Month: August 2016

A Cardassian and a Bajoran walk into a Bar: Star Trek and Reconciliation.

By Jonathan David Faulkner;

“You can’t judge a whole race of people…based on just one” – Miles O’Brian.

The Earth of the 24th century is a perfect Utopia, sort of like the one desired by the Democrats only this one actually works, there is no pain, no suffering, no poverty and no racism. Yes, in the twenty-fourth century Earth has eliminated race wars and riots, reconciling all people groups and now, species from other planets.

That is, of course, unless you live out on the Frontier where Star Trek’s 2nd spinoff Deep Space Nine takes place. Set right after the Border Wars of 2347-2363 (on the Star Trek Timeline), and the Cardassian pull out of the planet Bajor. Where they had enslaved an entire people group and stripped their planet of all its resources to support the war-effort. The first two seasons depict the struggle to rebuild the Bajoran society and the continued Cardassian attempts to send the Federation packing and reclaim Bajor and the Wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant that DS9 stands at the entrance of.

As you can imagine, the prolonged enslavement of the Bajorans by the Cardassians and the fact that they Cardassians left the Bajoran people in ruin to fend for themselves. There were no good feelings to be had between the Bajor and Cardassia. In fact, in an episode in season two called “Cardassians” we find that Bajorans have been raising Cardassian Orphans that were left behind to hate their own kind. Calling them “Butchers” and even assaulting them.

Of course, Bajoran’s are not the only ones who carry this hate, Chief Miles O’Brian, a foot soldier during the Border Wars, is openly hostile towards Cardassians. Calling them names and saying things like “Those Bloody Cardies” (O’Brian is a good Irishmen), and making other openly racist remarks. There is an open Hostility towards the Cardassians by most everyone who fought with them. They are not the nicest aliens in the Galaxy, their society is run by the Military and they are known for their narcissism and arrogance, they truly are unreasonable and nasty people. That’s how the writers of the show portray them, it’s fiction.

DS9 also deals with how Earth reached the point of Utopian Society, how they eliminated racism and created the perfect world. There is even an episode where Commander Sisko (Station commander) and the crew found themselves back in time and living in a ghetto designed to keep the poor (of all races) from the public eye. The actions of the character played by Sisko would lead to the reforms that would bring about that perfect world (after the Eugenics wars of course).

Star Trek is fiction, but the writers of DS9 remained true to the original intention of the show’s creator Gene Rodenberry almost 20 years before. To address social situations and make commentary on Society. The Original Series dealt with race in episodes like the “The Balance of Terror” (Season 1) and “Let that Be Your Last Battlefield” (Season 3). Neither series is far off in addressing racial tensions both in the 2960’s when Star Trek first aired or in the 90’s when Deep Space 9 was on the air. I wonder what the new Star Trek series, Discovery, will have to say about this issue.

Chief O'Brian fights off the 'cloud monster' on Bajor.
Chief O’Brian fights off the ‘cloud monster’ on Bajor.

The solutions offered for race and ending racism in Star Trek and interesting, and even worth considering, there is even a Next Generation episode where all the major races discover a common ancestry planted in the DNA codes of all the warring parties at the beginning of the time. Scientifically this is a form of Evolution, DNA dropped into the Primordial gene pools of various planets so that all sentient species (yes, including Klingons) could trace their genetic material all the way back to one race, a proto-humanoid race that had long ago died out.

Of course, we do not live in the Star Trek Universe, and we do not live in a Utopia and we still have conflict between human beings and between races. It is increasingly hard to turn on the news or see the faces of the hurting protestors and the families of those who were lost in shootings whether they be Police Officers or African American or whoever has been the victim of the latest series of violent acts committed by those who have little regard for life. You cannot ignore it, you should not turn it off, you should let yourself feel the pain and reach out to those who are hurting so that healing can begin.

