A small segment of fanboys seem to have A LOT of feelings about The Last Jedi.
They are alarmed by the “growing trend” of “warrior women protagonists who save the men” instead of playing their “natural role” of damsels in distress. They seem to fear no longer seeing themselves as the main characters, no longer in control of the narrative at large, seeing their roles “usurped” and “stolen” by those they once deemed “lesser” than them.
Good thing this isn’t a problem in society at large.
All joking aside, these fears and outbursts reflect a fear I see playing out in American Christianity, especially in regards to the so-called “death of the Church.”
Declining numbers, “compromising” (AKA “progressive”) theology, and the calling out of long-present hypocrisies and abuses give a number of church leaders cause for alarm, and they seem to think they are all related.
When congregational leaders embrace theology that welcomes LGBTQ+ people to the Table as they are, or when they say “Black Lives Matter” and take firm stances against racism and Nazis, they are seen as compromising the Gospel for political gain.
When esteemed leaders are accused of abuse, the victims are attacked for “slandering” someone who is obviously “a good man.”
When people no longer identify as Christians because of the evils done in its name, the leaders attack them for being “wishy-washy,” and millennials are labeled the murderers of the Church, along with killers of styrofoam and the like.
These attacks are born out of fear, a fear of losing relevance in the world, of losing power and control over a nation and a narrative we have corruptly controlled for so long, a fear we call the “death of the Church” when really it is the “death of American Christendom.”
And for a people whose founder literally died and then rose again from the dead, we sure are terrified of death.
(WARNING: If you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet and want to avoid spoilers, it’s best to stop here.)
I loved The Last Jedi for a number of reasons: the women and people of color in leading roles, seeing Carrie Fisher grace the screen one last time, the humor, the adorable Porgs.
My greatest takeaway, though, is the idea that no one side owns the Force, and whether or not specific orders exist to train people in its use, it will continue with or without them.
When Luke says it’s time for the Jedi to end, he looks at examples of how the Jedi have messed up in the past (with the rises of Palpatine and Vader within their ranks serving as examples). And rightfully so. After all, we need to be honest about the evil committed by and within our own ranks.
However, it is Master Yoda who convinces Luke that just because the Jedi were corrupt and failed countless times, the Force continues to call new people to do its work. And as they watch the Force Tree burn together, Luke realizes that the Jedi and the First Order are not the end all, be all of the Force. They are only vessels. Some use the Force for more corrupt reasons than others, but they cannot completely extinguish it.
So when our cathedrals crumble, our fog machines fizzle out, our conferences cease, our seminaries close, and our rule books burn, God’s Spirit will continue to move.
And when our leaders fail, corruption consumes, and evil seems to permeate our holy walls, we may have to burn it down with holy, renewing fire.
But even when we must, the Body of Christ will rise anew from those ashes, and she will continue God’s salvation. And we will preach, teach, worship, and pray wherever They lead us, from the chapel to the wilderness.
Western Christianity as we know it may die, but the Church will live on.
It’s called resurrection, y’all. It’s kind of our story.
As Rey realized, death and decay bring forth new life, and underneath it all is a balance. And inside us is the same power to raise the dead.
May this comfort us when our ways inevitably die to make way for a Kin-dom beyond our imagination.