feel faint, ushers are standing by to help you. For Lent, I am giving up my iPod.

I know, I know, this is stunning, but let me tell you why. By being instantly connected to the internet wherever I am, I am tempted to think I am God. Through this iPod I can connect to all the knowledge of the world. I can be omniscient. By posting to my blog, twitter and Facebook, I can influence people all over the world. I can be omnipotent. As our resident philosopher Rob Jones says, with this iPod, no matter where I am, I can be somewhere else. I can be omnipresent.

And maybe, just maybe, by leaving a lasting, digital mark in this world that can be accessed forever and ever, I can be immortal. Maybe. This iPod is incredible, but it also subtley whispers in my ear that I can be God. So this Lent, on this vision quest, I am putting it away.

The voice of the tempter never changes, whether on a Forbidden Planet, or on our planet. Just as in the Garden of Eden, the devil is always whispering to us that we can be divine. We must not go this high place of arrogance and greed. This wish to be God takes us away from nature that gives us life, takes us away from our bodies that exist in only one place and time, and takes us away from the desert, the inhospitable desert, that always reminds us how mortal we really are. That is why Lent always sends us back to the desert. Because only in the desert are we reminded, beyond any doubt, that we are, after all, not God.

Amen

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