In less than two months Star Wars makes it back to the big screen with the release of Rogue One. This movie being billed as a “Star Wars story” tells one of the side stories that leads into the original movie. Specifically Rogue One will be about the group of operatives that steal the Death Star plans. I am anxiously awaiting the release of this movie. Like a lot of Star Wars fans I am kind of in a weird spot because I want to get every detail I can about this movie, while remaining as spoiler free as possible.
One of the marketing lines that has been used in promoting Rogue One is “Hope Lies in Rebellion.” Another one that has appeared on some of the initial teaser posters is “A Rebellion Built on Hope.” It seems that being a rebel and finding a reason for hope are going to be two of the major themes of the movie. I hope that is true. Those are two themes that can be mined for some incredibly dynamic and compelling storytelling. Those are also two themes that we find at the root of Christianity.
The Christian faith is based on hope. As the old hymn declares, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my righteousness.” Hebrews 11:1 perhaps gives one of the best definitions of faith, and it grounds that definition in hope: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hope is foundational to the Christian experience. To be a Christian is to have an intrinsic and deeply rooted sense of hope.
Rebellion is a concept that Christianity has a much more contentious relationship with. It could be argued that Christianity has roots in rebellion. The teachings and example of Christ ran counter-cultural to the expectations of the religious leaders of his day, Jesus was executed the way that rebels are executed, and on more than occasion Paul was ran out of town for fear of inciting rebellious attitudes. The message of the Bible is one that is a little subversive. It advocates selflessness in place of selfishness. The scripture promote humility over pride. It preaches to do unto others instead of do for yourself. Seeking to follow God’s commands or the example of Christ has long been an act of rebellion when compared to the way of the world.
However, Christianity has an obsession with empire. Ever since the faith was legitimized by the Roman Empire we have been drawn away from the Jesus of Nazareth to the Jesus of Constantine. For over a 1,000 years Christendom was truly an empire. Sadly it carried a lot of the baggage and atrocity that comes with that reality. Nearly all cultural commentators are in agreement that Christendom has reached an end. However, for those who call themselves Christians there seems to be a strong appeal to Imperial thought. It can be seen in our “bigger is better” church architecture. It seems for many Christians there is a lot of appeal to an authoritarian, might-makes-right perspective. It seems for many Christians having people with some specific viewpoints in political power is more important than loving and serving the least of these. An imperial viewpoint is concerned with being in the “right” and having one’s will enforced no matter what the cost.
Many good Christian folks find themselves in between rebellion and empire. On the one side they feel the tug of the Holy Spirit to take big risks in serving others, to be radically hospitable. Yet on the other side the feel the pull of empire. They feel the desire to be in the superior position. They desire the cleanliness and security that comes from a firmer more absolute control. Now when it is put in those terms, most believers will denounce the idea of empire. However, when a person in the public eye claiming to be a Christian states, “Sometimes you have to put your Christian values on pause to get the work done” it shows that the draw to the power of empire can be hard to resist.
As American Christians endure a toxic and polarizing election cycle, I think our hope lies in rebellion. Loving your neighbor as yourself, love mercy, walk humbly, and give generously are all rebellious activities. Ultimately, it is those actions that will spread the gospel more than any piece of legislation or Supreme Court decision. As long as the world is a fallen and broken place, seeking to live in service to others will always be a rebellious activity. When it comes to the ways of the world, to be a Christian is to go rogue. Our faith, after all, is a rebellion built on hope.