A friend and I were watching Battlestar Galactica the other night, and we were watching a particularly heavy episode.
It’s in the second season, when another battle ship finds the Galactica and makes significant changes to the chain of command–and the attitude of the fleet. The new leader is a hard woman with a mania for survival and the ability to make all kinds of horrible decisions in order to do so. Her harshness and wild militarism is threatening to drive the already embattled human race into a civil conflict, and the heros of our story, Adama and Roselyn discuss assassination.
I thought to myself, “This is why I study Theology.” why exactly? That’s kind of an odd place to think of it. Because–if the robot apocalypse comes and the human race is but 50,000 people floating around in space, on the run and with only a soup bone for hope, I need to know–what kind of person would I become?
Now, of course apocalyptic fiction greatly magnifies the direness and intensity of the actions, consequences, and ethical dilemmas of its characters. But, underneath that is a basic truth: none of us knows what kind of person we become when the going gets tough. Theological reasoning, because it is a discussion between an individual, a community, and the duties of those to the powers unknowable and unpossessible is what makes a difference, I think between characters like Admiral Cain and Commander Adama. One is so obsessed with destruction, payback, revenge that she removes the shreds of humanity that remains from her crew. The other is bent on fulfilling a duty, keeping hope alive, and allowing the survival of all.
In the end, the scary part of these episodes is that you don’t really know who you would be if suddenly these were your decisions to make. Utility or society? The survival of human bodies at the expense of human souls?