Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Leaving The 'Church Collective'

A friend and fellow geek, (yes I'm looking at you Dallas!) commented on my last post about the similarities he sees between the church and the Borg*. And that reminded me of a post I wrote a couple of years ago, comparing the Borg's drive to assimilate other species with the church's zeal to impose "unity" on its members. Naturally enough, that got me thinking more about such things generally, and the Star Trek universe particularly.

[*For those non-geeks among us, Memory Alpha explains: "The Borg were a pseudo-species of cybernetic beings, or cyborgs, from the Delta Quadrant. No single individual truly existed within the Borg Collective (with the possible sole exception of the Borg Queen), as all Borg were linked into a hive mind. Their ultimate goal was the attainment of 'perfection' through the forcible assimilation of diverse sentient species, technologies, and knowledge. As a result, the Borg were among the most powerful and feared entities in the galaxy, without really being a true species at all."]

And that got me thinking about the character, "Seven of Nine" from Star Trek's Voyager series, a Borg drone and one of a sub-group of nine humanoids, all of whom had been captured and assimilated into the Borg collective. After being rescued by the crew of Voyager, Seven was faced with the challenge of learning to be a unique and individual being again.

Naturally enough, she struggles with the process - initially finding the loss of the hive mind confronting in the extreme. She is forced to become an independent individual, learning to live without the constant guidance and instruction of the hive mind.

In one particularly poignant episode, it is revealed that the 'Nine' borgs once crashed on a planet and were consequently cut off from the collective. Freed from that influence, the survivors discover that memories of their previous lives start to emerge. Remembering their lives before assimilation - that they were once free and independent people, with names instead of 'designations' - they decide they don't want to be 'rescued' and re-assimilated by their Borg brethren.

But, while the others of the 'Nine' were assimilated as adults, Seven was only a child when she and her parents were captured. Life as a Borg drone has been all she's really known so, not surprisingly, she acts like the little girl she once was. Seeing the others acting independently, she reacts in fear and panic, eventually forcing the others to rejoin the collective against their wills, and inflicting unthinking damage on them in that process.

Now to me, this seemed like a perfect metaphor for the experience of leaving the institutional church. Not only do those who leave have the sometimes difficult task of discovering who they are outside the 'hive mind' of the church, but they also have to contend with those who react in fear and try to force them back.

It can feel strange and lonely when you first stop operating as part of a 'church collective'. Exploring how to be yourself outside the institution can be challenging. Asking previously forbidden questions, finding new 'answers' to those you did have permission to ask, even finding that you might need to live without the old certainties, can all make for a stretching, even difficult time. You might even make a few mistakes! But that's ok. It's all part of the process of finding freedom and your new place in the world.

So when you face the inevitable naysayers who are fearful of others making an independent choice, and who try to impose their ways upon you again, you can exercise that new-found freedom and make your own decisions. You are not obligated to obey the collective, you can listen to the voice of the Spirit gently guiding you, and you can boldly go where maybe you've never gone before...

Disclaimer: I am not saying that freedom cannot be found within the institutional church. I am saying that I couldn't find it there.


  1. You actually found a soft spot in my Trek fandom, I gave up on Voyager pretty early.

    This though,

    "Seeing the others acting independently, she reacts in fear and panic, eventually forcing the others to rejoin the collective against their wills, and inflicting unthinking damage on them in that process. "

    Describes very well the few negative comments that Elle got on her post last week. I think that it does show some of the idolatry of the church in that we see a faith in the church to meet our needs rather than God. The church replaces Jesus as the functional savior, so that if I say that I don't need their church, I am calling out their idolatry and false messiah.

    1. Dallas, I must confess that those comment did come to mind when I wrote this. I've seen/heard iterations of them every time the topic of leaving the institution is raised.

      Btw, I also gave up on Voyager when it originally screened, but came back to it later with my boys. It's actually worth a second go ;)

    2. so there's a church program we might call: Protect the Collective

      wondering if Dallas will get my comment via email, and is there a way for me to sign up for new posts and blog comments via email with blogspot here, LivLim?

      i follow Dallas' and Elle's blog via email updates.. want to keep up with the reading and conversations here too.. (i see you had a good spurt of thoughts without my seeing).. i keep my e-world small.. not on facebook.. prefer not to be so super-connected.. which gives me the space and time to invest in a handful of good relationships..

    3. I can appreciate that desire to keep it small - and keep it real.