I Call -Ism.

I watched Star Trek from about 6 years old until Voyager ended after my parents divorced. It seems like a frivolous fact, but it’s not. I watched at least 1-2 hours of it each week with my family. On Sunday nights, we had what we called “Steak and Data” with TNG and we got to stay up late on Monday nights to watch Voyager. For anyone who has watched Star Trek, you’ll know the show was famous for taking our society’s issues and playing them out with aliens.

I’ve been binge watching Deep Space Nine the last few weeks. Star Trek is like comfort food. When I am stressed or emotionally-drained, whether I give in or not, I want to watch Star Trek. This is a constant. I started watching this time in season 4, when Worf comes aboard, as he is my all-time favorite Star Trek character.

DS9 is unique in that it takes place on a station which was formerly a slave work camp. The alien race who built the station enslaved the inhabitants of the planet below for 50 years. Captain Sisko takes command of the station after the occupation ends to build Starfleet relations with the planet. Unlike the other shows, DS9 constantly examines the repercussions of the “occupation”. Depending on the episode, you will recognize elements of the Holocaust, black slavery in America, racial genocide in Africa and Asia, the Civil Rights movement, the Zionist movement, the South African apartheid, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to name a few.

I’ve been exhausted by the current atmosphere of this country. For the first time in my 14 years of marriage, I’m talking about current events more than my husband (it’s quite a feat, I assure you). I reached out to the show for comfort, but I seem to have found a safe space to process instead. If you don’t know what I mean, try watching episode 13 of season 6 and tell me DS9 doesn’t make you say, “That’s true.”

A religious leader throws herself off a balcony as the noose snaps her neck in protest of a treaty. Starving women are picked out of their slave camps to bring “comfort” to the slave drivers. A woman tries to prove herself worthy to the matriarch of another alien race because they don’t want her to marry into the family. An alien is turned against his own race because he is the only one of his kind in the fleet. A senior member of the now-liberated race struggles with being a voice for peace while not being complicit in unjust concessions.

It’s not real, but it it’s true.

There is an active sex-trafficking trade in most countries, certainly in this one. There are children working as slaves around the world alongside their parents. There are countries who currently act to purposefully annihilate members of certain groups within their own population. Minorities are called on to “judge” members of their group and make difficult choices to uphold their convictions. There are those who are looked down on because they are “not like us”. As I said, it is not real, but it is true.

Pick an “ism”. I promise, you have one. It’s a disease we live with here on the earth. We are all contaminated by it. The one we are examining these days is racism. Black people. But may yours is Jews. Women. Millenials. Immigrants. White people. Old people. Homeless people. Unborn people. Differently gendered people. Differently abled people.

“Those people.” Whoever they are, they exist in your mind. There is no such thing as an unbiased, unprejudiced person. If you believe you are one, I fear for you. The Oxford dictionary defines “racism” as “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.” Every -ism has the same beginning and you can substitute “racial or ethnic group” with whatever you want.

We must recognize and confront the -isms. That does not mean you have to agree with everything someone has to say because they are different. It does mean you should endeavor to understand them, to treat them justly and to love them with the love of Christ, which is inherently devoid of prejudice. God is no respecter of persons. Neither his love nor his judgement discriminate.

If you refuse to listen to someone because they are different or espouse a different ideology than you, I call -ism. If you treat people with disdain because you do not agree with their ideas, I call -ism. If you are selective about who you share the love of Christ with, I call -ism. If you withhold your prayers for salvation from a particular group of people, I call -ism. If you believe yourself to be better than someone because they are in some way different, I call – ism. If you have a special name for members of that “other” group to communicate your thoughts about their homogeneity, I call -ism. I don’t care what side of what group of what idea you’re on, I call -ism.

It is not racist, antisemitic, misogynistic, etc. to disagree with someone’s viewpoint. It is racist, antisemitic, misogynistic, etc. to view or treat them as less than you because their viewpoint is different than yours.

I will repeat that. I can think your views are completely misguided and still believe you to have worth, value and importance because you are my fellow human. Disagreement does not equate support of an -ism. Unwillingness to listen to others, consider their experience, speak up for their value as people, and render them respect simply for being fellow members of the human race, does.

We are all fallen. We are saved by grace. We are ransomed by love. Jesus did not die so we could take credit for our supremacy. The supremacy is God’s. The grace is God’s. The mercy is God’s. The justice is God’s. Judgement will start in the house of the Lord. Let us not fool ourselves.

I stand with my black and brown brothers and sisters. They have value. God has a plan for each and every one of them. God speaks words over each one of them for hope and a future. They were each formed by God in the womb. They were each called “good” on the day they were made. They are each welcome in the throne room of God.

