The Kingdom of God

I’ve been sitting and reworking and writing blog posts for the past two weeks that would help describe the changes that have gone on within me but also try to help make sense of the horrible massacre that happened last week. I’ve scrapped almost all of them. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable sharing them, but I also like to keep this blog only about Star Wars. I usually save personal thoughts for one time of year – my year end blog posts.

In the end, this post became a mishmash of personal reflections and also Star Wars, so bear with the scattered feel to it.

Here is the one main change that happened, followed by two other thoughts.

  1. I read a wonderful book called The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg that has changed the way I think about my life and faith in God/Jesus.
  2. The massacre in Vegas happened. It could have been any horrible, human-led event honestly that changed a bit in me, but it happened to be this one and it was a doozy.
  3. These two events culminated in me thinking about the Kingdom of God and where the Jedi failed.

 

Sometimes, the way you stumble upon something can be labeled as divine influence, and that may be what happened with The Heart of Christianity. I had never heard of Marcus Borg before I was asked by a client to go into her Audible account and purchase a book on her wish list. While scrolling and trying to find that book, I saw The Heart of Christianity sitting in there. I clicked the link, read the description, and thought “That’s an interesting premise,” and of course I didn’t think about it for days. But then, one day I did think about it. I’m not sure why. There was no rhyme or reason but something compelled me to read that book.

I got it out of the library and devoured it.

I was raised very conservative, Protestant Christian. The Bible is fact, it’s an undeniable truth, and some people go to heaven and some people go to hell. I call myself a Christian, but…I wanted a fresh take on Christianity. It had gone stale for me. I have had trouble praying, finding God in my life and understanding where this all fits in the big picture of life. That’s not to say I didn’t try – I still read my Bible a few times a week and attempted prayer, but I wouldn’t say Christianity was a daily “thing” for me.

This changed when I read the book by Marcus Borg. I don’t agree with everything he said and there are some parts that are questionable, but I would say I’m a changed person after reading this book.

One thing that really stuck with me was his concept of the Kingdom of God. I was raised to believe that the Kingdom of God was something “up there” or, more precisely: heaven/afterlife. Borg argues that when you focus on the Kingdom of God as heaven, or something for after we die, you miss a crucial point that is essential to historic Christianity (i.e., the time when Jesus was speaking to everyone and the few hundred years following). Jesus argues that the Kingdom of God is the future…but also the present. With the historical context that is often lost on modern day United States – Jesus used the word “Kingdom” because that is the political sphere they were under. They were living under Roman rule, a kingdom under Caesar. When Jesus was telling us to pray “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven,” he was asking us to imagine what life would be like in the present day and moment with God as king.

There is a lot more about the argument Borg makes, but for now, I will just go into how it changed my life. Essentially, when you think of God as our king and bring his kingdom into our daily life, then treating others as you would yourself makes a lot more sense to me. It becomes a community action. You cannot have a kingdom without a community of people. Treating others as you would like to be treated is Jesus’ number two command, after loving the Lord with all your heart. But what if we all did it? By doing so, we make this a social action, a call to arms for this community of people (NB: I did not say believers). Politics within this kingdom would call for being compassionate to others, loving all of creation, perhaps exercising more patience with each person we meet in our daily walk.

This opened my eyes – realizing the Kingdom of God could be in heaven but also here on Earth and we can create it every day.

I realized that this community action needs to begin with us, within our homes. I read a post by epicipseity few weeks ago where he wrote that somewhere in this country, someone is raising their child to have them believe that white people are the dominant and best race. It struck me like a blow. I have a child who is almost a year and a half old and she understands so much of what I say. Within two years I will be able to teach her things that she will take as law and truth without questioning.

So how do I battle against someone who grows up thinking that? I hope to teach my daughter that loving others, even when it’s hard, is the best way to heal this community. That we need to go into our community and make a difference by being kind to everyone you meet, even if you don’t like them.

You might say – oh that’s such a wussy way of thinking. There’s so much MORE you can do.

Oh, trust me, I know there is more I and we can do. But can you imagine if we taught our children love instead of hate? If we really instilled in them that every person could be someone in need of a kind word or gesture? We’d make a community one step closer to the Kingdom of God.

These thoughts piled around in my head when I heard about the Vegas shooting last week. I thought to myself, “What if more people treated this shooter kindly?” That thought alone is weird…I would never have thought that prior to reading Borg’s works. Have we, as a society, become too distant and exclusive? Have we ignored people on the street too much?

