To boldly go


In 1968 the film, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” was released. I don’t remember the month, so I was either in the last half of my junior year or the first half of my senior year in high school. Steve Duncan, who lived four houses down the street in the Hillcrest area of Kingsport, TN, and I had just returned from seeing the futuristic movie. In the film, humanity was well on its way to being active in space.

A year later, in 1969, the United States would put men on the moon. After that the future didn’t seem so far away. So, Steve and I talked about the movie and speculated what our world would be like in 2001. Would aliens be encountered? Would a supercomputer be developed that would converse with people and perform amazing tasks? With the short-sightedness of youth, I proclaimed, “In 2001, we’ll be nearly dead!” However, in 2001, Steve and I would both turn 50 and discover that we were still very much alive indeed!

But, as we know, we did not conquer space. Not long after several moon landings, we abandoned the moon altogether. No astronauts have been sent to Mars or Venus and NASA is now gearing up for a future moon landing … again. Unmanned probes, on the other hand, have gone “where no one has gone before,” and the data supplied by these spacecrafts will keep scientists supplied for decades.

We are, however, still fascinated by the idea of space and space travel. “Star Trek,” featured on network television in the mid-1960s has spawned a plethora of spinoffs that have continued to this day. In 1977, a movie premiered that caught the nation’s imagination by storm, and “Star Wars,” set in a galaxy far, far away in a time long, long ago, has never stopped producing sequels and spinoffs. Both franchises take a positive viewpoint and, ultimately, good wins out over evil, whether it’s Darth Vader, the Borg, or humanity’s dark side.

Other space-based adventures take a grimmer point of view and depict aliens as incredibly violent threats who come to conquer and strip the planet of its resources and use its people for slaves or food.

One school of thought believes that some of the advancements of humanity are due to “ancient aliens” who gave us a jump start and built the Pyramids and other wonders. I, for one, do not believe that aliens from other star systems have ever set foot (or whatever they supposedly use for transportation) on this or any other planet in the solar system. Nor do I believe they ever will. Nor do I believe in alien UFOs. Neither do I believe the reports of people who say they were abducted by anything other than their own creativity, imaginations, or diminished capabilities.

Humankinds’ worst enemy does not come from the stars. estimates that 10,000,000 people were killed in wars and conflicts prior to the year “zero.” They also estimated that up to 1,000,000,000 (that’s one BILLION) people have been killed in wars and conflicts from the birth of Christ until now. The nations of the world and its inhabitants have not “beaten their swords into plowshares” and it doesn’t appear that they will anytime soon. That doesn’t include the untold millions who have lost their lives through crime, murder, genocide, abortion, and all the rest. The threat to humanity comes from humanity.

I suppose that’s one reason we haven’t reached the dreams of space exploration in the ways depicted in movies and on television. In the Star Trek mythology, humanity learned to live together. In the Star Wars legend, the “good” humans finally overcome the “evil humans.” Other species are involved but it is primarily humans against humans. We have not learned to live together. And we still war against each other.

Over the decades I have heard hundreds of people — thousands, maybe — blame God for the violence and death in human history. But ever since Cain killed his brother Abel, we have been violent towards one another. God is not the enemy. We are.

It’s hard to reach for the stars when so much blood leaks into the ground. “To boldly go” will have to wait. We are not ready for the stars.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King ( Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South ( He may be contacted at]


  1. I think Fr. Epps is right in saying humanity is humanity’s worst enemy, but more specifically, he doesn’t address that it is generally male humans who are humanity’s worst enemies.

    When he speaks of the massive death toll of war on earth, he doesn’t mention that the most destructive wars were waged by, and directed by, men: the Civil War, World War II, World War I. Even the wars of conquest in Mongolia and European colonization of the Americas, which also resulted in massive death tolls, were conflicts led and carried out by males.

    I’m not saying females can’t do violence, murder, and war, of course they can and do. But when you come to violent crimes in the USA, for instance, men are more likely to commit them and more likely to be the victims of them. Regarding gun violence in particular, of the 240 mass shootings in the USA between 2009 and 2020, 94% were carried out by men. And the UN’s Global Study on Homicide for 2019 showed that 90% of the homicides globally were committed by male perpetrators.

    So, if Fr Epps’ column is meant to indict humanity for crimes against humanity, he might want to modify it to indict (mostly) males for crimes against humanity.

    That said, Suz’s hopeful comment is a beautiful counterpoint to Fr Epps’ pessimism. Despite that men continue to wage (the majority of) wars and commit (the majority of) violent crimes, humans also stand up for the vulnerable, provide for the needy, unite against fascism, and so forth. Heroism is not, perhaps, as common as knee-jerk violence against the things that frighten men, but neither is it uncommon.

    We have reason to hope, especially those of us who believe the Scripture that God is Love.

    • Thank you, jax. Your passion always inspires me.

      And you are right–it was Fr. Epp’s seemingly lack of hope that troubled me. Lack of hope both FOR humankind and IN humankind.

      Steven Charleston, retired Episcopal bishop and Choctaw citizen, says it much better than I did–

      “When we decide to embrace hope–when we choose to make that our goal and our message–we release a flow of energy that cannot be overcome. Hope is a light that darkness can never contain.”

      Namaste, my visionary pal!

  2. Dear Fr. Epps—
    It is easy to become discouraged over the mess we have made, both in our own country and worldwide. As someone your age, looking back over the years, surely we expected to be living in a much better place.

    However I would suggest that it is not simply a mater of “good humans” overcoming “evil humans”. Rather, we are all capable of both. Our hope remains that the Universal Light within us overcomes the darkness. And Love wins.

    Father Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest and author, advises that the best criticism of the bad, is to be the better.
    And so we press on.

    This June was the perfect chance to witness this. What an honor (and a joy) to join with the LGBTQ+ community and celebrate Pride.

    We also marked and observed the federal holiday, Juneteenth (albeit a bittersweet celebration, realizing the work for racial equality is far from over).

    I hope you are aware that June 20th was designated “World Refugee Day”. Desperate people at our borders are not forgotten by those who see Christ in the least of these.

    My point is—you state that the threat to humanity comes from humanity. Perhaps. But we are also our best hope. Because our one God is so much bigger than the box we try to put Him in. And better than we can imagine. And He is with us, and for us. ALL of us.