George Takei on the Starship Methodism

#startrek #umc

george-takei-flickrIn an interview with Star Trek actor and LGBT advocate George Takei, he talks a lot about politics and Star Trek. Then at the very end he describes Star Trek in an amazing way that I think gives a parallel vision to one driving concern of this blog: United Methodist Church unity in the face of schism.

Here’s the exchange from the interview:

Q: Maybe you can shed some light — what is it about “Star Trek” that makes it live on forever in popular culture?

A: At the core of “Star Trek” is Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future. So much of science-fiction is about a dystopian society with human civilization having crumbled. He had an affirmative, shining, positive view of the future.

He said the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth. The strength of the starship is in its diversity. Everyone contributing their best, their vantage points and their unique experiences.

Working as a team to face a common challenge. We can prevail if we have confidence in our problem-solving capabilities, in our inventive genius and our innovative qualities. I think it’s that that inspires every generation.

I think the Starship Methodism also has its strength in this diversity. We have strongly evangelical and strongly progressive Methodists–and those that are both. We have deeply traditional Methodists and cutting-edge rethink-Churchers–and those that are both. Hillary Clinton and George Bush. Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke. Digital natives and digital immigrants. We may skew older in membership, but those numbers don’t always reflect actual worship attendance. As one of the few large denominations that have a globally-set polity, we have an international stamp on our polity as well: diversity at its finest and most difficult.

The problem is that the full diversity of Starship Methodism is not allowed to participate in equal ways. Not everyone’s problem-solving, inventive, or innovative abilities are welcome on the Bridge. Oh sure, their talents are appreciated in the various niches of the Starship, but not at the head. Captain Sulu’s true self would not be allowed to be a self-avowed practicing Captain in the Starship Methodism. And so the many difficulties that the Starship Methodism encounters are not fully countered because we are holding back our full diversity from the problems. And that’s just not the Star Trek way.

The key hope, I think, is found in the term “confidence.” The failed church reform The Call To Action said that a lack of trust was at our core and trust is certainly an aspect of confidence: if you don’t trust your colleagues on the Starship Methodism, you can’t have confidence in its ability to respond to every threat. And until the fullness of our diversity is allowed to serve God in all the ways of our church, then we will continue to be suspicious and fearful of what the “other side” is doing. And that’s just not the Methodist way of holding one another accountable in love.

My hope is that the Starship Methodism does embrace its diversity, offer it up in its fullness to the challenges of the day, and in doing so find a new level of confidence that a successful pro-George Takei church in Portland is doing the same work of the Kingdom as the white-washed megachurch in Oklahoma.


(Photo: “George Takei” by Gage Skidmore, shared under Creative Commons license)
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  1. says

    Jeremy, you pushed all my buttons with this one. Not only is George Takei one of my heroes on and off the screen, I am officially a flight deck officer on the Starship Enterprise, with my commission signed by Gene Roddenberry himself. I’ve been accused in the past of promoting the First Church of Star Trek, and I see nothing wrong with that whatsoever. Even though Roddenberry was an atheist, his positive vision of humanity’s future closely parallels the theology of John Wesley. This one is going up on UM Insight right away. Superb job!

  2. says

    Well said, Jeremy. I am not a Trekkie, though I have occasionally referenced Star Trek in sermons, but I love George Takei. Your application of his/Roddenberry’s metaphor “Starship Enterprise” to our beloved UMC is spot on. I wonder, however, how long will those in the church working for representation on the “Bridge” wait before they ultimately give up? The problem seems to be the absolute commitment of those on the “other side” to stand against “the fullness of our diversity … to serve God in all the ways of our church” because full inclusion, as they see it, permits an unacceptable violation of God’s laws, biblical authority, etc.

  3. says

    1. Is the diversity of which you speak in terms of ethnicity or sexual orientation/practice or both?

    2. If you are speaking primarily of diversity in the realm of sexuality (as seems likely given your illustration of George Takei), are you suggesting in the penultimate paragraph that changing the Discipline’s stance on homosexual practice would actually INCREASE trust within the Methodist starship? I think increased trust is a highly unlikely outcome of Disciplinary revision.

    3. If you are speaking of racial & ethnic diversity (less likely, but possible in this particular post), it sounds like you are advocating more of what I would call “pretend diversity”: assembling Methodists of every hue at our annual, jurisdictional, and general conference levels who at the conclusion of the meeting return to their single race churches. That’s not diversity; it’s a photo opportunity. If we long for authentically diverse innovation and creativity to help steer the denomination, how about locating people from those local bodies where such diversity is already being practiced? (And by the way, if we’d expand the tent beyond Methodism, virtually every charismatic and/or Pentecostal church already has racial & ethnic diversity. Naturally.) I’ve collected some thoughts on the subject here:

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