December 7, 2005

Seven of Nine

Seven of Nine

capIn the long history of the television series Star Trek and it?s several spinoffs, one of the more interesting?and provocative?denizens of outer space is a character named ?Seven of Nine.? Seven, as she has come to be known on the spaceship Voyager and on the show of the same name, is a human who as a child named Annika Hansen was assimilated by the Borg.

The Borg is a life form that is part organic and part technology?cybernetic. It is composed of thousands of clusters of drones that have been assimilated from various humanoid species to become a part of a single techno-organism. The drones are unaware of themselves as individuals, so singular pronouns are not a part of their language. This is why the former Annika Hansen, now an adult member of the Borg, identifies herself as Seven of Nine when she becomes separated from the collective and is brought aboard the Voyager.

One of the central themes of the program, then, involves what it means to be truly human and what it takes to help Seven return to the individuality that signifies being human. In a literal sense she needs to be deprogrammed.

The assertion of individuality is one of the central tenets of Western culture. We see this everywhere. The U.S. Army, for example, recruits young people to become a member of ?The Army of One.? Interesting image! The last thing an army wants is an organization of individuals in which everyone is doing his own thing. But the army realizes that one of the greatest hurdles to recruitment is that no one wishes to surrender his individualism. So we are subjected to slogans like ?The Army of One.?

1546 onlinecolumnAnd, interestingly, this is similarly one of the concerns over becoming a Christian. ?Christians look like they all came out of the same cookie cutter,? we hear people say. Or they cite examples from the extreme: Waco, Texas.

?No thanks! I don?t want to become one of them.?

To become a member of the Christian fellowship, do you have to become ?just another brick in the wall?? Do you have to become a member of the collective? Do you have to change your name to something like Seven of Nine?or, say, ?86 of 144,000?? Do you become merely another mindless cell in a vast organism that you only dimly understand?

Here we meet the difference between unity and uniformity.

Certainly Jesus placed a great deal of emphasis on unity. His prayer for those who believe in Him was ? ?that they all may be one? ? (John 17:21, NKJV).

And in the early going of the Christian church, unity became a major concern. The apostle Paul was compelled by the Holy Spirit to write about it frequently to the Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians. It wasn?t a problem characteristic to any specific place but seemed to be present throughout the growing church.

He spoke of ?jealousy and quarreling? (1 Cor. 3:3, NIV). He warned that angry divisions ?give the devil a foothold? (Eph. 4:27, NIV). He spoke of the destructiveness of ?discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions? (Gal. 5:20, NIV).

The need for unity in God?s fellowship has more than internal implications. It isn?t merely a plan to keep everyone content in the church. ? ?May they be brought to complete unity,? ? Jesus said, ? ?to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me? ? (John 17:23, NIV). Christian unity is to be a testimony to the world around us.

Yet this oneness isn?t to be a bland surrender to sameness.

Keep in mind that when Jesus set about to select the leadership of His fledgling church, He didn?t go to the University of Jerusalem and recruit all MBAs, whatever that would have been called in those days. Instead He sought out a group of 12 people who would complement each other, not necessarily compliment each other: fishermen, a tax collector, a political terrorist, a skeptic. They were impulsive, timid, ambitious, and sometimes downright dull.

And though Paul was concerned for the unity of the church, it was not to be at the risk of uniformity. He summed up the whole topic nicely: ?As we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another? (Rom. 12:4, 5, NKJV).

A Christian does not become a member of a collective, but of a ?connective??to Jesus. Every other relationship we may enjoy with fellow believers is secondary and incidental in comparison. We are ?individually members of one another.?

Gary Swanson is the associate director of the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department and former editor of CQ magazine.