Paths to the Dark Side

Over the past week a quote from Star Wars keeps coming up in my mind again and again.  It is from Episode I: The Phantom Menace.  It also happens to be from the boring part in between the pod race and the Jedi duel, so you may not be that familiar with it.  The quote comes from when young Anikan is being tested by the Jedi council.  In describing the path to the dark side Yoda states:   “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.”   

There is a lot of truth to this Jedi wisdom, and sadly we are seeing it being played out on our national stage.   According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were 437 incidents of hate speech, intimidation, or harassment over the course of five days (November 10th-14th, 2016).   This was seen first hand in my neck of the woods where a small Episcopal church was vandalized by a swastika and hateful phrases being spray painted onto the building.   It is tragic to see hate break in such an epidemic way.   Much of this hate has been long festering.   The complex emotions that have led people to lash out in hateful ways likely have their deep roots in fear and anger.  Yoda was right.  Fear and anger lead to hate and hate eventually always manifest itself into suffering.   

The Jedi, much like Star Trek Vulcans, seek to be devoid of emotional impulses.  We can not do that.   As peopleanger and fear are natural reactions when we our will is opposed or when we face uncertainty.    We can not avoid these feelings, but we can temper them.   We can choose to let these emotions take a deep root in our heart and rule our actions, or we can choose to rely on our faith and choose a higher path.   

From a faith perspective, the opposite of fear is hope.   Fear is pessimism and despair in the face of uncertainty.   Hope is optimism and courage in the face of uncertainty.   Over a hundred times the scripture encourages readers to “be not afraid” or “fear not.”    Believers do not need to fear because they should have a hope greater than all their fear.   Romans 5:5 states: “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”  Fear does not allow room for God’s love or the workings of God’s Spirit because fear assumes the worst.  Fear naturally assumes that God is not present or active.   As believers when faced with fear, we should cling to the hope that we have.   

From a faith perspective, the opposite of anger is peace.   When our will and desires are opposed it is the natural reaction to get angry, to rage against the powers that be, and to lash out in anger.  A sense of peace though helps us step back from our selfish will and desires.   It is peace, not anger, that is listed as a Spiritual fruit that should be evident in the lives of all who follow Christ.   Colossians 3:15 states, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”   Peace is not appeasement.  Peace is not staying quiet because we do not want to rock the boat.   Peace is a presence of holy calmness that can only come from trusting in God and not in our own actions.    

From a faith perspective, the opposite of hate is love.   This is most important.   1 John declares God is love but that same epistle also states in verse 3:10: “Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother or sister.”   Quite simply, if there is hate then it is impossible to love.   It is not possible for someone to faithfully be a disciple and follow Jesus if their hearts are full of hate.   Love always leads to forgiveness and reconciliation.  Hate always leads to suffering.    

In the light of the wave of hate crimes, it can be easy to be afraid at what will happen next.  It can be even easier to get angry about it.  In reaction to hate, the reaction of the faithful should not be fear and anger.  That will only perpetuate a cycle of hate.   This does not mean that hate should be tolerated.  It should not.  Believers have a duty to call it out, expose it, and oppose it.    This will lead to feeling uncomfortable and it may lead to conflict.  However, this opposition needs to be based in a hope that we are all better than hate.  It needs to be based in an attitude of peace that seeks to repair not destroy.   Finally, it needs to be done in love.   Love and hate is a bit like light and darkness.   Where there is light there is not darkness, and when there is love there can not be hate.  Perhaps the way Yoda would say it is like this “better to light a candle it is, than the darkness curse.”