Originally posted Aug. 21, 2016
Cont'd from Part 1.
God willing, this subtle message of confusion regarding death will not be lost on viewers. If James T. Kirk is scared to die, maybe they should be, too. Perhaps they should start looking for answers beyond technology, beyond Darwinian evolution. Perhaps they should get a little selfish and ask, “What will happen when I die?” Because we are not like Jim, Spock, Uhura, Scotty, or Checkov. Once we die, we don’t get rehabilitated as a younger version of ourselves. We are the extras who get sucked into space and never come back. Death is our final frontier. We should be scared, and I am grateful to Hollywood for pointing out that fear on a blockbuster scale.
But we shouldn’t stay afraid. Rather, we should read the second chapter of Hebrews, where the author says bluntly that Jesus died so that those who are enslaved to the fear of death don’t have to be enslaved anymore. Christ has vanquished death. He vanquished his own death, and he vanquished death for us. That’s one of the golden, miraculous claims of Christianity. You may not be a Christian, and it’s not my job to make you one. But if you’re not, what do you think happens when you close your eyes on this world? And why does it happen the way you think it will?
A few months ago, I had a medical scare. After suffering a mysterious pain in my abdomen, my thoughts flew to cancer. Weeks of self-induced anxiety later, I had the pain checked out only to find out that it was likely an inflamed fibroid. As with so many of my medical “scares,” it turned out to be nothing.
During that window of uncertainty, the shadow of death came winging into my heart with a speed greater than I—a lifelong Christian—would have thought possible. I don’t fear death. Why should I? I believe in heaven, and I believe that Christ made a way for us to go there. But when it came right down to it, when the specter of death entered my home, depressed me while I was brushing my teeth, threatened to widow my husband and confuse my dog, I was scared.
Even with the promise of Christ, death can be scary. But scary is not the same as terrifying. Scary is going through the security check at an airport and being nervous that somehow you packed a bottle of liquid over 3.4 ounces. Terrified is going through the security check with an unconfessed criminal record which, if authorities found out, would land you in jail for life. What the Bible claims is that yes, you have a criminal record, but yes, Jesus wiped it away for you. All you need to do is accept that and let him go through the checkpoint with you. He is your passport, your boarding pass, and any other travelling metaphor you’d like to apply. He gets you over that threshold and stays with you on the other side.
We can explore the universe to its farthest reaches, but death will always catch us. It is the last door we must enter, the final frontier we must explore. But we don’t have to face it unprepared. We can exclaim with St. Paul that with Christ, even dying is gain. Far from fearing death, we can rejoice in what it brings us. It brings us home.