The shooter’s brother, said, “Something horrible happened to my brother and whatever happened to him in his head, it made him go over the edge like this.”

Could that something horrible have been something simple, like someone just flipping him the bird in traffic? And that set him off?

Now – how does this relate to Star Wars? It does, because everything in my life can somehow be traced back to Star Wars (is that sad? I don’t know).

For over a thousand generations, the Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice. In a way, their task was to bring the Kingdom of God to the galaxy. They wanted peace and they wanted fairness and they wanted equality. It didn’t matter what species or race you were, they were there to help.

But the Jedi were wiped out, for the most part. They failed. They succeeded for a bit, but then they failed. It’s easy to pinpoint their demise on Anakin – he is the literal reason for being extinguished. But there was a lot more at work than only Anakin when you look beneath the surface.

One of the strongest reasons why I think they failed was their exclusivism and their way of being untouchable, in a sense. They helped when called upon, instead of trying to step up to the plate to prevent situations in the first place. In a way, they had gotten proud.

It’s kind and wonderful when we give other people help when they call upon us for our assistance. How much more important would it be if we could make it so that no one would ever have to ask for our help because we were always there? It would always be a team effort, like Baze and Chirrut.

I understand that physically, it would be impossible for the Jedi to be on every planet, but why have only a central place on Coruscant? Why not have the Jedi set up shop on different planets in the galaxy? Can you imagine how much more effective that would be? Living and getting to know the people of a planet instead of doing a one-stop help and then peaceing out?

Another reason they failed is that they were brought down by a member from within the Order. Their internal disagreements led to slight fractures. When a member was questioning the Order and not understanding his place, instead of welcoming the discussion, they shut it down.

I see this often at the church my parents attended. There was right (their way, based on the literal Bible) and there was wrong (any other interpretation you could have).

Why have so many people left Christianity? Because from the outside they see it in a similar way I was brought up – all questions can be answered within the Bible, but there is only one correct interpretation. Basically: there is right and wrong. Who wants to join a religion where exploratory questions are shunned?

When Anakin vents his frustrations to Obi-Wan about being put in a position that he didn’t even ask to be put in, Obi-Wan tells him off saying, “But it’s what you wanted!” Anakin continues to question the Order, wondering why things are not the way he thinks they should be. I don’t think Obi-Wan really understand the internal dilemma and battle that is going on within Anakin. If he did, he would know that it was not the right time to ask him to spy on Palpatine.

Lastly, the Jedi failed because they were too much like Mace Windu and not enough like Ahsoka.  Most Jedi lacked compassion. They helped others because they were told to help others. Would they do it on their own without the council guiding them? Because that marks a true Jedi….a little like being told to go to church, do right and help others, instead of honestly believing that being compassionate and attending church to help you to grow as a person will help our society.

They raised their younglings to be separate, apart, exclusive, and distant. They also told them to be kind, to think of others, and to do what was right. But I’m not sure I ever saw real, true compassion in most of the Jedi. I view Ahsoka as one of the best Jedi’s, up there with Qui-Gon Jinn. Ahsoka was one of the most compassionate Jedi I have seen in all of Star Wars. If I had to pick Jedi that could be capable of bringing the Kingdom of God into the galaxy, Ahsoka and Qui-Gon would lead.

If we were more patient with the way we treat others and demonstrate love as much as possible, would there be less shootings and less violence?

Yes and yes. I know and firmly believe this with all my being.

I challenge you to think about in everyday – what kind of Jedi do you want to be? Are you too proud and not compassionate enough? Do you view the world as your way or the highway?  How can you bring the Kingdom of God into your daily life? How can you show compassion? And with those individual changes, how will that bring changes to our society as a whole?

 

 

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Haiku Me Friday! Podracing

The wind in my hair
I fly by the flat, still sands
Here, I am at home

Prior to this year, I had a daily Star Wars calendar where I flipped each day off and saw something new. It was so fun and some years were better than others, but it was always a highlight of my day. I didn’t get one this year for the simple fact that I didn’t get one for Christmas. It makes my Christmas request list every year and I meant to go buy it myself when I didn’t receive it and I forgot.

The point of this is that these pictures were always what inspired my haiku’s on Fridays. Whatever picture landed on a Friday, that’s what I would end up writing about.