Because there is a common thread that runs through all humanity, we all hold a common image. We al have a common origin, we all came from the same stuff. Dust of the Earth and Adams rib. We are all made in the image of God. As was the goal of the Aliens in The Next Generation, wanting each race to look at each other and see their commonality, God created us in His own image. In the words of Scripture: “So God make mankind in His own image, In the image of God He created them, Male and Female he created them” (Gen 1:27). This is our common heritage, created in the image of God. For the Christian, this is the starting point to define how we should treat one another, care for one another, mourn with one another and even live with one another.

The Imago Dei is an essential Doctrine within Reformed Theology, if we are created in the image of God then we are all united through the bond of the Spirit that is refining that image, reworking us into the image that has been distorted by sin. We all share in the bearing of the image of God, we are all sons and daughters of God, as I’ve said before, we as believers are being refined into this image, we are realizing, and one day will fully realize this reality. The Non-Believer, though he/she has not accepted the free gift of Salvation by faith through grace by the Work of God (Eph 2:8-9). They have not realized the work of the Holy Spirit that is refining them into the image of the living God, in contrast to the believer. Like a parent sees the reflection of themselves in the face of their child God sees His image in us and out of love for us He works to refine that image through the Holy Spirit.

But what does that mean in response to the recent violence and cries for reconciliation? In Star Trek the realization of common ancestry did nothing for the Cardassians, Romulans, Klingons and Humans. But what about reconciliation between White, Black, Middle Eastern, Asian and so on. What about reconciliation between man, at least among Christians:

This is where I believe the hard work of Reconciliation begins in the church, recognizing that element of our make-up that exists within every man. We all share in the blessings as sons and daughters of GOD. We all stand on the same common ground and hold the same identity in Christ. This is the truth, it was put within at the very dawn of creation. It is our common heritage, we are all descendants of Adam, we are all made in the image of GOD. To begin the process of healing it is essential to focus on what unites us. Meeting on common ground will make it easier to talk about that which divides us and to begin to start the healing process.

This will not be easy, as I have said before, reconciliation takes work, hard work. There is a lot of things that need to be let go of for reconciliation to take place. Letting go begins with accepting the commonality between us, when we accept what we have in common it makes it easier to talk about what divides us…and we need to actually talk about those things.

Yes, it takes work, no, it won’t be easy, yes, it can be done, no, it is not going to happen instantly. All we can do is pray that God will give us the grace and do the work within the individual that needs to. That we can be open to His guidance and transformation. Because ultimately, just as we are made in His image and He is doing the work to refine that image, It is He who does the work of reconciliation between man and between races.

And that’s something that the writers of Star Trek, could never really understand.

A Cardassian and a Bajoran walk into a bar and have a drink, they sit across the table from one another and talk about culture and architecture, religion and philosophy. The Bajoran cracks a joke as the Feregni waiter refills their glasses and the Cardassian laughs. It is 100 years after the Border Wars and Bajor and Cardassia have learned to live in mutual admiration and respect. They both remember a time when their species hated each other, but today, they are friends, and that is just how it should be.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

All out of Gas…In need of Vacation.

By Jonathan David Faulkner

I’m listening to Emery right now, I have not done that very much lately, my musical choices have ranged from NeedToBreathe to House of Heroes with a touch of Andy Mineo and Twenty-One Pilots sprinkled in for good measure. But that’s been about it…This is strange for two reasons. 1. I enjoy such a vast scope of musical samplings that just settling on four or five artists makes no sense. 2. I’ve reached a point in the summer where I’ve just settled into a musical routine and because it’s not at the top of my “Recently Played” list on my Amazon Music Player I do not bother looking for it.

Truth be told, I have not been listening to as much lately, probably because I have been playing a lot more as the band gets ready for its CLAMFEST appearance coming up in August. Or maybe it is because I am just out of gas and ready for a vacation. Please do not hear me wrong, life is really, really great right now. Greater than I thought it was going to be. Summer 2016 has been defining for me in a lot of ways and because of a lot of different things. Had you told me in April what God was going to be doing in my life now, I would have laughed at you.

