Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Vulcan Logic of Killing Hitler

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

In my last post, I discussed how Spock, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, decided that the needs of the many — the Enterprise crew — outweighed the needs of the one — himself. But what if the one to be sacrificed is not the same one making the decision? To put it in terms of a classic time travel scenario, would you murder Hitler in order to save millions of other lives?

In the Tenth Doctor’s final story, “The End of Time,” Wilfred Mott confronts the Doctor with just such a question. They have escaped to an alien spacecraft high above the earth, while the Doctor’s old enemy, the Master, wreaks havoc on the planet below, having turned the entire human population into clones of himself. Wilf does the only thing he can think of to try to spur the Doctor into world-saving action — he offers him a gun. When appeals to the Doctor’s sense of self-preservation fall short (“Kill him before he kills you,” Wilf pleads), he asks what will happen to all the people if the Master dies. Upon learning that everyone will go back to being human, Wilf becomes angry with the Doctor: “Don’t you dare, sir. Don’t you dare put him before them.” Kill the one to save the many, in other words. Their needs outweigh the Master’s.

The Doctor continues to refuse, though. He can’t bring himself to kill the Master, not even to save everyone on Earth. The Master is just one, and a pretty evil one at that, but still he is one who matters to the Doctor, someone who was a friend of his, once upon a time — and someone who might still do something good one day.

Like the Doctor, Jesus demonstrates throughout his ministry that no person is unworthy of help or beyond redemption, not even the one sentenced to hang on the next cross over. When someone finally invents time travel, maybe the first trip back will be not to kill Hitler but to influence him to do good rather than evil. Until then, let us never give up on anyone as irredeemable, no matter how reprehensible he or she may seem to be — you never know when you might be the one who causes that person to change their ways and become a force for good in the world.