Sample text from Thy Geekdom Come: 42 Fandom-Inspired Devotionals

Would You Baptize an Android?

By Kyle Rudge

“Are you prepared to condemn him, and all who come after him, to servitude and slavery?”
—Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Read: Acts 8

Reflect: Would you baptize an android? This is the question I pondered after watching Star Trek: The Next Generation’s episode “The Measure of a Man.”

In this episode, the android Data is ordered to visit a research facility so that he can be studied, disassembled, and experimented on. Data objects, but Starfleet rules he is their equipment—their property—and therefore has no say in the matter. A trial ensues and Captain Picard adamantly argues on Data’s behalf. The question that must be answered, Captain Phillipa Louvois points out, is whether Data has a soul. Should he have the same rights as the humans, aliens, and other members of Starfleet?

For centuries, people in North America were considered property because of their skin colour, birthplace, social status, and gender. They were treated as less than human because of things they had no control over. Today, our social structure dictates these people have the same rights as any other person.

If I were in Picard’s position, I would also argue on Data’s behalf, demanding equal rights for my android brethren across the galaxy—the right to work, the right to think, the right to life. But then I stopped to consider: does Data have the right to be baptized? If Data decided he believed in God and wanted to confirm his faith through baptism, should he have the religious freedom to do so?

Do I have the right to decide that in the first place?

Christ tells his disciples, “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Whether or not that verse includes androids depends on whether they have a soul that can be saved in the first place.

Captain Louvois’s response to the question of Data’s humanity mirrors my own. “I don’t know,” she says, “but I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself.”

If I take on the responsibility of deciding whether someone is human or deserves the same freedoms I have, I am putting myself in a superior position over them. There is only one being who has the right to judge, one who is completely perfect and all-knowing, and I am not Him.

The Christian Church has varying perspectives on baptism. I’m from an Anabaptist tradition, which reserves it for those who can make an informed decision. This, however, brings up the question: what defines “informed”? Is it based on age? If the accepted age is thirteen, and a twelve-year-old dying of cancer wants to be baptized, should her request be denied? What about a twenty-five-year-old man who has the intellectual capacity of a ten-year-old? What if someone is divorced? Addicted? Gay? Black? Female? Alien?

What disqualifies someone from declaring their faith in Jesus? What disqualifies someone from being accepted by Jesus?

When Christ is on Earth during biblical times, he does not draw lines based on criteria. Rather, he looks at the heart. When he sees a man named Zacchaeus sitting in a tree, trying to get a glimpse of the healer everyone is talking about, Jesus sees someone hungry for truth.

Rather than turn the man away because he is a chief tax collector and rich—basically the “android” of the community—Christ says to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). The crowd is unhappy because Jesus chooses to “be the guest of one who is a sinner” (19:7).

But the whole point of Jesus’ appearance on Earth is to save sinners and accept all who come to him with believing hearts. Zacchaeus is so moved by Jesus’ desire for a relationship that he gives half his possessions to the poor and determines to right any wrongs he’s committed. The “wee little man” becomes a wise man (perhaps not yet, but with Christ’s help, he is learning). His life is changed, not by Jesus’ judgement, but by Jesus’ acceptance and love.

Christ’s disciples take his actions to heart and follow his example after his death and resurrection. In Acts 8:26–40, Philip responds to the Holy Spirit telling him to speak to an Ethiopian eunuch about Christ. This guy is as outsider as it gets—he is an unaccepted race and also in a grey area with gender, neither man nor woman; according to Jewish temple laws, there is zero way he could enter the temple courts. And yet, when he and Philip come across some water and he asks, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” (v. 36), Philip baptizes him.

We often confuse acceptance with approval. The problem with that is we are to follow Christ’s example, and Christ doesn’t love us because of who we are or what we’ve done, but because of who he is. Therefore, our love towards others should be full of grace as well, even if their standards or opinions don’t match ours, or they seem very different from us.

In the Next Generation episode, Data is given the right to decide his own fate (and, of course, chooses not to be experimented on). He later speaks to the scientist who was pushing for his disassembling, telling him his research is intriguing and offering to assist in the future after the scientist’s techniques are perfected and don’t require his destruction. The scientist refers to Data for the first time as “he” rather than “it,” marking a potential change in understanding—possibly reconsidering Data’s humanity or simply questioning his own authority to make that decision about the android.

We, too, can question our right to decide for others and instead follow Christ’s example of love and acceptance, welcoming people we don’t understand or even disagree with into our communities.

Key Scripture

“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.” —John 6:37

Reflection Questions

1. How do you define “android” in this context for those in your community? What is that definition rooted in—wisdom, fear, tradition, something else?

