On faith: Celebrating 50 years of spiritual lessons from Doctor Who
This November marks a special anniversary for nerds like me. It's the 50th anniversary of the longest running science fiction series of all time, Doctor Who. For 50 years the doctor and his companions have been traveling through space and time in a dimensionally transcendent time machine disguised as a blue police call box.
For those of you who are not initiated to the mysteries of the good doctor, it's an ongoing adventure story in which the doctor, a kind of cosmic vagabond, finds himself in all sorts of predicaments but, as opposed to much science fiction, he solves his problems not through weapons, violence, and brute force, but through intellect, compassion, and cleverness.
Here are a few spiritual lessons I've learned from watching Doctor Who:
Humanity is self-delusional. A trope of the series is that humans are capable of great feats of hubris and delusion. We like to think we are the center of the universe and we ignore evidence to the contrary. Just as the doctor has to break his human companions of their anthropocentric ways, the path of Christ is one of humility, not hubris. Wisdom begins with humbling one's self.
Everyone is an alien. The doctor, himself, is not human, though he looks human on the outside. Because he's an outsider to our culture he provides insight into how we might look to others. In the Bible, God reminds the faithful over and over to honor the outsider and the alien and welcome them to your table, because your ancestors were once strangers in a strange land.
Practice awe and wonder. The doctor is almost childlike with his appreciation of the universe. While a scientist, he is first an explorer and always stops to smell the roses or, more likely, marvel at the awesome beauty of a supernova. In the same way we are called to stand in awe of the beauty around us. Our lives are made better for practicing awe and wonder.
Practice non-violence. The doctor is, at his heart, a man of peace. He values life, even the lives of his enemies, and does everything to seek peaceful solutions to problems. So we who follow Christ are called to, as much as it depends on us, to live peaceably with all.
Bow ties are cool. So are jelly babies. So are recorders. And a stalk of celery makes for a spiffy corsage. The doctor is enchanted with everyday things and enjoys them for what they are. He doesn't follow trends or the crowd. He makes his own fashion and enjoys what is around him. He is not envious or proud. He is like a child at play. That childlike innocence is what Jesus calls us to emulate when he says we must become "like little children."
Everyone is important. "900 years of time and space and I've never met anybody who wasn't important." The doctor treats everyone he meets as important. He isn't always particularly pleased with what they do or how they behave, but they are all important to him. There is no one below him. We, too, are called to recognize the divine worth of everyone.
Here's to 50 more years of journeying through time and space in a beat up blue box and the lessons that come with it.
The Rev. Lawrence Lee has been the pastor of the United Church of Two Harbors for 10 years (in a strictly linear sense) and a Whovian for 35 years. You can follow him on Facebook at revlawrencelee.