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! I can’t relate to Obi-Wan

The pain sears through me
I’m filled with horror and shock
I thought I knew him

I can’t imagine what Obi-Wan went through when he realized that Anakin was the one who killed the Jedi in the Temple. There are times, even though this is in a galaxy far away, where I can somewhat relate to the characters.

I relate to Luke staring out at the sunset and yearning for something more. I relate to Padmé’s drive to believe the good in her husband. I relate to Leia’s decisive personality. I relate to Rey’s loyalty to her friends. I relate to Finn’s lies to cover up who he really is.

But I cannot relate to Obi-Wan when he finds out that Anakin has turned to the dark side. Not only turned to the dark side, but killed numerous in Jedi in the temple. In fact, when I think about it, there are very few moments that I do relate to Obi-Wan throughout the saga. I can understand why he is some people’s favorite character, but he’s not mine. The only moment I have ever been able to relate to Obi-Wan is when he is arguing with Qui-Gon about training Anakin. I’m a stickler for rules, so I understand his pushback to Qui-Gon’s stubbornness.

Yet, this betrayal of Anakin to Obi-Wan goes deeper than many of us have ever experienced or will experience. When thinking about the feelings he must feel, the only thing that may come close is if I found out my husband was cheating on me with multiple women and then murdered them all. Gruesome, right? I don’t even like thinking about it but it was the closest train of thought I could go down that might possibly provide the same feelings.

Not only is Anakin’s betrayal a betrayal of the Jedi and a way of life, he was also his best friend. He was someone whom he trusted and loved. And this trust is different from a trust that you or I might have with a friend – they were in situations where they constantly trusted each other with their lives.

I always watch their last exchange before Anakin turned with a pang of sadness. Watch it one more time:

When Obi-Wan says, “Goodbye, old friend,” is the Force that speaks through him that gives him a touch of foreshadowing?

And what about Anakin’s looks? He apologizes for his behavior but as Obi-Wan leaves, is that … defiance? Anger simmering below? Resentment? Conflict? There’s something there and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Obi-Wan leaves with kind, wise words of encouragement in their last conversation. This is his last impression of Anakin before Order 66. It’s so painful. He truly, really believes in Anakin, which is what makes this scene of realization hard to watch. Yoda understands right away, but Obi-Wan does not want to. The denial is there. “Who could have done this?” he asks Yoda as they walk through the temple. Yet, as they continue their walk through and recalibrate the code, he knows. How he knows, I’m not entirely sure. The Force, most likely.

And I can’t imagine how he feels when it’s confirmed. I know there are people in this world who have suffered atrocities at the hands of loved ones, and perhaps they can watch this scene with greater understanding. I am lucky enough that I hope to never, ever relate to Obi-Wan in this scene.

 

How have you processed this scene? Can you relate to Obi-Wan (no need to share)? Have you ever had a good friend betray you in an irrevocable way?

 

Haiku Me Friday! Yoda’s Escape

The end, this will be
Into exile, I must go
And now wait, not long

Though Yoda visited Dagobah during TCW (some of my least favorite episodes, actually), I have always wondered how he felt when he landed there after escaping Order 66 on Kashyyyk.  With this haiku, I chose to use the point of view that Yoda knew he would end his life on Dagobah.  He knew he was waiting for the twins to grow up, but knew that with their training, also came the end of his life.

I’m not sure why I chose this point of view, but Yoda is wise for the most part and understands a great deal more than anyone else, so I have a hunch he knew that his life might end on Dagobah.

What did Yoda do for ~20 years while he was in exile?  Wouldn’t even communing with Qui-Gon Jinn get old?  I hope he had some good books.

We see such a small sliver of Yoda’s life and know so little about him, which I love.  I hope Disney doesn’t go ruin that for us and give us too much information.  There’s a little bit about his past out there on Yoda’s Wookieepedia page, but it’s not much at all.  I want Yoda to never have a species assigned to him and I never want to know the 800 years prior to The Phantom Menace.  For the most part, I don’t mind Disney giving us new material and explaining loved characters (not a huge fan of the new Han Solo movie, but it is what it is), but please Disney – keep Yoda mysterious.

 

Tell me – would you want to learn more about Yoda’s life?  How much is too much?  Or do you want to know it all?