But, here I am, and with everything God is doing, All I want to write about, I cannot figure out what to write about. I have reached a state where my desire to write is lessoned by the sheer amount of things I want to write about and my inability to actually put thoughts into coherent sentences. 2016 has been big for this website…okay that’s an understatement…we have outperformed everything we’ve done previous and are closing in on 10:31 Year 1 like numbers (our lowest year for readers). You have given me absolutely incredible feedback and I have enjoyed interacting with everyone…but guys…I’m out of gas.

I need a week at home, with mom and dad and my younger brother, I need a week where I do not have to think about all of you. Some R&R…and as it turns out, I will be going. Since my girlfriend needs to meet my parents and I do not get to go home very often I am glad for the opportunity to introduce my parents to the woman that God has used to make this summer what it has been. To see the dogs, friends, take a hike at Old Man’s Cave, walk around Albany, go to Athens, see an Ohio Sunset, maybe enjoy a nice Ohio Valley Thunderstorm.

I am in need of a rest, some relaxation, seeing old friends and building on the foundation in Christ, with the help and guidance of our communities between my girlfriend and I. Neither of us having to worry about work or the 2 hours between us, just hanging out with my parents and relaxing.

I love you all, and I will be back, probably in a week and a half (Monday the 22nd’s article will not get written on the road and thus, not written). And I will have new things to say. I may have even finished a few more books.

So hang in there, bear with me, I love you and so does God the Father.

I’ll be back.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

God’s Goodness in the Darkest Moments (A Story)

By Jonathan David Faulkner,

It was around nine on a Sunday night about a week and a half after my concussion. I had tried to go back to work the previous week and been sent home two of those days and giving a medical leave of absence until I had been cleared of all symptoms. I had never suffered any kind of brain injury, not even a mild concussion. I did not know what would happen to me as a result of such an injury. There was no way we could have predicted (not even doctors can really predict) exactly what a Traumatic Brain Injury can do.

So, as I sat on the couch in my living room, my mind spinning, head hurting I was surprised when my mind turned its attention to the pocket knife sitting on the end table next to me. “It would be so easy; to just end all this pain you are feeling” the thought came out of nowhere. It was honestly a shock. I knew I could not entertain the thought, but that one single thought opened up a flood of negative thoughts and emotions about myself. Going all the way back to the words of peers who once told me in earnest: “You should just kill yourself, you’re never going to amount to anything anyway.”

After about ten minutes of not being able to calm my mind down I called a friend, my spiritual sister, and told her what was happening. Within ten minutes there were ten people sitting in my living room including my girlfriend at the time. Almost every one of my close friends were suddenly surrounding me and those who were not there were praying for me. They stayed with me until the thoughts and feelings settled. I do not entirely recall, but I think someone may have stayed at the house until after I had gone to sleep.

I wish I could say that this was the end of my struggle, but it was just beginning. I spent a few nights at the school councilors before the school sent me to my grandparents for some R&R while I recovered. I remember my mother saying: “This isn’t like you” to which I replied: “I know.” It was scary, for everyone, eventually the suicidal thoughts faded and I just struggled with severe depression that would eventually lead to the end of the relationship I was in at the time.

Here I am a year and a half later thinking back on that night, on another Sunday, a new home, new state, new relationship, new everything. I think about how much that night defined the struggle that I went through for the next 8 to ten months while my brain recovered from the injury. I think of how the people from Sterling that I am still close to, a lot of them are the people who were there that night, who checked up on me and who called me to make sure I was okay.

God showed me His goodness through that entire ordeal. Even as I fought with my own mind to try and regain some semblance of control and normality I saw God’s Goodness at work. As I relied on Him for literally everything, including mental stability. I saw His good and loving hands working in my life and it was the sweetest, most life-giving time of my life until June of 2016 (I’ll tell you what happened then sometime).

