January 14, 2004

Worship, understand, witness, celebrate: the moral basis for exploring space

I'm taking the leap into political preaching this Sunday with a message on the human responsibility to explore the cosmos, in response to President Bush's announcement of a new American space exploration initiative. (I think it's particularly fitting that I do so this week, during which Americans celebrate the life of one of the great political preachers of the last century, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Anyway, while taking a break from my sermon preparation, I coincidentally stumbled across this article startrek.com covering the Planetary Society's "Wild About Mars" event. (In case you didn't already know, I'm a recovering trekker.) In it, Ray Bradbury offers a few thoughts on the moral foundation for exploring space:
Haven't you often gone to sleep at night wondering what it's all about? Why are we here? What is our destiny? A lot of people say, "I think life is meaningless." I don't believe that. The universe has saved up its energy and created us. What for?

The universe is a vast theater, a magnificent theater, full of miracles, full of incredible things. But what's been missing up until now, it's been missing an audience. We have been created as an audience to the miracles. We have the responsibility of looking at the universe, seeing what we see, seeing what we know, and doing something about it. We are here to see, and to worship, and to understand, and to re-create what we see.

We are taking the message of the universe out into the universe, because as far as we know, here on Earth, we are maybe the only living things for millions of light-years. So we're here to witness and celebrate. That makes you all responsible to the gift, doesn't it? You have the gift of life, you pay back. So, you are celebrants. You are members of the audience to witness and celebrate the universe. That's why we're going to Mars. That's what this is all about.
Bradbury's gratuitous use of religious terms aside, there's something redemptive hidden away in there, I think, don't you?
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet.
Psalm 8:3-6

"Go into all the world [kosmos] and preach the good news to all creation." Mark 16:15

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