Contains spoilers for Star Wars Rebels, episode “Twilight of the Apprentice”
The dark side can often appear obvious, even cartoonish. But, in the season two finale of Star Wars Rebels, an actual cartoon, we see a path to the dark side subtly presented, not characterized by overt acts of evil, but by innocent actions and attitudes which can seduce a well-meaning individual. This speaks caution to the viewers, especially as it relates to our political choices.
Star Wars Rebels takes place about five years before Star Wars: A New Hope, and it follows a small band of rebels, including a Jedi named Kanan and his young apprentice, Ezra. After being hunted by dark side Force users known as Inquisitors, servants of Darth Vader, they come to a planet in search of a way to defeat their pursuers. Here, Ezra meets Maul, formerly Darth Maul1, and he is tempted to the dark side.
In one case, Maul asks Ezra to kill an unarmed Inquisitor, a clearly evil act and forbidden by the Jedi code. Thankfully, Ezra resists. At Maul’s urging, however, the boy takes many steps towards the dark side that are not wrong per se, but certainly not good. We can easily make the same mistakes, so let’s look at three examples and their political application.
1. Ezra believes that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.2
Simply put, Ezra trusts blindly. He is unaware that Maul is using him, and his misplaced faith seems justified when Maul begins to fight the inquisitors alongside the Jedi. As Maul shows his comfort with the Dark Side, Ezra chooses to ignore the red flags because he so desperately wants an ally.
Moving to a galaxy quite close and to recent events, let’s consider a current presidential candidate. Thankfully, practicing evangelicals support Donald Trump much less than many news articles imply, but it is still too much. While he has failed to convince most that he really has faith, he nevertheless promotes himself as an ally and protector of Christians from potential enemies, perceived or actual. Last I checked, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and deliverer; my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge.”3 If you are making the same mistake as Ezra, Trump is using you.
2. Ezra uses his anger.
In order to enter a Sith Temple, Ezra and Maul must work together lifting large stone barriers. Ezra cannot lift them, but Maul encourages him to use his anger, as it makes him stronger. Now there’s nothing wrong with lifting stones, but this is one of those red flags.
The Apostle Paul said, “Be angry, and yet do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”4 It is not wrong to be angry and scripture does not call us to suppress this emotion, but I wouldn’t try to live in it either. I don’t want to use it as a tool because it will soon control me. We could speak similarly about other “negative emotions” like fear. (Although Yoda’s unhealthy approach to managing fear led to Anakin’s downfall in the prequel trilogy, both Biblical and Jedi wisdom warn of its potential danger.)
I wish Donald Trump was the only candidate using anger and fear to motivate the electorate. However, fear mongering seems to be the norm, and even refugees get slandered as dangerous. While many needlessly fear them or encourage others to do so, Scripture calls us to love and welcome foreigners and it condemns any nation that expels a population.5 While government has a role in protecting society from actual threats, one must examine if a potential leader relies on discernible facts and principles of love or on stirring up anger and fear.
3. Ezra values winning too highly.
Ultimately, Ezra makes the preceding mistakes because he valued defeating the Empire too highly. They murdered his parents, threaten his friends, and destroy lives throughout the galaxy. I think his desires to end the Empire are justified, but without being constrained by a principled, moral code, a desire to win becomes extremely dangerous.
Maul: “The Dark Side fights without mercy, without remorse. If you want to be victorious, you need to find the same strength inside you.”
Surely, we are seeing candidates, voters, and parties exchange political values in order to win a presidency.
Contrast this with Yoda’s advice in a previous episode6:
Ezra: “Yeah, but Master Yoda, how are we supposed to win if we don’t fight back?”
Yoda: “Win? [chuckles] Win, hmm. How Jedi choose to win, the question is.”
As a follower of Jesus, I must choose to win the same way Jesus did. When the Roman governor Pilate asked him if he was a king, Jesus responds, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over… You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.”7
By all means, let us work to influence this world, but through proclaiming truth with integrity, not surrendering principles to win elections. This approach to winning leads to redemption, not falling to the dark side. Thankfully for Vader, Luke defines winning more like Jesus than Ezra.
Perhaps the three mistakes above are all linked to cynical pragmatism, ultimately succumbing to the belief that Good cannot prevail. Ezra needed Yoda’s wisdom:
Luke: Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No… no… no… Quicker, easier, more seductive.8
In contrast, “The just shall live by faith.”9 Faith is the opposite of fear, and it trusts that God will intervene. But, this does not condone inaction. Rather it leads us to act in obedience to God, not violating our principles, patiently leaving the outcome to Him.
A Short Time Soon, in a Voting Booth Close, Close to You10
You’re probably not a presidential candidate, but I encourage you to think of all three mistakes as it relates to your political choices. Are you siding with someone who uses you? Do fear and anger play a role in political leanings? Have you valued winning over your principles? If you have faith in God, how can it help you avoid these pitfalls?
- Yes, you read that right. He survived being chopped in half and was in quite a few of the Clone Wars episodes. ↩
- Maul actually describes himself to the rebels as “the enemy of your enemy”. ↩
- Psalm 18:2 NASB translation. ↩
- Ephesians 4:26 NASB translation. ↩
- Amos 1:6,9,11 ↩
- From episode “Shroud of Darkness” ↩
- John 18:36,37 NASB translation. ↩
- From the Empire Strikes Back. ↩
- Romans 1:16 NKJV translation. ↩
- And even not in the polling booth, these lessons have value. Since watching the episode, I have increasingly noticed how my actions can be motivated by worry, frustration, or guilt. When this happens, I must stop myself and ask, “What would I do if I was acting with faith, in obedience to God?” Then, I try to do that. So far, I think this helps, but I need to practice. ↩