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! A pivotal scene and the need to control

The hatred flows through
They took her away from us
My anguish blinds me

As much as I have trouble enjoying Attack of the Clones and finding moments to like about it, I do enjoy the part when Anakin goes in search of her mother, kills the Sand People and cries about it to Padmé.

It’s this tense chase we are on with him and I think Lucas does a great job of NOT showing us Anakin killing the sandpeople. As an audience, we are put in suspense until he reveals to Padmé that he did, in fact, kill them all. To make matters hit home, the fact that Anakin killed both the women and children as well was deftly played by Lucas.

I think it was hard to feel sorry for the Sand People and hard to connect with them as a species. We never see them doing anything interesting; much less have feelings towards them one way or another. For the most part, the Sand People were annoying to me. They always showed up at an inconvenient moment as a plot point to spur the movie along. In fact, they are kind of like savage animals.

Yet, by having Anakin kill the entire village of sandpeople, and confess to doing the unthinkable by killing the women and children, we now feel pity.

Who kills women and children?

Even in war, it’s deplorable, almost everyone can agree to that. It’s part of what makes the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki so heart wrenching. There were thousands of innocent people living in those cities. On top of being innocent people, there were women and children – the future.

By killing the Sand People’s women and children, Anakin is preventing further life, preventing the future. And with that, George Lucas spins how we feel about the Sand People. Anakin says “They are like animals. And I slaughtered them like animals. I hate them!” Yet, now we feel pity and sadness, which brings the Sand People to a human status.

We also feel foreboding towards Anakin’s actions. This anger and rage comes from his feeling of powerlessness. He wants to control everything around him, including death. How can you control death? It is the one certainty in life – that everyone dies. Yet Anakin does not want to accept that.

If you watch Padmé’s face during this scene, you can see that she has fear. What has happened to Anakin? Who kills women and children? Why can’t he understand that it was out of his control and that Shmi’s death was not his fault?

Shmi’s death is a turning point in Anakin. He always feared loss, even in TPM when Yoda points it out to him. When Shmi dies, and then he has dreams about Padmé’s death in ROTS, it spurs him to use his hate and anger to try and channel it into what he thinks is something good.

Shmi’s death and this scene is so important to the entire saga. I often overlook it due to my frustration with AOTC but it shapes Anakin as a character and is a pivotal step for the Skywalker story.

I, too, can be a control freak. I like everything to be just right and when something disrupts my schedule or plans, I don’t deal with it well. I think most of the arguments I have with my husband come from when I have something in my mind of how it should go, and he has something different, and I have a hard time being flexible.

In some ways, it’s a good thing. My control helps me be extremely organized which helps me run my business, keep my daughter at home most of the time, and be a wife.

Yet the need for constant control seeps into a lot of our daily lives. I believe the need for control does stem from fear. Fear of losing control, but a deeper level, fear of not looking like I have it “all together” or that I’m easily handling everything. It’s a fear of loss, though different from Anakin’s. It’s a fear of losing face, in some ways. I think having a child has made it better (they really are unpredictable!) but now I have new aspects to try and control which raises stress levels.

 

Do you or do you know anyone who are controlling? Who has fears that drives them to dangerous points like Anakin? Or, honestly, do you have any advice for me or others similar to myself?

Fan Art Friday! Anakin’s Fire

Let’s just get it out there and talk about the elephant in the room: Anakin’s skin color.  Yup.  Total fail/mess up.  BUT I HAVE AN EXCUSE.  My colored pencils are one of those big “50 different shades!” boxes of colored pencils.  As such, sometimes the colors look a little similar on the outside but when you actually draw on the paper – they come out way different.

I had two such pencils lying near each other.  One I was going to blend into Anakin’s clothing and the other was for his skin.  I used the wrong color (clearly).  Then I tried to rectify the situation and as I am possibly one of the worst people with art and therefore do not know what happens when you blend two colors – I came out with green.  So then I tried to rectify it again and I think he kind of came out looking like some versions of Toad from X-Men.

Ah, well.  You win some, you lose some, right?

Barring Anakin’s skin color, I’m actually quite pleased with what I did.  I thought the circles behind him reminded me of water and since we definitely had fire, I wanted to create a feeling of conflicting emotions within Anakin since this is a “transitional Anakin”…i.e. Anakin from AOTC where he’s not quite good, but not quite bad either.

Below him, I did some foreshadowing and made the red veins look like Mustafar, the planet that seals his fate as Darth Vader.  I used different oranges and reds throughout the picture.  I think I’m most pleased with the flame.  That’s an example of blending colors gone right.

Overall – a cool picture and I had fun doing it and playing with different themes from Anakin’s life.