2. Are there people who would be considered androids in your church? What makes them androids?

3. How can you advocate and welcome others into your community?

Taking Off a Happy Mask

By Casey Covel

“You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?”
—Happy Mask Salesman, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Read: Psalm 42

Reflect: After seven gruelling years, Link finally defeats the Demon King—a victory only possible by rewinding time and erasing Link’s exploits from the annals of history. Perhaps finding little joy in a world that has forgotten him, Link leaves Hyrule, the land of his heroics, in search of his fairy companion—likely the only individual who understands what Link has endured.

Like all good stories, though, the journey doesn’t go as planned. Link’s horse and magical ocarina—both priceless mementos from his previous adventure—are stolen by the Skull Kid, who transforms the once-famed hero into a sullen Deku Scrub, a wooden creature whose name means “useless” in Japanese. Link finds himself lost in the surreal world of Termina, surrounded by people who wear familiar faces but bear unfamiliar names and don’t recognize him. Looming overhead, a snarling, red-eyed moon hangs in the sky, creeping closer with each passing second. In 72 hours, it will crash into Termina, destroying everything in its path.

Majora’s Mask is famed as the darkest entry in The Legend of Zelda series, not only for its haunting visuals and music (the song, “Elegy of Emptiness,” is pure nightmare fuel), but also for its psychological themes of depression, loss, and suffering. With only three days left to live in a land that’s a letter away from the word “terminal,” Link feels utterly estranged from the hero he used to be. The world around him—which some fans theorize is more symbolic than literal—is distorted through the lens of his grief.

No doubt the psalmist David would feel an uncanny sense of déjà vu from witnessing Link’s psychological plight. Once revered as a giant-slayer and the divinely chosen king of Israel, David eventually finds himself betrayed and hunted by his own son, separated from his closest friend (who is later killed in battle), and forced to flee his own kingdom when mutiny strikes. These moments of despair leave David without appetite (Psalm 42:3), crying himself to sleep (Psalm 6:6), and even accusing God of abandoning him (Psalm 43:2). In Psalm 43, David writes that his soul is “downcast”—a biblical way of saying that he feels depressed.

Even with today’s accessible information about mental health, depression is often misunderstood; many Christians believe a “real” follower of Christ should overcome depression easily through God’s power. Yet David, “the man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), suffered from depression throughout his life. And his mental suffering was important enough to be recorded in great detail.

Like cancer or any other illness, depression is the result of a fallen world, which affects every one of us. God does not inflict it upon us, nor does He gloat about withholding healing miracles; rather God weeps with us during our pain. God doesn’t like our broken world any more than we do. Depression can be difficult to understand in light of a loving God when we know He has the power to heal. But suffering is part of living in this world, a fact Christ knew intimately. Before his crucifixion, Christ was lonely and depressed. He responded to these overwhelming feelings by spending time in prayer with his Father, setting an example for us to follow.

Sometimes, our conversations with God in these instances are full of anger. Like David, we cry out in despair, begging for release and protection. Sometimes we ask for the strength to endure. Sometimes we have no words, and just want to know God cares.

Depression can block out all else but our intense sadness and pain, fixating us on our hopelessness. We often feel like God is no longer with us, just like Link feels alone facing the power of Majora’s mask. When the moon is minutes away from impacting the earth, Link is so consumed by depression that it blocks out an important memory—the melody of the “Song of Time” and the supernatural help it calls to his aid. He is reminded of the tune when he snatches back his ocarina from the thief and resets the clock.

Playing the melody does not magically cure Link’s depression—he is still stuck in a doomed world full of strangers who remind him of his past—but it does give him hope. He is able to set time back seventy-two hours whenever the moon gets too close, granting him respite as he once again takes up the mantle of heroism. Along the way, he makes new friends and obtains items to help him fulfill his quest, giving him something to focus on besides his overwhelming emotions.

David’s psalms also feature these “resets”—lows of despair followed by highs of cautious hope. Even in his moments of greatest agony, however, when David prays to God for help and desires Him even more than he does a cure for his own suffering, he is able to find clarity. Through his depression, David draws closer to God, and God grants David a “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7), equipping him with companions to aid him in his moments of weakness.

Similarly, God provides us with a mixture of physical and supernatural assistance to help us manage depression. Therapists, pastors, and modern medicine can all play key parts, and we can maintain a close relationship with God through prayer and meditation on His Word.

The God of time and eternity is protecting you. If you pray, He will aid you.

Key Scripture

“I say to God, my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?’ As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’ Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” —Psalm 42:9–11

Reflection Questions

1. Have you ever experienced depression? How did it shape your relationship with God?

2. Think of a time when you suffered from strong feelings of sadness. What/who did God bring into your life to help manage it?

3. Why do you think God does not usually “cure” our depression when we ask?