By Deacon Roarke (Rory) Traynor (Rated G)
It is not often that I would write any sort of blog like this, much less on such a topic. I like to leave such things to people who have studied such matters more in-depth. Regardless, I recently found myself watching the second film of the Star Wars saga, The Attack of the Clones, and I was rather struck by something.
Many have made the comparison between the Jedi and the priesthood. Certainly, they are similar. Being someone who has grown up with Star Wars, where it was a serious part of my “formation” as a child, the theories behind these movies are dear to me. But this comparison with the priesthood is not perfect, and in many ways misleading, so pardon me if I perpetuate it for a moment.
In this episode of the saga, Anakin begins his romance with Padme, something that is forbidden by the Jedi order. Now, this is an obvious comparison to celibacy, yada yada yada. But I want to look at his “fall from grace,” if you will, which started long before the movie even opens.
The first scene with Anakin and Obi Wan Kenobi (arguably the best character in the series) finds them in an elevator on their way to see Senator Padme. Kenobi is frustrated by his young student for his impetuousness and lack of discipline. Kenobi chastises him for not keeping control of his thoughts and his feelings throughout the film, and if watched closely one can almost see facial expressions that give away his lack of discipline. He is a man still caught up with infatuation – infatuation with Padme and with himself.
There are so many avenues that one can take this down: the poor management by the Jedi Council, Kenobi’s failure to notice the symptoms of Anakin’s issues, the obvious problems with Palpatine, and the list goes on. However, I would like to focus on one or two things.
The first is that Anakin does not regard the virtue which is of paramount importance: obedience. Regardless of his youth, or even his personal fault, this is where (in my humble opinion) he begins to fall. He struggles with the authority of Kenobi and believes himself to be smarter, quicker and more talented than any other.
Is he talented? Yes. Is his ability in the Jedi arts amazing? Sure. But there is one excellence that he is missing, namely obedience. Obedience is not the mere acceptance of authority and buckling under the rod of a tyrant. No, obedience is the willing submission to another out of a recognition of their lawful authority. Even the word “submission” is awkward for us. But literally to be under the mission of someone else. In other words, if he had remained obedient, he would have learned the skills he needed to be a Jedi master and would most likely not have become (spoiler alert) Darth Vader.
As Christians, we recognize that our mission is part of the mission of Christ; we become co-workers with Christ in his salvific work. Thus, we are literally, under the mission of Christ. But our obedience is first to Christ, and in this way to the lawful authority of the ones placed over us. Our spouse, our parents, pastor, bishop, etc.
Now, does this mean that they will exercise this perfectly, or even morally? No. Thankfully, we are rarely asked to violate faith and morals under obedience (the only occasion it is acceptable to not comply), so obedience is usually the order of the day. Christ tells us to do as the Pharisees say, but not as they do. Jesus does not break the lawful authority of the Jewish faith (Matthew 23:3).
Anakin does break the lawful authority of the Jedi Order. He tells Padme of his burning (be it sappy) love for her. At one point he submits himself to her saying something along the lines of “I will do anything you ask.” The problem is that he is not under her authority. His allegiance is under the Jedi Order. He has no right to ask her that question.
Now, do the Jedi make mistakes? Yes. Obi Wan should have been aware of the problems creeping up in Anakin. The Jedi Council should not have entrusted the young Anakin with guarding Padme. He was not ready to face such temptation. This aside, Anakin had a duty. He went wrong when he acted in disobedience.
Anakin should have been aware that the Jedi were not just picking and choosing the rules they wanted. There was a tradition and longtime proven cause and effect to their actions, not unlike submission to religious authority. There are literally thousands of years of traditions behind the priesthood. A man cannot pick what rules he wants to follow and which he does not. (Arguably, every great heresy is founded on disobedience to the Pope.)
I am not going to argue the relative pros and cons of Jedi celibacy (if that is even what it should be called), much less am I going to make a comparison to priestly celibacy. Rather, I would suggest merely, from my own experience, every time I decided my spiritual director was too old and didn’t understand, or that he simply missed the mark, I suffered for it. Is he wrong at times? Yes. But he is the lawful superior, and therefore I owe him obedience.
One more observation. Anakin has a bad habit of losing his lightsaber, and Obi Wan reprimands him for it at one point. If I had a nickel for every time my spiritual director scolded me for not grabbing my rosary in the time of temptation I might be able to buy the birretta I have been wanting.
The rosary is our weapon of choice, the tool most hated by the enemy. As my spiritual director might say, “use it liberally.” The evil one also has a weapon to counter the rosary, a lightsaber of his own. The continuous/monotonous nature of the rosary is countered by the persistence of the evil one. As we thumb through Hail Mary after Hail Mary, the evil one takes a punch in the nose. Never leave your weapon behind.
Finally – this is just the observation of a transitional deacon – obedience is a hard thing. It is hard in scandal and, honestly, it is hard any time. But, unlike the Jedi, we do not trust in the all-encompassing presence of the Force, we have the living presence of God that lives in and through, and connects all Christians: the Holy Spirit.
Even if we fail and we don’t use our lightsaber as we were supposed to, and we find ourselves having broken our connection with the lawful authority of Christ, we rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who will always bring us back to the promised land from the deserts of Tatooine.
I encourage you to go back and watch the movie. Watch how Anakin reacts to different things, how he responds in the presence of temptation, and where he jumps as opposed to relying on the Force (in our case, the Holy Spirit). I wonder if you will find, as I did, some similarities to your own life.