Yesterday I borrowed a scene from Star Trek Deep Space Nine, an episode called Accession to point out that if we truly believed that hierarchies were the foundation of every human relationship, we’d create a system and vocabulary to articulate it and expectations to live it out. It involves viewing everyone as either your servant who must submit to you or your master to whom you must submit. The real secret to successfully living in a hierarchy is teaching it in such a way that the people themselves see it as their duty to perpetuate it.
In the episode of Accession, one character named Porta was just like that. When Kira went to him for advice about finding fulfillment in her d’jarra, Porta advised her: “But you’re still wearing that uniform. You’re still clinging to a false life. You must do what the Emissary has asked and follow your D’jarra with all your heart. Because if you give yourself over to the Prophets, they will guide you along the path they’ve chosen for you. And you’ll know more joy than you ever thought possible.” To that end, Kira hands in her notice and begins making preparations to go live in the artisan district to train under some friends so that she can wholly devote herself to her d’jarra.
But not everyone is always so willing to live in the limits set for them, possible punishments for those who defy their d’jarras include deportation. But Porta pushes the limits of the rules when he gets into a disagreement with a Vedek (the equivalent of a priest) about his d’jarra:
[ in the Captain’s office]
ODO [OC]: Odo to Sisko.
SISKO: Go ahead.
ODO [OC]: You’d better get down to the Promenade. Someone’s been killed.
[in the Promenade]
SISKO: What happened?
KIRA: I don’t know yet.
(A monk is lying dead on the ground.)
ODO: He fell from the second level. His neck was broken on impact.
SISKO: Did anyone see it happen?
PORTA: I did.
ODO: Was it an accident?
PORTA: I pushed him. His family name is Imutta. Their D’jarra is unclean.
KIRA: They prepare the dead for burial.
PORTA: I asked him to set the proper example and resign from our order. He refused.
SISKO: You killed him because of his D’jarra?
PORTA: I had to. If a Vedek can’t do what the Emissary has asked of us, how can we expect anyone else to?
SISKO: Get him out of here.
Now Porta’s actions are consistent with his beliefs, and therefore absolves him of guilt. Now which do you suspect is the real reason for the murder: a priest refusing to set an example to follow the D’jarra’s, or an unclean mortician refusing to set aside his priestly role? When racism was the norm, it wasn’t uncommon for angry mobs of white men to murder black men in the South, especially when they stepped outside of the bounds of what they considered to be proper; so it’s not an idea wrapped in fiction – but reality.
Christianity’s hierarchies aren’t out-right murderous, but they are and can be an accessory to murder. Domestic violence can lead to murder, when the elders of the church refuse to come to the wife’s defense, they’re often failing to hold the husband accountable or take any action, really. In this way, the elders can justify their inaction (the wife went over her head, and not through him as she would normally were the hierarchy intact) and see themselves as in the clear with things go from bad to worse. Hierarchies can be counted upon to sweep things under the rug and throw people under the bus to protect the superiors at the cost of the inferiors. If that is what our hierarchies do when they are ‘hints’ and ‘whispers’, then what violence will result when they are enshrined into law and to defy them is equivalent to sin?
The success of our hierarchy is dependent upon how we teach it – that it is part of God’s creation order for husbands to be the heads of their wives, for wives to submit to their husbands, that Christ and the church and all marriages are all reflections of this timeless truth. Once people believe in it, they will see it as their duty to uphold it, treating everyone who obeys it perfectly with the respect due them and reminding everyone else that they’re not experiencing the christian ideal so long as they live in an un-ideal state. I’ve seen a lot of that going on.
Do you remember the game of Life? There’s a point in the game where you stop and cannot proceed until you’re married. In Christianity, the rules are such that for an alarmingly large number of people they are stuck waiting and waiting and waiting. In some leadership spheres, the percentage of married leaders is in the high nineties; single people just aren’t represented in leadership. Because of male headship, the percentage of male leaders is also alarmingly high, women just aren’t represented, but their perspective is filtered through the men – their husbands; leaving single men and women second and third tier members of the body of Christ. Because of our teachings, the foundation for the hierarchy is presented as Biblical truth and therefore a spiritual reality. The only difference we have is that we don’t throw ourselves into it in general; though there are conservative segments that do – creating movements such as Quiver-full that uphold the hierarchy at all costs, no matter how much damage is done to try to prop it up. This I fear will be the sad result if our hierarchies are brought into the mainstream, given more attention and taught from every t.v. station, radio station, and church pulpit. Every single church sweeping things under their rugs and throwing people under their bus in order to preserve the glory of the hierarchy; whether or not it will be something to die for remains to be seen.