Science Fiction Imitates Life

stargateBack in high school I took the opportunity one summer session to attend a class on Science Fiction as Literature. It was an eye opening experience in which we examined the social commentary of C. M. Kornbluth’s The Marching Morons and John Jakes’ The Sellers of the Dream. Later it became a habit to look for such commentaries. Star Trek flirted with it on occasion, while Robert Heinlein made it a staple of much of his work. Some of the best was, in my opinion, presented by J. Michael Straczynski in his series Babylon 5 and the abortive sequel, Crusade which lasted only 13 episodes due to network squabbles.

 

After watching the original Stargate movie with its fascinating blending of ancient myth, modern technology and cult fiction, interest in the television series Stargate SG1 was a natural and its occasional forays into commentary alongside shoot-‘em-up adventurism was captivating. This season it became even more so when the Stargate team encounters a new adversary known as the Ori. The Ori have a “submit or die” attitude that shortly after its appearance struck me, and one of my correspondents, as an apparent dig at fascist Islam.  The real kicker came in two recent episodes centering on another race known as the Jaffa.

 

For those who are unfamiliar with the series, the Jaffa were the servants of other beings who used technological tricks to masquerade as gods. The Jaffa eventually discovered that they were being tricked and rebelled. Now free, the Jaffa are left without any outside leadership and seek a true god to replace the fakes they had worshiped for centuries. Enter the Ori.

 

The Ori are powerful beings, and appear to be the gods the Jaffa are searching for. One of the most influential Jaffa, Gerak, accepts them and attempts to influence the rest if the Jaffa to do the same. Teal’c, another Jaffa and a Stargate team member, persuades Gerak to meet him at the grave of Gerak’s father who gave his life fighting against the false gods. When Teal’c points out that as proof of their divinity the Ori have done exactly the same things the false gods did, Gerak counters that the Ori’s powers are pure and not deception. At this point Teal’c confronts Garrek what becomes the ultimate question of his faith in the Ori:

“What is the measure of a god Gerak? Is it the scope of their power or how they choose to wield that power? Would a god who is prepared to lead us on the path of enlightenment so contradict this divine benevolence by destroying all those who refuse to believe in him?”

This question is exactly the one, which every Muslim in the world should be asking him or herself right now. Would a god that purportedly cares about humanity, and holds mercy among his divine attributes demand that unbelievers be killed? Would it not be more reasonable for such a god to expect his followers to do what Jesus Christ did; to go forth, teach the Gospel and seek converts to the faith by example.  Thus, the early Christian church was successful when many of its members were willing to undergo humiliation, torture and death in the name of their belief. This very willingness was a sign of how strong their belief was, and impressed others more than any other response would have at the time.
As Teal’c points out to Gerak, a god who forces unbelievers into worship is the antithesis of a god worthy of such worship. Gerak realizes the truth of this, and also that his support of the Ori would lead to the bloodshed he hoped to avoid. Finally he must face the fact that he would have to kill Teal’c, whom he respects, and all of Teal’c’s followers. Gerak abandons the Ori, helps Teal’c and the humans, but dies as a result. Still, he understands the importance of his actions when he says, “I die free.”
The sad truth taught by this single episode of Stargate SG1 is that any leadership worthy of being followed must prove it; not by power alone, but by how such power is used. Theocracies generally use power to aggrandize their human leadership, who invariably become as corrupt as any secular leaders. The result is that any will of god, upon which the theocracy is founded, is all too easily replaced by the will of man. When we see Muslims calling for death, destruction, conquest and forcing the rest of mankind to submit to their rule we see the same general pattern that we see in any fascist regime. Hitler’s Nazi Germany was an excellent example, but we should not forget the Spanish Inquisition sponsored by the members of the Roman Catholic Church who also tortured and killed people in the name of god, but did it for personal
gain in the form of possessions and political power.
The other sad truth with which we must live is that it is probably impossible to use a show of faith to convince Islamists that their way is wrong. They accept no criticism of their ways and allow no self-examination or revision of their beliefs. They turn away from the religious practices of others, or treat them as blasphemy. Because of this their society has been attitudinally frozen in time for centuries and they have become blind to the progress of the rest of the world. They either see it as corrupt, which means it must be destroyed, or stolen from them and needing recapture. They do not recognize that the world had passed them by.
In this episode of Stargate SG1 Teal’c also asks Gerak another exceedingly important question:

 

“Have we truly lived as slaves for so long that we must fear being free? “

 

Perhaps that is the problem. The people whom the free world are facing either fear being free, wish to enslave others because they achieve personal benefits from the practice, or don’t understand their own enslavement. It will be a struggle to change this attitude, but it will be a worthwhile one. All people deserve to be free, even if the chains they wear are of their own forging.

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