Since I don’t have it this year, instead I make sure to listen to every single Star Wars soundtrack on shuffle on Spotify on Friday’s. When I pull open my blog post, whatever track I’m listening to is what I write about.

Right now, it’s the marching music as they lead the flags out in front of the podracers.

It’s a little coincidental that I am writing about podracing when I had written about my younger diary entries yesterday with the specific podracing dream. OR MAYBE IT’S THE FORCE GUIDING ME. Yes, I like that explanation better.

 

The memories of that dream, which some parts are still so vivid almost 20 years later, made me think about if I have a happy place in my life right now.

Anakin was at home when he was flying. He had never flown a ship before so he had to settle on flying podracers. He had Jedi reflexes which helped him, as no other human had the knack for them.

I realized while thinking about this that Anakin is the only character that we see in the Prequel Trilogy that drives and flies ships consistently. He is close matched to Obi-Wan, but usually it’s Anakin that takes the wheel if they’re together. We rarely see Padmé fly on her own, though we know she can.

In some ways, Anakin reminds me of my husband. He loves his car, it’s everything to him and he is constantly detailing it out in our driveway. He notices the slightest scratch or paint transfer, and God forbid if it has swirl marks! My husband loves doing nothing better than getting in the car and “just go for a drive”. (Whereas I’m sitting there silently freaking out because … I mean … there’s no destination? What? This is SO not organized)

Anakin, too, took meticulous care of his podracer that he built from scratch. He handled other ships with care and you could tell that he did not damage them unless his life depended on it.

One of my favorite moments in The Phantom Menace is when he’s flying the N-1 Starfighter and shouts, “Now this is podracing!” While others saw it as a corny line, I saw it as a line of pure happiness and a boy confident and at home in what he was doing.

Where is the podracing moment in my life? Where is yours? Do we have one? Or is it something some of us lose as we get older?

 

So Love Has Blinded You?

Over the past week I have come to the realization that if I connect with a character in a deep and meaningful way in a Star Wars movie, I become blind to almost all the other flaws within the movie.

I came to this realization primarily with two movies of the Saga:

  1. The Phantom Menace
  2. The Force Awakens

 

The Phantom Menace

 

With the Phantom Menace, my obsession is with Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon opened up a world to me that didn’t exist prior to the Prequels, and more specifically, the world of the Jedi as a functioning unit/organization.

I loved it. But it was peculiar because I loved Qui-Gon and didn’t care about any of the other Jedi on the Council or within the movie. Obi-Wan generated a shrug and “whatever” attitude from me, but I was obsessed with Qui-Gon.

I think the reason is two-fold: 1) Qui-Gon is a Jedi so therefore he follows some kind of moral compass , but 2) he is not on the council because he does not completely follow the Code and that is deliberate because he marches to the beat of his own drum.

I adored everything Qui-Gon said and did in The Phantom Menace…and I still do. I don’t understand why people dislike TPM because I’m blinded by the fact that Qui-Gon is in the movie and takes the movie to the next level.

There are flaws in TPM though, just like any other movie but there are glaring issues. I never realized this until this weekend when I saw that I have the same predicament with The Force Awakens.

Here are what I believe are the main issues with TPM. Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m only just coming to these realizations this weekend when I tried to take an objective look at the movie.

  1. The characters. If you’re a fan who grew up with the OT, the characters of TPM seem stale, lacking in warmth and connection, and they are not relatable. Whereas with the OT, we can kind of see ourselves in each of the three heroes shoes, with the PT, unless perhaps you followed a political career path, the characters seem less at ease and more distant. And don’t get people started on Jar Jar Binks (though I don’t really mind him but can understand why some people do).
  2. The politics. I have noticed this one before and have written about it. The movie is bogged down in politics to the point that it may become suffocating for some people. There is no simple (or even really linear) plot as everything is shrouded under Trade Federations, senate issues, etc.
  3. Droids. The droids were not as menacing as they should have been. The Destroyers did the job well but the Battle Droids came off comical. Where’s the fear that people had of the Empire? It’s not there in TPM, in fact, other than Darth Maul, there’s no real fear of the Trade Federation.
  4. No greater cause. With the OT, it felt like they Rebels were fighting for something real and a greater cause for the galaxy. In TPM, that essence is missing. There’s no overarching big bad guy to fight.