Be sure to check out Mei-Mei’s picture once she has it up!

Unfortunately, Mei-Mei, we are moving houses so I won’t be able to participate in the next few.  Can I start back up in September?  Let me know!

Haiku Me Friday! Fields of beauty

She smiles at me The green, the warmth, and her face… Stop me where I am

She smiles at me
The green, the warmth, and her face…
Stop me where I am

Guys, I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I think I’m on some kind of weird AOTC + first person haiku kick.

Whatever problems I have with Attack of the Clones, I think that Naboo retreat scenes are beautiful.  The acting in the picnic scene was terrible but it had a lot of great insight into how radically different Anakin and Padmé’s views on politics were.  Anakin already favored the dictatorial stance and Padmé rooted for democracy and hearing out the people.  But they were too in love to see it.  Or perhaps, Padmé shied away from seeing what she probably knew deep down as Anakin laughed it off.  Anakin was in the flirtatious mode of trying to impress Padmé, so when he realized she strongly disagreed with his feelings, he tried to act like it was a joke.  He was smitten and who can blame him?  I would also be smitten with those surroundings.

What I also love about these scenes is not just the extra insight it gives into their opposing political viewpoints, but that George Lucas was, inanakin-padme-naboo-fireplace a way, giving us an old fashioned courting period between Anakin and Padmé.  You could argue that the whole movie was a courtship, but I believe these scenes were a chance for the characters to slow down and have fun.  The script writing and acting (mostly on Christensen’s part) was pretty bad so it wasn’t entirely believable, but if we take a step back and look at it as a whole – I appreciate the effort that Lucas put into these scenes.  It’s easy to brush them aside because on the surface it does not look like it moves the plot forward too much.  But the movement of the plot here is more subtle…it’s a wrestling between what they want and what they’ve been told cannot be.  The quote on the way to Naboo is setting the scene for tumultuous emotions between the two characters that happens as soon as they land:

Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life. So you might say, that we are encouraged to love.

We have these stunning beautiful scenes that are juxtaposed against their inner turmoil that culminates in the fireplace scene at night, where defenses are most low.  There you see their true feelings come to light, when Padmé’s clothing reflects her feelings.

So while I may not like AOTC that much, there is so much to be taken from these Naboo scenes.  More than I sometimes like to give Lucas credit for.

Haiku Me Friday! The Outlander Club

The smoke fills my lungs Creatures of all kinds and shapes What? A lightsaber?

The smoke fills my lungs
Creatures of all kinds and shapes
What? A lightsaber?

I did a little twist this week and tried to imagine what it would be like to be a patron at the Outlander Club when Obi-Wan and Anakin show up chasing Zam Wesell.

I love this scene in Attack of the Clones (yes, I just admitted to loving something in AOTC).  It’s one of the few times we get to see the seedy underground of Coruscant and what everyday beings do when it’s time to unwind.  Apparently, just like on Earth, people like to go out and have a drink, possibly gamble, and watch sports.

In this scene, two Jedi show up which must have been unusual.  I feel like Jedi could have been a little like police – when they show up in their Jedi outfit, you know something is about to go down.  I wonder if the reaction to the Jedi was similar to the reaction people had to Stormtroopers 15 years later, but not *as* harsh, since there was a chance you could live when you encountered a Jedi.

I purposefully ended my haiku where I did because I have not yet been able to figure out if Anakin used a mind trick on the patrons of Outlander Club to make them forget their encounter with Zam or if it was an honest statement that it was “Jedi business”.  It’s not like I stay awake at night thinking about this, but I have always wondered (I bet the novelization would give me more insight).  So for the haiku, I had that be the last quick thought before they either go about their business and don’t care, or if they forget because Anakin used a mind trick.

Can you imagine living in a world where this is kind of normal though?  Injuring/killing people like it’s no biggie?  I remember telling my dad that I loved how Han Solo was able to kill someone, flip some extra money to the bartender, and go about like nothing happened.  I’m not sure why I found that cool, because honestly, I wouldn’t really want that to happen in my everyday life, but when I was younger – it was the bees knees!  Now I see it for what it is – a nod-of-the-head to the old Western movies where similar scenes often happened in Saloons.

I’ve said this over and over again on this blog but – I really hope in future movies to see more of the seedy, other side of the Star Wars universe.  We definitely got to see some with Cassian in Rogue One but it still was part of a bigger picture with a fight of Rebellion vs. Empire.  More individual, interesting stories of average folks that make the universe seem as large as it should be would be a good step for Disney to take.

 

Do you guys have any thoughts on the Outlander Club?  Or seeing something different in Star Wars?  Would you want to see stories that step away from main characters, Jedi, Rebellion, and the Empire?