I almost didn’t write anything because there are so many voices right now. But I would rather be “just another voice” than silent. The riots will stop. The protests will end. Another people group will suffer violence. Another -ism will rise to the surface of the public conversation.

When the next -ism rises, there will be another chance to speak. It is a curse. The curse of the next -ism. The curse of the never-ending cycles of hate and apathy that spin this world closer and faster toward apocalypse. The curse of the brokenness that drives us to Christ for redemption.

And if you haven’t ever come to Him for redemption, know that He gives it freely to you. There is no -ism in the world that can keep it from you. Despite what -isms some of His followers may possess, Christ is not His followers. You receive it directly from Him. As much as we strive to be like our Savior, we are never Him. The beauty of Christ is that He desires direct contact with you. His Holy Spirit, His Presence here on earth, is with you now, even as you read these words.

So, let us go on seeking to put others before ourselves. Let us be the good Samaritan who helped the one in front of him, rather than waiting to help one of his own. Let us look for ways to bring comfort and to trouble our apathy. Let us go on dying to ourselves for the sake of Christ. As the Klingons say, “Today is a good day to die.”

5 responses to “I Call -Ism.”

  1. To test your theory, Gittel, I consent to only one ism in relation to myself, and that is atheism. I am an atheist. Do I still have value to you, do I still have your love, do you not somehow feel superior to me? Your answers will either surprise me, or they will unsettle you.
    You say people cannot live without being racist or prejudiced in some way to someone else. You are wrong. I am capable of loving everyone, or giving value to everyone. I certainly have people in my. Ife with whom I disagree, but that does not mean I cannot get along with them in a peaceful, respectful manner, all on my own. “Those peoplel” is not a phrase that will ever come out of my mouth.
    You see, I am one of those people! I am not white, I am not Christian, I was born male and I am heterosexual, but over my lifetime I have had many female friends, as well as many oppositely-gendered friends of all stripes. I am old. I have been homeless. I am still poverty-ridden, though I have hobnobed with plenty of millionaires in my life. I believe in abortions when necessary–poverty can make abortion necessary, especially when a sexually active woman cannot afford contraceptives that work. Condoms are notorious for not working. Have I left anything out? Of course I have, because I am slowly losing my memory. But I do my best to stay focused, Just the brain is not as good as it used to be. Let’s see, my little brother was ability–challenged. I have a sister who is Mormon. I have a brother who was a wife-abuser. I am not proud to be his brother, but I cannot deny him.
    And then for you to say no one can truthfully say they live without prejudice or bigotry, that is one of the most prejudicial statements anyone can ever make. Call an ism on me, please. I would like to hear your choice.

    1. Everyone has value.
      When I say “-ism”, what I mean is the human brain is wired to stereotype. It’s what allows us to assimilate information quickly and move through life without constantly relearning everything we know.
      In Portuguese there is a saying, “no one is the owner of truth”. I certainly don’t know everything and I cannot tell anyone what their prejudices are. What I hope for is a world in which people can be aware enough of their own minds to recognize prejudice when they see it and can challenge it when necessary. If we are willing to test our theories about how “those people” will react to our actions and our judgements, we may find that “they” are not as we thought.

      1. There is no such thing as “those people” except in the minds of bigots and haters. If you want you can accuse me of categorizing bigots and haters as those people but in my mind they are just people, not like me, assuredly, but still just people. Because they hate others does not mean we get to hate them in turn.
        That was my issue with your post. In my mind it borders on perpetuating what you are trying to fight.

      2. It sounds like you’ve had a wealth of experience with many different kinds of people, which is a large part of finding bias. If we only associate with people who are like us and never have conversation or experiences with people who are different, we will probably never challenge our biases.
        I believe that growth never stops and pursuit of truth should be a lifelong endeavor. That being said, I fully expect to discover prejudice and hypocrisy in my life many times over. My goal is to recognize it when I find it and adjust my thought process accordingly.
        This piece, and all of my writing, is aimed at making people think and bringing glory to God. I recognize that you don’t believe in God and I don’t value you less because that’s your belief. I also don’t believe we bring glory to God by ignoring prejudice against our fellow humans. Thank you for responding to the piece and sharing your perspective. I really appreciate it.

      3. I wish you luck in your life’s rask. It is a valuable one. I truly never thought about being only with people like myself because there are no people like myself. This is not a self-aggrandizing sratement, but meekly a fact. Whites do not what me, aboriginal people do not want me. Poor people do not want me, I have a university degree. Upper-class men do not want me because I disdain riches. Atheists do not want me because I believe in life-after-death. I could go on. I am that anomaly who walks the earth almost alone. But I am the stronger for it. (And I have lived all over the North American continent. I cannot imagine living in just one place.)
        Thank you for that insight. It helps understand some people who make no sense to me. They lack exposure to differences. Thank you again.

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