 

I’m only trying to play devil’s advocate here as many of you know how much I love TPM. It was the first Star Wars movie I saw in theaters and I thought it was amazing. I love that the main character is a child and there are numerous GOOD things about the movie.

But, I also came to realize that when digging deep on why I like TPM it all comes back to Qui-Gon. I blabber on about the Old Republic and the Jedi, but at my core, it’s all about Qui-Gon. He has blinded me to faults within TPM.

 

The Force Awakens

 

I had a very interesting Twitter discussion this weekend with other Star Wars fans. I learned that most hardcore fans are NOT looking forward to the Han Solo movie (this was also slightly confirmed in blog comments from last Friday). On top of that, what I thought was a minority of fans dissatisfied with Disney and the new movies, it’s actually a lot larger and the frustration runs a lot deeper than I had originally assumed.

I know there are people who did not enjoy The Force Awakens and as I was (am) a lot older when I saw TFA vs. TPM, I’m more aware of the issues in present time, instead of finding out years later.

However, I have a similar issue with TFA that I did with TPM: I love Rey. I love her more than I love Qui-Gon. She’s a female character who is relatable, but she can also fight and use the Force. She is strong without falling into a stereotype of a bland, physically strong female protagonist who has no emotion. I loved the character so much that I named my daughter with Rey as her middle name.

People bring to my attention all kinds of flaws with TFA and I have been able to argue or rationalize all the problems. I try to convince people that the movie is actually quite good and they are being bullheaded. But is the movie good? Or is my love for Rey blinding my love for the movie?

Tweeting this weekend with other fans made me take a step back and realize that TFA has some pretty major flaws.

  1. Too similar to A New Hope. This is obvious and even I couldn’t deny this one. The movie practically copies ANH in every way possible, to the point that even my beloved main character comes from a desert planet. Really? Starkiller Base is a bigger, badder Death Star…that gets blown up by the Resistance. Resistance sounds too similar to Rebellion. At least the Empire got a makeover in their name.
  2. Our 3 main heroes never get screen time. If you are going to go to such lengths to copy ANH and pay homage to the movie, why didn’t you give our 3 heroes some screen time together? If everyone survived, we could have maybe hoped for a reunion further down but that has been revoked with Solo’s death and the real death of Carrie Fisher.
  3. Politics…or lack thereof. Whereas TPM delved into politics TOO much, TFA goes in the extreme opposite direction where we have no understanding of the current political climate. At least within ANH we had some mumbles about the Imperial Senate and we understood Empire vs. Rebellion. In TFA there was Republic, a Resistance, and a First Order…but the First Order sounds kind of small? Or is it large? And is the First Order now the opposition group, like the Rebellion was?
  4. Too much convenience. Rey learns to use the Force very quickly. Artoo wakes up at the most convenient time. Luke/Anakin’s lightsaber magically appears at the right moment with no explanation of where it came from. There’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that you can accept when you see a movie, especially one in the sci-fi category, but TFA leaped and jumped over that line. Perhaps we will get all the explanations later, but if not, this is a glaring problem.

 

I have stood up to people’s complaints about TFA just as I did with TPM, but this weekend, I had to admit and accept that both movies have a lot of flaws. Would I love TPM or TFA as much if Qui-Gon and Rey were not in them? That’s where I bite my lip and think…no, probably not.

Qui-Gon was not in Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith and I do not enjoy the movies as much as I enjoy TPM. I actually reallllly don’t like AOTC and I enjoy ROTS but it’s not something I usually pull out to watch at odd times like I do with TPM.

With the future Sequel Movies, I get nervous that they won’t capture Rey’s essence as well as they did in TFA. I worry that there will be no character development or that she will become the Hollywood stereotype of a “strong female character” instead of, well, just, Rey. At least there is hope for The Last Jedi and Episode IX, whereas the Prequels are over and done with.

 

Tell me – have you ever loved a character (any movie, doesn’t have to be Star Wars) so much that it’s blinded you to shortcomings in the movie?

Why TPM Is Important For Children

Most people of my generation were brought up with the Prequels and most (but not all) find them perfectly okay.  Maybe not as great as the OT, but still worthy of watching.  However, I think the general consensus is that the Prequels should be held off for a while and you should have your children watch the OT for the first few rounds of Star Wars.

I have mentioned before that while I love and enjoy The Phantom Menace, it’s hard for children to watch because of the amount of talking anakin-and-kitsterand politics that are involved.  This came from an experience I had watching it with a 5 year old Star Wars fan.  He enjoyed the movie but got insanely distracted and bored during any of the senate scenes, or really…any scene that had a lot of talking which is quite a lot in TPM.