I truly believe that God does want to be good to us. That His goodness will be shown to those who believe in Him and who follow after Him. He loves us all so much that as a principle, God wants to be good to us. That goodness is shown to us in different ways and often in our darkest moments (though not always).

God’s love for us is so amazing. It is so deep and so wide that we cannot fathom it. I pray that you know that goodness today, wherever you are at.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

Thou Shalt not Question?

By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

Some of my favorite conversations of late have been as I have talked to people about the five years of my life. God’s leading out of the pain of the spiritual and emotional abuse I suffered at the hands of a pastor and the subsequent healing and growing disillusionment with the Christianity I had always grown up with and been told to accept. I get a lot of great responses when I tell people I was pastoring a Baptist Church steeped in that kind of Midwestern Fundamentalism (my first Sunday there they were signing a petition to make the sale of alcohol illegal on Sundays), while I was on my way out of and growing increasingly uncomfortable with that particular brand of Christianity.

“Didn’t that make it hard on you” some people will ask “I mean, your values didn’t line up!”

That’s true, and if I had told them my views on Baptism (reformed in every way) I would have not been considered for the position or removed after my six month grace period (they never asked and I reached most of those decisions as I poured over Baptist Polity in preparation for Ordination). But it was hard, I had left that ideological framework, some of them still swore by it.

Now I’m out of those groups all together, I do not even live in the Midwest anymore. I now live in the least churched region in the country. Just like in New York City it is very unpopular to be a Christian in the Boston area where Church attendance is well below 10% (currently 3%) of the population. Where you cannot get away with the ideologies and practice a lot of Christians still practice in the Midwest and deep South. Where Fundamentalism is always bad regardless of the leader or their degree of fundamentalism (this is only the North Shore and Boston areas, an hour north of us in New Hampshire things are bit different).

I say that to point out that if I was not already questioning those leaders that were held up to me as great champions of the faith in 21st century American Christendom before I left, I definitely am now. Piper, Dobson, Grudem, I read books by all of them during my youth and undergrad. I even have Grudem’s “Bible Doctrine” on my book shelf here at the Seminary (It was in a box with Burkoff’s Dogmatics).

That is not to say that you can throw them out all-together, Piper especially can be solid on certain topics (i.e. Essential Doctrines) and like I said, I own Grudem’s “Bible Doctrine” and a few books by Dobson. But any teacher, unless it is Jesus himself, should be approached with a degree of skepticism, they must be questioned, their views must be scrutinized and held up to the Gospel. They cannot be held as infallible because they have x amount of years of experience studying scripture. It cannot be like the Ohio Pastor who scolded me for disagreeing with John MacArthur on an exegetical point during a trip home. “He’s been studying Theology longer than you’ve been alive, how dare you question him.”

That would be like you just taking everything I see verbatim because I have a degree in Christian Education, a Pastor and working on my Masters of Divinity. You should not just take something I say verbatim and not check it. I am human, I make mistakes, I want to be checked and double checked and then approached if there is an error in what I am saying. It makes me a better leader, a better pastor and it helps me know if I have wronged someone.

Any leader worth his salt should have this attitude, (I see this in Piper), it means they are humble, teachable and open to criticism. If they demonstrate the opposite behavior, such as we have documented with Joshua Feuerstien this past year. Refusing to hear criticism or be taught or corrected then they are probably not someone you want leading you.

Now, let me be clear, I think Piper is a good leader, the fruit of his ministry is good, for the issues I have with him I believe he has done a better job than most steering us through the murky waters of the times we live in. It’s when followers of these men come against you for even questioning them one an insignificant point. Which is okay to do, so long as you agree on Essential Doctrines you should be able to debate and engage in recourse on issues that are matters of persuasion or opinion, that is okay and beneficial. If you cannot question someone you may want to re-evaluate their position in your life.

