The Prime Directive
One idea in the Star Trek universe that I truly like is the “Prime Directive.” What is the Prime Directive? “The Prime Directive (officially Starfleet Order 1) is a prohibition on interference with the other cultures and civilizations representatives of Starfleet encounter in their exploration of the universe. In particular, the Prime Directive is aimed at preventing interference with the internal development of civilizations that are less technologically advanced.” (Forbes) What I like about this rule has less to do with the purpose, but with the application.
The Prime Directive is held up as a guiding principle and one that should be followed exactly, yet the stories of Star Trek highlight how ethically, the order becomes a sort of centered rule rather than a bounded rule. Various captains and crews are often faced with a dilemma over whether to intervene when life is at stake. Do they break the Prime Directive and find themselves outside of the rule, or do they find a way to bend outward or toward the rule as a centering principle? Typically, the rule is treated as a centering principle that allows for movement away from it while still tethered to the center; especially when lives or civilizations are at risk. This is why I like the Prime Directive and one of numerous reasons I prefer Star Trek ever so slightly over Star Wars.
Dr. Dan Boone uses the metaphor of tetherball to explain the difference between a bounded framework and a centered framework. The centered framework is similar to tetherball, where a ball is attached to a pole and bounces freely between players.. Although it may seem chaotic, people interact beautifully while watching the ball move towards and away from the central space in constant motion.. The difference with a bounded framework is the metaphor of guardrails. In contrast to the motion of a tetherball, guardrails define a boundary between what is in and what is outside that boundary and keep that line well defined.
The conflict between desiring a bounded set versus a centered set is what I sense is going on within Wesleyan-Holiness circles at the moment. I understand the inclination to desire the supposed order of bounded sets of doctrines and theologies. But the Holy Spirit, and the entire Trinity are not neatly ordered. The kenotic spirit of Trinitarian relationship by design is more about centering. For Wesleyan-Holiness people, we experience centering in our concerns over soteriology (salvation). Specifically, within the Church of the Nazarene, our Articles of Faith have acted as the centering of our essential doctrines. Within that centering, we have a diverse expression of our faith. The language in our articles is often vague so that the ideas that merged into the Church of the Nazarene could coexist. The first Nazarenes were centered in a desire for holiness to break out in our world, causing a transformation of people and systems.
Approaching 120 years in and we have some who are not content with being centered. They want guardrails to allow them to say who is in and who is out. They have even tried to place guardrails such that historic orthodox doctrine is placed firmly outside the rails. The better picture for me is that of the centering in who we are and a continued allowance for diversity in that centering. The dance of tetherball is superior to a narrow roadway holding us back from conversations and the ability to reflect an ever present God. Who is in for a continuing game of tetherball?