Yet I was thinking about TPM a few weeks ago and realized something that has been so obvious from the beginning: TPM is the only Star Wars movie that has a child in a leading role. Not only does it have a child in a leading role, it also has a cast of much younger characters than any of the other movies.

TPM boasts a cast of children that we see in multiple scenes, namely Anakin Skywalker.  On top of that, we have all of Anakin’s friends who show up when he is working on his podracer and his best friend Kitster also appears in many scenes, showing us that Anakin is quite a normal young child, despite his abilities.

One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 Timothy 4:12,

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

Though this was in reference to an early (“young”) church, many people use it when teaching children in Sunday School.  It shows children that they too can be an example to others, even though they are so young.

The importance of children in TPM cannot be overlooked.  It is similar to the Bible verse in that when you show TPM to a child, you are showing that this galaxy far, far away has children who went on to do an extraordinary things.  Not teenagers, not adults, but children.  Of course, I’m talking about TPM only and not the rest of the Prequels/OT because I’m not sure little Ani’s Jedi wipeout is considered “extraordinary”.

padme-tpmThough I would not label Padmé as a child, I think she is still an important figure for children to see in the movie because she is the next step up.  We see such broad age ranges of people in TPM that it doesn’t take much for children to make a leap from Anakin, to Padmé, and then to Obi-Wan.

With Anakin, we see a young boy who can create and repair giant podracers.  He then makes the hard decision to leave his mother, whom he may never see again, to go on a different life path.  At the end of the movie, he saves the day by blowing up the Trade Federation Battleship.

Padmé is fourteen in TPM, a young teenager, and we see that she rules an entire planet as its queen.  She also disguises herself and goes along with the Jedi on Tatootine so that she can know exactly what is going on with the mission.  Towards the end of the movie, she makes the brave decision to return home to her planet against advice and enlist the help of an alienated race.

Obi-Wan is in his twenties in TPM and you get to see how even though he’s in his 20s, he’s not quite old enough to be independent.  He still needs to follow the rules set out for him by older Jedi until he passes his training.  This shows younger children that there are still limits that you have to work around even when you are older.

Realizing this made me rethink my decision on waiting until ARM is older for her to watch the Prequels.  Perhaps it would be smarter to introduce TPM when she is younger, maybe as soon as she can understand plot flows and larger concepts.  I don’t think the ages of characters is something that will be obvious to her, but perhaps subliminally it will be a good message.

tpm-anakin-skywalker

Haiku Me Friday! A formidable queen

Planet in distress Lovely, isolated queen So young for the role

Planet in distress
Lovely, isolated queen
So young for the role

Shout out to Queen Amidala.  I was supposed to do a Fan Art Friday with Mei-Mei and I completely dropped the ball.  First, I forgot.  Then, my daughter got very sick and all my attention was devoted on getting her well again.  So be sure to check out Mei-Mei’s coloring book post and I’ll be back with her in February for the next one.

But I wanted to give my own little homage to Queen Amidala because she is one of my favorite characters in the PT.  I like Padmé, but Queen Amidala and Qui-Gon Jinn changed my liking of Star Wars into an obsession when I was 11 years old.  Padmé and Queen Amidala are the same though, right?  Yes and no.  I don’t think the Barack Obama we see on TV is the same Barack Obama behind closed doors with his family.  Padmé from AOTC and ROTS was different than Queen Amidala as she was no longer ruling.  Though she was a senator, she was freer to be herself.

I loved Queen Amidala because she represented strength to me.  Though I am older and also see the way she got played by Palpatine, I hardly fault her for it.  Palpatine is one of the best characters in Star Wars because of how he plays everyone in the galaxy as pawn in his masterful game of chess, including Amidala.

I’m not sure I realized it at the time, but another reason why I loved her is because there was no man by her side.  The Jedi protected her, but they were not from Naboo, nor were they part of her politics.  I appreciated how she made the decision to return home to Naboo though every man advised her not to.  She appreciated the advice of counsellors, but led with her gut and made her own decision in the end.

It’s hard for me to relate to people who hate The Phantom Menace.  I understand where they are coming from as TPM is vastly different from the Original Trilogy, but by hating the movie, they miss out on some great characters, with Amidala being one of them.