I know, I know, sometimes it is nice when others have done the work for you. Intellectual work is hard work. You often feel worn out by the end of the day. Which is a nice kind of worn out, but still feels like being worn out. But we cannot just accept everything someone says because we think it is God’s truth. Sometimes it is nowhere near such a thing and is actually Heretical. We have to pay attention, scripture even tells us we should judge other believers and question the teachings of others in passages like 1 Cor. 2 and Jesus words in the four Gospels.

We have to question and if the teaching is found, after research, to be in line with Scripture and Orthodoxy then we can leave it alone. If it is an issue of Hermeneutics, softly say your piece and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. Do not make a huge deal about it. If you do find a teaching to be Heretical then stop listening to that teacher. If you are in a position to confront them then do it, but if not, just leave that persons teaching behind.

Let’s all debate sensibly, keeping unity foremost in our minds. Question everyone, evaluate every teaching and judge every work of men claiming Christ by the standard set forth for us in scripture.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

Christians Against Everything;

By Jonathan David Faulkner

(Satire)

I woke up this morning and I really, really, really wanted to form a new Facebook group. I mean, it has been a very long time since 10:31 Life Ministries and I have not started or joined any Facebook groups in a long time and I kind of miss it. I mean, I really miss it, not as much as I miss my girlfriend (cause you know, distance) but I miss it a lot. The power, the idea that people are listening to what I have to say, that’s like a drug right? I need that.

But what should I start a group about, any ideas? I know that I should probably do something against something because that’s how you get people to listen to you right? I could just take on the persona of some angry person who thinks that something is destroying the universe and then rant and rave about it. People would join for sure, if I did a page like that, people would flock to my page, I’d become a star, instantly. That’s how it works right?

But what should I be against? I thought about doing Pokemon Go, but someone beat me to it which I am not happy about because those little digital pixels that are getting kids out of the house and getting them to hang out with friends, make friends and meet new people is definitely going to lead them to the lake of fire. Cause God is ultimately concerned with what level your Pikachu is. By the way, if you find one, could you send me the location?

Maybe I could be against Heavy Metal, yeah, I’ll do that one…nobodies beat me to it have they? I wonder if my band mates would mind if we suddenly became a polka band, cause that’s not evil right? Got rid of any hints of rock and roll that we have, I mean, we’re not a metal band, but why stop at metal right, all rock must be evil…rocks must be evil, same thing right?

I know, I’ll be against Lord Of The Rings, yeah, LOTR must be evil. I mean, I can rewrite history can’t I? The mainstream media does it all the time and I want to be relevant, right? So, I’ll just tell people that Tolkien was not a Christian in anyway and that The Lord of the Rings in no ways reflects Tolkien’s Christian Worldview. This might mean though that I have to reject Lewis too, because they were friends and Narnia must be a great sin to read or watch as well. What with a Lion that represents Jesus and all?

I know, I’ll name my group “Christians against everything.” That will assure me the greatest number of readers right? I can just be against everything right? I can just rant and rave about everything, just tear down everyone who likes anything and become a curmudgeon young person angry at everything and everyone. I’ll get my cell phone and start recording videos of myself shouting against Disney or Yoga Pants. Those things are evil and they must be spoken out against, that’s what Jesus would do right?

He’d stand in the door of shopping center in a big city and yell at people for going in and buying Christmas presents. Just like when he turned over tables in the temple right? I’m sure that’s how that passage should be interpreted, everyone does it, don’t they?

(Seriously though!)

But then I would not be like Jesus, people would look at me and see a curmudgeon young man who’s angry at everything and everything. They would not see the true Gospel if the fruit of what I said was contrary to the Gospel. If what I say and do fails to represent Christ and His words in a way that is laid out in scripture for the Christian. My outward walk is reflective of my inward walk and if my inward walk is in line with Christ I will bear good fruit in my inward and outward walk.

So let us seek to bear the fruit of the spirit and the not the fruit of anger.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry