Why Not A Starfleet Ships Chaplain As A Main Character?

Discussion in 'Future of Trek' started by Knight Templar, Oct 7, 2012.

  1. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 20, 2009
    Not "centered around," but part of the mix.

  2. Sindatur

    Sindatur The Gray Owl Wizard Admiral

    Jan 2, 2011
    Sacramento, CA
    Heh, yea, I remember LOST Fans who complained when anything didn't square with Catholicism, depsite the fact that LOST never proclaimed Catholicism as "The Correct Religion" and dabbled in numerous different Religious allusions.
  3. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 24, 2009
    It's a tricky question. Star Trek is by default depicting a society that in theory is vastly more diverse than our own. It includes the entirety of Earth's population and the populations of multiple alien worlds, any belief systems present are likely far more numerous then we reguarly encounter. MASH was a TV series about American soldiers in Korea. What if it had to take into account the faith of the South Koreans (besides Korean Christians, obviously). And the nearby Japanese? Okay, now how about India.

    How about China. How about Iran. How about Somalia. How about Mozambique... and then, inevitably, how about Vulcan, Andoria, Betazed, etc. Star Trek may fall considerably short of the ideal in terms of depiction but that's definitely something it at least notionally has striven for.


    I mean is that a rhetorical question because I don't see any way of answering that than 'yes.'

    On Star Trek the fictional beliefs of alien races - the mythology of the Klingons, the Bajoran faith in the Prophets, etc. - are treated seriously because that matter to the characters from those traditions, and in fiction a fictional character's fictional faith can matter as much to them as a fictional character's faith in a real world equivalent.

    That is kind of exactly what Star Trek is all about. Idic, to invoke a fictional principle belonging to a fiction race. Fictional religion obviously doesn't matter anywhere near as much in the real world but in the context of that fiction, that's another story.

    And he's not even a real chaplain, just a guy with an attitude. He's welcome on Mal's boat, but not his book! ...sept when it is.

    Emphasis added.

    Star Trek is American by default and that's always going to colour its perception of the future and human culture in general, even ignoring ridiculous moments like Captain Kirk reading the constitution on an alien planet; it's also why basically the only religiously observant human character on Star Trek is a Native American.

    ...which does suggest for starters that your choices are not 'Christian' or 'atheist' for chaplain religions, even ignoring invented alien faiths and given a narrow American focus. Why not a Muslim chaplain out of Dearborn, Michigan? A Rabbi from the Southeast? A Unitarian Universalist, whatever. Lot of choices they can make here.

    It is playing with hot coals, obviously, because if they write a Muslim chaplain - for example - it would then be important to get his religious references and his or her knowledge of the Qur'an and the hadiths all right, and any given moral judgement he makes would be as debated as... any of the moral judgements ever on Star Trek (look around the forums, seriously) but with the added colour of interrogating it from the religious angle, either averring that the chaplain made the choice because of flaws in his or her faith or that their decision was inaccurate in what someone of that religion would do.

    On top of that people may find any suggestion that his or her religion's attitudes have changed towards anything to be offensive or whatever. Lot of issues to work with there, lot of ways it could go wrong, and in some senses having a character who is personally religious but not a chaplain is easier because their actions are less likely to be assumed to be representative of their faith (although that's always also a risk).

    ...and add to this a lot of what one can write for a chaplain can also be written for a counselor. That's a derided job in Trek for various reasons, but I honestly feel that Troi was at her best when she was actually taking patients and trying to help them get through something, and I think it's a role that Star Trek could still use.
  4. TheRoyalFamily

    TheRoyalFamily Commodore Commodore

    Feb 9, 2005
    Why do we assume a ship would only have one chaplain? A ship would generally have enough to meet the various needs of the crew, provided they're significant enough in number to warrant it (and the chaplain would also have another job, unless there are large amounts of practicing members of their faith - like a ship full of practicing Vulcans, maybe).
  5. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

    Mar 22, 2001
    Burlington, VT, USA
    Because the premise was that they be a main character.
  6. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 20, 2009
    The opposite would also be true, much of what we saw Deanna doing (outside of the mindreading) could have been handled by the ship's chaplain. There has been suggestions that the chaplain would/should have another job aboard the ship.

    Have the chaplain and councilor be the same person.

    Last edited: Oct 19, 2012
  7. Ricardus

    Ricardus Ensign Newbie

    Oct 29, 2012
    I tend to agree with a lot of what's been said. It is my impression also that they have moved beyond the belief in a god of any kind. I remember in the novelization for Star Trek 2, when Chekov and the others beamed down to Seti Alpha 5.5, and they were in Khan's quarters, Chekov saw a Bible, and he thought "Ah, 20th century mythology."

    Of course spirituality isn't necessarily the same as religion, so there might be some sort of chaplain duties needed, but as many people have said, a counselor might be able to handle those duties.
  8. Newspaper Taxi

    Newspaper Taxi Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 8, 2004
    Newspaper Taxi
    I think this idea makes a great deal of sense. Think of some of the anomalies the characters run into -- being turned into children, meeting creatures that proclaim to be gods or take on the form of religious figures, fun with DNA, and space being the great unknown. While the officers on duty some of this has got to screw with their minds and get them thinking about spiritual matters.

    I guess that a Starfleet Chaplain would be like a counselor that specializes in existenial questions that can't be answered; as opposed to a counselor, who helps you work through emotional trauma/conflicts/depression. A counselor could work you through these problems as well, of course, but splitting the position might be useful -- one to keep the crew's mental/emotional health in check, one to help with those bigger un-answerable questions.

