Lessons from “The City on the Edge of Forever”

I watched the Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever today. It’s part of the recently released Star Trek The Original Series – The Complete First Season. In this episode Dr. McCoy goes back in time by accident to the 1930s. History is immediately changed to the extent that the Enterprise never existed and much of what we and they know as history has not occurred. Kirk and Spock are forced to go back in time and figure out what McCoy has changed so that they can fix it.

The focal point of the change in history turns out to be a depression era social worker named Edith Keeler. She gives a speech at her mission in which she explains how that in the future there will be no hunger or poor because our technology will allow us to feed everyone. On a side note it’s interesting that this is Gene Roddenberry’s main point in making Star Trek. As it turns out, McCoy had changed history and allowed Edith Keeler to survive a deadly accident. When she lived in this alternate history she was instrumental in starting a pacifist movement that influenced the United States so that it entered World War II later than 1941. By the time we got into the war the Germans had developed the atom bomb and we were defeated as the Germans went on to rule the world.

Kirk and Spock say that Edith Keeler was right in her pacifist ways, but they have decided that she was doing it at the wrong time. Their history had decided for them that she should die. It is interesting to think of this in relation to the current Presidential election and people like Kerry who have regularly been anti-war. When is the right time for pacifism? Gene Roddenberry can claim through Star Trek that the future will be all joy and peace, but then we have to ask why do the officers of the Enterprise carry weapons? While there may be lots of room to disagree on the current situation in Iraq, we must also realize that we can never just lay aside our arms and let the tyrants of the world take over. John Kerry can easily say that we should not be in Iraq or should not have gone to Vietnam, but then how do we justify World War I and World War II? Japan bombed us, but Germany did not. Saddam had declared war on us, and he was friendly to Al Qaeda at the least. Was it right to allow Germany to go as far as she did before we joined the war? Should we have helped stop her sooner? Should we have never stopped her as in the history caused by the life of Edith Keeler? These are important questions and so is the question of whether we should ever be fighting wars in the Middle East. Bush has explained his position and it seems clear. He will hunt down terrorists wherever they are because they needlessly attacked us. Kerry’s only position in his speeches seems to be that he is better than Bush at everything. His position that he has lived over the last 30 years seems to be totally opposed to any action anywhere.

I don’t pretend to understand fully when one nation is justified in going to war with another. It does seem clear that Kirk and Spock were wrong in saying that Edith Keeler was pushing the right thing at the wrong time. How can we ever know how far the tyrant we want to ignore will go? Will he ever stop with Austria or just Europe? Kerry is also wrong when he says that Iraq is the wrong war, at the wrong time, and the wrong place. He says he believes the President has the right to preemption but only if the tyrants that make up the United Nations agree. Based on his history the whole thing seems to be nothing but lies. There seems to be no evidence of Kerry wanting anything but to win an election no matter what he has to say.

We should never rush to war. Kirk and Spock are right when they desire peace. But if pacifism is right it has to be right all the time – not just when expedient. The Bible teaches that peace comes from the the work of Christ and not the works of men.

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