Oh, the things one sees on the internet.
A few weeks ago, I saw Star Wars: the Last Jedi. At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought about the movie. It is so different from anything else in the franchise. There’s a weird alien milking scene. I couldn’t bring myself to care about two of the secondary characters. Space penguins and space horses roll across the screen. I came away with the sense that this story is all over the place.
Time passed, as it does, and I began to realize just how much I enjoyed The Last Jedi. It is all over the place. Some of the characters needed to be cut. But the basic story – as saga of good vs. evil, mistakes, regrets, temptations, failure – is very good. The interplay between the three people the viewer is meant to be most invested in is fascinating. While there is substance to the argument that one of the heroes, Rey, is a “Mary Sue” (an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character), her scenes with the villain, Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, crackle with life and energy.
I’m looking forward to 2019 and Episode IX.
Of course, not everyone feels the same. The Last Jedi is a terribly polarizing movie. I won’t get into all of that here, save to highlight these tweets:
As I said, viewers are split on this movie. Those who hate it, really hate it. They have their reasons, some more valid that others. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out what Denny Burk, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, is talking about here. The movie I watched highlighted the strengths and weakness of all the characters, male and female. Since his complaint is focused on the women, however, let’s look at them (spoiler alert for those who have yet to see the movie): Rey failed in her mission to rescue Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. General Organa and Admiral Holdo made mistakes in their battle against the First Order. Rose didn’t achieve what she set out to achieve. The Resistance would have been completely wiped out had Luke Skywalker not strolled in to save the day.
The women in The Last Jedi aren’t perfect. (Again, Rey may be an exception, but that is a hotly debated topic).
Burk reaches to make his argument and it shows. Christian men and women – complementarian and egalitarian – took him to task over his statements. None of them labeled him a heretic (as far as I know) and I’m not doing so, either. I simply have a really hard time understanding how a few female heroes peppered across a landscape dominated by men is a sign of anything other than recognizing that women have always been heroes, just as men always have.
Consider Abigail. Her husband, Nabal, isn’t the brightest crayon in the box. David, still on the run from King Saul, is tired and hungry. So, too, his men. David sends some of them up to Nabal’s house to ask for some food. Nabal is like, “Yeah, no.” David goes, “Okay, so I’m gonna kill all you dudes.” Abigail hears about this and:
Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep already dressed, five seahs of roasted grain,one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. And she said to her servants, “Go on before me; see, I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.
So it was, as she rode on the donkey, that she went down under cover of the hill; and there were David and his men, coming down toward her, and she met them. Now David had said, “Surely in vain I have protected all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belongs to him. And he has repaid me evil for good. May God do so, and more also, to the enemies of David, if I leave one male of all who belong to him by morning light.”
Now when Abigail saw David, she dismounted quickly from the donkey, fell on her face before David, and bowed down to the ground. So she fell at his feet and said: “On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant. Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, since the Lord has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal. And now this present which your maidservant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the Lord, and evil is not found in you throughout your days. Yet a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the Lord your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the Lord has done for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you ruler over Israel, that this will be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. But when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.”
– 1 Samuel 25:18-31 (NKJV)
Her actions are heroic. She took her life in her hands. David could have slaughtered her on the spot. She had no idea if he would listen to her reasoning. Her quick thinking and bravery saved her husband and all the other males around, as well as preventing David and his men from falling into the sin of murder. (I don’t know everything there is to know about ancient hospitality customs, but I’m fairly certain that one was not supposed to kill anyone who refused to share bread).
This ongoing battle over “authentic femininity” and “real masculinity” is a waste of time. Jesus, the true hero of Scripture, labels believers “the Bride.” No one who submits to God can escape this fact. Jesus’ eschatological discourses in the Gospels and the book of Revelation are rife with wedding imagery. We who call ourselves Christians don’t get to choose our role. We are the Bride, waiting for her Groom.
In a passage many of us know well, we, the Bride, in our waiting, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are commanded to:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…
– Ephesians 6:10-18 (NKJV)
Man, woman, child. Doesn’t matter. Put your battle gear on and do the thing. Sweat flying, blood dripping, muscles aching, voices hoarse. Fight.
We must not indulge in delicate sensibilities and fragile egos. The war is here, now, and souls hang in the balance. I want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my brothers and sisters. I want to function in the gifts and calling God has given me and I want to do whatever I can to support others as they do the same, for time is short. Not one of us is guaranteed the next breath.
Let’s cease fretting over who can be hero and instead look to the Hero, who empowers and enables us to do heroic things.