By Deacon Roarke Traynor (Rated G)
Evil is a tricky thing, no doubt. Why is it a tricky thing? Because it is usually surrounded by a bunch of truth.
I recently watched the third movie in the Star Wars saga, The Revenge of the Sith. The thing that struck me was the nature of evil as represented in this film.
I grew up with these films and they have a deep place in my heart (#RebelAllianceforlife). So, forgive me if I read into them too much, but this episode, in some way, shows the philosophical and theological interaction of evil and good.
Note particularly the scene about midway through the film, where Palpatine and Anakin are facing each other, and Anakin discovers that Palpatine is Darth Sidious (probably the corniest bad guy name in any film ever and I still think it is awesome). Palpatine starts to go more aggressively after Anakin. This time he promises (the possibility of) immortality.
Anakin has recently been plagued by prophetic dreams of Padme’s death and Palpatine starts to use this as a wedge. Two things happen: first, he promises the hope of immortality, and second, he suggests that the only way to achieve this is by studying that which is forbidden – the dark side of the force. Palpatine essentially says that the dark side of the force has found a way to stop people from dying. He suggests that if one is to be truly trained in the force, they must understand all that there is about it, including that which is evil.
Meanwhile, Anakin asks Yoda what he should do. Yoda tells him that he needs to detach himself from the things that will bind him (this will include his attachment to Padme). Yoda’s advice seems to fall on deaf ears however, as Anakin is convinced that his relationship with Padme is a good thing. (See my previous article for the error of that relationship.) Interestingly, what Yoda is saying is similar to what we teach as Christians, that life and death are completely out of our hands. The more attached we are, the harder it is to really live life.
Now, in actuality (spoiler alert) there is a path to immortality in the force, but it requires dying. (We discover this in the end of the film and we see it again in A New Hope.) Palpatine, on the other hand, is promising a path to “eternal life” which asks nothing of Anakin except his allegiance. Yoda is telling Anakin that death is a natural part of life and cannot be avoided.
All of that being very interesting, no doubt, but why is it so convincing? Every act of temptation towards that which is evil must have something that is a lynch pin, if you will, a thing that allows it to grab hold of us and pull us in. For Anakin, it was Padme.
He had a good intention; he wanted to keep her alive. But the issue is that life was never his to give or take. He is tempted to follow down this path because he is afraid of losing her and his child (not yet aware that Pademe is pregnant with twins). He allows this to become his obsession. (There is a whole tangent article one could take this on with the presence and problem of obsessions and fear and how they lead to sin, but I will leave that for the next guy.)
This is the thread that the villain latches onto and uses to bring Anakin to the dark side, his relationship with Padme. What drags Anakin down at first is his love for Padme and his unborn child. The dark side bears the promise of life for them, so Anakin pledges allegiance to his Sith Lord.
However, all of this comes to a head, and evil and its ability to distort is completely manifested, when Anakin is confronted on the volcanic planet of Mustafar. Padme and Kenobi face off with Anakin, and he believes that Padme has betrayed him. So, evil has found its way into his heart and mind, and he begins to choke Padme.
What he loved so much is now the object that stands in his way. The thing for which he was attempting to sacrifice his life is now the object that stands in his way, that mocks him. Where is the love that he had for her?
What happens when we follow the way of sin and evil is that the objective is disfigured and even destroyed. We may desire to use tools such as anger or reckless speech to get at a desired end, but what happens is that all we accomplish is evil. You cannot use evil means for a just result.
Picture them as two separate maps for two separate roads. I cannot use a map X to navigate my way through road Y. We cannot use that which is of death to lead to life. We cannot use evil to get to good. We cannot barter with the devil to find our way to Christ.
This might be perfectly obvious when worded like this, but we can get confused. For instance, in Matthew 7:1 Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” I have had several people try to argue that what Jesus actually meant was that we cannot “condemn.” But this is a slippery slope. What Christ is trying to get at in this argument is that it is none of our affair the state of the another’s soul, that is for God to judge. We are to love them and to always show by word and example the way of Christ. We cannot use unjust means for a just end. So, we may (and at times must) speak when a person is taking part in something that is objectively evil (e.g. abortion). But, we must not say something like, “that person clearly doesn’t love the Lord; look at the way they dress for Mass.”
For another example, James 1:19-20 states, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Anger is a powerful emotion and we are often quick to say that our anger is righteous anger. Rarely have I ever heard of someone saying that it was not and they were wrong.
Now, this is not to beat us over the head. Instead, might I recommend that it is a chance to note which path we are on and to refine ourselves. You are a Christian by Baptism, just as a Jedi is a Jedi by his membership in the Jedi Order. But to be a saint, or to be a Jedi Master, involves discipline of mind, heart and body.
Kenobi is fond of reminding Anakin in these movies to be aware of his feelings. We too should be aware of what our heart latches onto. Christ teaches, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them” (Mark 7:20). Those things which come out of us are indicative of the map we are following, or the side of the force that we are on. More importantly, we know that we are living according to Christ when we have those fruits of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
So, beware of your emotions, young padawan, and may the Holy Spirit be your guide.