Haiku Me Friday! Padmé’s Death

I cannot wake up
The despair overwhelms me
My husband, my babe

Yes, it’s confirmed – I’m on a Prequel kick.  And thank you Mei-Mei for suggesting that for 2017, I do my haiku’s in first person form.  This has provided a new, fresh, and interesting challenge for me.

I’ve never given much thought to Padmé during that time period where she is strangled by Anakin, falls unconscious, and then gives birth.  She seems like she is struggling between two worlds during this time…as her body gives out and succumbs to death, her brain is struggling to come back to the world.  It seemed like a battle to me; she is restless, yet wants to stay in oblivion.

I used this haiku to perhaps show the few things that might be going through her limited brain power.  She can’t wake up, even if she tries, but all she probably feels is a crushing sense of despair, with instinct hanging on to her husband and baby.

Because of her sense of despair, she slowly begins to lose the will to wake up permanently.  It’s always been hard for me to accept that Padmé gave up on life…there have been great articles written that have since swayed my opinion somewhat so I tried to relate to her more with this haiku.

Imagine having stress and an inkling of something not right for months, gnawing at you and eating away at your inside.  She probably knew that something was changing within Anakin, even if she didn’t want to acknowledge it.  In the deleted scenes within ROTS, we see that she was forming the beginning of the Rebellion without telling Anakin.  Secrets and dishonesty have formed between them.

On top of that, she has kept her pregnancy secret for the most part with shapeless dresses.  This constant hiding wears someone down.

Then it all blows up in her face.  Her fears are confirmed: Anakin has changed, but her fears could not have prepared her for what actually happened.  Anakin didn’t have political leanings that were so drastically different from her own – Anakin had turned to the dark side and had annihilated multiple Jedi, including ones younger than 10 years old.  He had committed murder and did not seem to regret it.  When she tries to rescue him and run away, he chokes her and causes her to lose consciousness…but keeps her alive.  Barely.

I wouldn’t want to wake up and face reality either.

I believe that the twins were born prematurely.  Maybe not months prematurely, but a few weeks before they were supposed to be born.  The choking and distress caused Padmé’s body to shut down, but instinct forced her body to bear the children.  Once that act was complete, Padmé had enough consciousness to tell Obi-Wan the names of her children (canon dictates she did not know she was bearing twins.  Slightly unbelievable, I know) and to let him know that there was still some good in Anakin.

And then she did not want to face the world where she had born children to a monster.  Despite that she knew in her heart that he still had good in him, she also knew she was not the one who would bring it forth.  So instead, she succumbed to letting go of her life to let someone else fight that battle.

It’s still hard for me to accept, especially as a mother, but when I think through it very hard, a part of me gets it.  Just a small part, but I’m slightly more sympathetic.

 

Does anyone else have alternative theories on why Padmé gave up?

Fan Art Friday! Best Friends Clash

I had so much fun doing this picture.  I didn’t do my normal, random let-the-book-fall-open-where-it-will-and-pick-a-piece but instead I found this while working on last month’s Leia portrait and fell in love because there are lightsabers!  We all know how much I love lightsabers (so much that I think that could have been another reason I didn’t like Rogue One as much as the Saga movies).

I also figured out the best lighting for taking these photos is at 6am.

I also figured out the best lighting for taking these photos is at 6am.

Originally, I didn’t look at the lightsabers too closely so I was going to do green (my favorite color lightsaber) and red.  But when I actually began to work on it, I realized that they were two distinct character lightsabers: Obi-Wan and Anakin.

Well, there was no question to what I would do after that.  When I did not realize whose lightsabers these were, I was going to make the mandala/background very industrial with greys and blacks.  But no way – I had to make this Mustafar themed!

I believe that’s why I had so much fun: it’s rare in these pictures that I have been able to use a lot of orange, reds, and yellows.  Because of that, I didn’t let myself go choose anything but shades in that range.  I used as many different fiery hues as possible and they ranged from brown-red to golden yellow.

I kept the end half-circles on the mandala for my industrial look and I’m happy with that choice.

I have to say – this picture was up there for me in my favorites because 1) lightsabers, and 2) all the colors I got to use that I don’t normally pick.

Don’t forget to check out Mei-Mei’s interpretation of this picture!