    I also don't have a problem believing that a Starfleet Chaplain could be well-versed in hundreds of different religions and philosophiess. I mean, I already accept that Starfleet has these wonder-engineers that can squint at a screen of data and come up with new techniques never before attempted that work perfectly. It would be like the potential career path for those religious studies and philosophy majors in the Trek universe.

    Even if the humans in Trek have moved beyond religion, and are 'evolved' humans, they've still got to have some of the kinds of questions that keep you up at night. Trek is always trumpeting what it means to be human, and i think that's a part of it too.
  9. John Mason

    John Mason Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 21, 2012
    Could be anywhere really...
    Star Trek is about the future of humanity and of exploration, (well it used to be). The last thing Star Trek needs is to return to the dark ages of the military, fear, superstition and doctrine, something that has emerged of late. This is starfleet not the Royal/U.S Navy. Starfleet was founded to seek out and explore in peace, not exploit and conquer in war.
    Since the end of TNG the franchise has slowly slid into a militaristic side show.
    to quote Jean luc Picard "Does anyone remember when we used to be explorers"
    If someone needs religion they don't need a priest/chaplain
    I would have thought we were beyond such nonsense ... :)
  10. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

    Mar 13, 2012
    Star Trek has aways been about exploration.

    But it has also always been about exploring while armed to the teeth and never afraid to shoot.

    Your comments about religion are not helpful though.

    Religion has been around for 6,000 years on Earth.

    It will certainly be around 300 more.
  11. chardman

    chardman Vice Admiral In Memoriam

    Sep 5, 2001
    The home of GenCon
    Unless it isn't.

    Hey, why not a Starfleet Ship's Occultist as a main character? "Captain. the cards suggest that this course of action might not be prudent!"
  12. Kemaiku

    Kemaiku Admiral Admiral

    Dec 23, 2004
    Northern Ireland
    "Sorry, this sickbay is homeopathic only, but I'm sure some green tea will heal that plasma burn!"
  13. EmperorTiberius

    EmperorTiberius Captain Captain

    Feb 7, 2009
  14. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 20, 2009
    Starfleet has alway had a relationship with the Royal Navy as it was during the days of sail centuries ago. An organization that engaged in national defense, global exploration, protection of trade, and support of colonies.

    How isn't that Starfleet?

    Whether a chaplain was needed (or not) would be up to individuals and groups. Whether Starfleet would provide one is a question. A chaplain would be there to administer various religious rites. For some on board, to hear their confession and offer absolution. Could a councilor do this? Not all religion is do it yourself.

    In the occasionally violent world of Star Trek, the chaplain could be there to perform last rites, or it's equivalent for other faiths.

    Part of a Starfleet chaplain official duties might be to agree to be a willing vessel for the Katra of any Vulcans on board.

    Hardly nonsense, and hopefully neither we, nor others from beyond Earth, will ever be "beyond it."

    A friend of mine in the building where I live is a Pagan (lot's of Pagans in Seattle). One of my cousins is a Wiccan. If either was the trained chaplain aboard the starship to which I was assigned, I would have no problem going to either of them for my Christian practices.

  15. The Grim Ghost

    The Grim Ghost Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    May 29, 2007
    Thee Olde Spook Shack
    As a well fleshed out recurring supporting cast member? Sure, could be interesting and fun.

    As a main character? No thanks. I see a lot of possible negatives and very few positives. I can't see many people thinking "wow the new Trek has a Chaplain, I MUST watch it now!!"
  16. Elias Vaughn

    Elias Vaughn Captain Captain

    Asking if a chaplain could work as a main character is like asking if a counselor could work as a main character.

    Sure, why not? The character just has to be interesting beyond just the job description.
  17. Takeru

    Takeru Space Police Commodore

    Sep 6, 2007
    Germany, EU, Earth
    I have no problem with spirituality, but I consider organized religion nonsense and hope we will move beyond that.

    I'm also against a chaplain aboard federation ships, it's not just an international crew, it's an interplanetary crew, there are too many faiths and belief systems for it to work. A counsellor can do the job much better than a chaplain who is clearly a member of a specific belief system, of course the counsellor can have a religion too, but they're not part of the job description.
    Imagine a bajoran vedek having the chaplain job on a ship, could someone from earth relate to him? After all his "gods" are real, you can literally visit them, there's no doubt that they exist, even if you consider them to be just wormhole aliens, you know they are real. There's a very big disconnect that's not comparable to christians and muslims for example, as those religions are basically identical.
    Of course a bajoran counsellor would most likely have the same faith, but it's just not as obvious.
  18. Solarbaby

    Solarbaby Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jul 29, 2009
    Even with this in mind I still believe that there would some atheists on Bajor. There were a lot of doubters up until Emissary. Some people never had a vision when they visited the orb. To my knowledge you never heard Ro Laren mention them. Certainly some people who felt especially hard done by the occupation might question where their gods were during the suffering.
  19. Ultramann

    Ultramann Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Mar 28, 2011
    I agree that religion is bs but spirituality is not. We were supposed to have freedom OF religion (spirituality) not freedom FROM religion. The short answer as to why we wouldn't see that is someone would get ticked off (regardless of what faith) and then we'll have to deal with the ACLU.
  20. EmoBorg

    EmoBorg Commodore Commodore

    Apr 2, 2012
    in the 10 dimensions of reality
    Gene Roddenberry, raised as a southern baptist, was agnostic in his adult life. If i remember correctly, i read that Roddenberry predicted religion would be extinct in the future and hence no Chaplin on star trek vessels in his version of the future. Maybe the nearest thing was the very secular Counselor Deanna Troi.

    If you really want a religious type of Counselor, i would go for the snake handlers of the Pentecostal denomination. I would love to see the Chaplin handling a snake in the background while Picard negotiates with the Cardassians.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2012