The Call to Embrace and Rebel: Reflections on ESC Life and Rogue One – John Christian Evans

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FAIR WARNING: this Colorado ESC blog may or may not contain spoilers related to the newly released film Rogue One: a Star Wars Story. I’ll try my best to keep things as spoiler free as possible.

Now, with that out of the way, I can begin. It’s a safe bet in my mind that it is well known amongst the ESC Colorado community,  and my friends and family, how much Star Wars means to me. It’s dominated my imagination since I was three years old, when I first saw the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” flash across the screen. I was hooked almost instantly. I became enraptured with the powerful story, the lovable and iconic characters, the “used” fictional universe filled with thousands of tales to be told, and the soaring and inspiring music that conveys an almost spiritual glimpse into the human spirit and experience. All of these elements come together to define what I believe to be one of the greatest and most relevant sagas of fiction, mythology, and cinema ever created. Star Wars, to me, also ranks amongst those tales that writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and George MacDonald believed exemplified elements of what they called the “One True Myth”, that is, the Holy Scriptures.  Those are some pretty bold and impassioned statements on my part, I must admit, and some of you may be wondering what in the world the latest Star Wars film has anything to do with my ESC experience. Trust me, this will all make a bit more sense in a bit. So let’s move along to the next paragraph, shall we?”

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Part of our time in ESC is spent on self reflection and learning how to develop the skills and talents we have toward our professional, spiritual, and private lives. Enter two of the most tried and true personality tests: the Enneagram and the Clifton Strengths Finder. For those of you who have not taken one or both of these, here are two links with more in depth explanations, as well as a picture of the Enneagram with its types and strengths. To also give you some personal context and an idea of how the results work, I am a Type 2 with a Wing of 1 on the Enneagram, that is, a “Helper” with the wing of a “Reformer”. In the picture below, a Type 2 with a Wing of 1 is described as a “Good Samaritan, Giving Lover, and Public Servant”. My top 5 strengths according to the Clifton Strengths Test are Context, Strategic, Individualization, Empathy, and Maximizer.

https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/how-the-enneagram-system-works/

http://www.strengthstest.com/strengths-finder-themes

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Now I must confess that I had already taken these before moving to Colorado, but several years prior, and at a much different phase in my life in terms of maturity and experience. At the time, I didn’t think much about my results, in fact I don’t even remember what my results were to be honest. Now however, after having taken both tests in a communal setting, I am not only fascinated by what they can provide for individuals in understanding themselves, but how these tools can be used to achieve understanding and identity as a group, especially in how each person brings something unique and valuable in terms of talents and gifts. In fact, I’d argue that the most powerful thing that both Clifton and the Enneagram have to offer is a reminder of our need for each other. After all, what might be my weakness has the potential to be someone else’s stregth, or vice versa. As much as I try to bear all of my burdens on my own (a stereotypical behavior of a Type 2 Wing 1 on the Enneagram,) there is no way I possibly can. I have realized time and time again, my need to embrace the help and support of others, especially those who appear to be complete and total opposites. Living in a house full of opposites here in Colorado has definitely impressed this upon me, with both its not-so-great moments of conflict, and the absolutely beautiful moments when understanding and compassion set the tone of interaction. Each of us comes from completely different backgrounds and life stories, and our interests and passions vary greatly as well. If that isn’t enough proof for you on the whole “opposites” thing, each of us are a different type on the Enneagram. Alongside my Type 2, Collete is a Type 9, Lizzy is a Type 7, Sara a Type 6, and Evan a Type 5. Yet, I have seen how those differences have come to strengthen each of us both as a group and as individuals, especially when one of us has needed help and support.

I was deeply reminded of this while watching Rogue One: a Star Wars Story, by the 6 main heroes of the film. This is a unique film in the history of the Star Wars franchise, in that it’s the first stand alone film released–meaning that it isn’t a part of the saga films. Instead, it depicts the events that are the catalyst for the plot of the original Star Wars: the story of  how the Death Star plans were stolen, and the desperate and daring Rebels who risked everything to save the galaxy from destruction, oppression, and injustice. Part of what makes the on screen chemistry of these lovable characters work is how different they are from each other, and yet it is also what drives the achievement of their mission. Without their differences in strengths, talent, and leadership, and their willingness to trust and be vulnerable with each other, the miracle they help to bring about would not have been possible. The other part is a strong and distinct parallel to many tales of mythology, fantasy, and the Scriptures: each of these heroes are utterly unlikely in their roles, and are anything but the “beautiful people” in society. The main heroine is a hardened and orphaned criminal, the leader of the team has lived knowing nothing but war and death in his life, the droid is a reprogrammed and former Imperial Enforcer Droid whose task was to murder on behalf of the Empire, one of the team is a blind warrior monk who can only rely on his faith in the Force for his remaining senses, his protector doesn’t believe in the force and is dogged by desire for vengeance, and the pilot is a nervous and neurotic wreck who defected from the Empire after conscription into service.

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It’s truly a Dirty [Half] Dozen, and some of these characters are reminded often by those in the leadership of the Rebellion just how low they are viewed. And yet, it is those in power in this story who would rather surrender and give in to oppression and tyranny, and those who are hated most by their society who are willing to die so that others may live freely.  The scriptures and the history of Christianity are filled with accounts of God using the most unlikely ways and people to advance the coming of salvation and the building of the Kingdom here and now. Moses not only had trouble speaking, but he also bore the crime of murder on his conscience. Paul persecuted the early Christians and stood by as Stephen became the first martyr of the faith after being stoned to death. Joan of Arc broke the mold of her time as a warrior and a woman of strong leadership, becoming a defender of the faith and the downtrodden. The 12 Disciples definitely had some unlikely figures in their mix as well: a despised tax collector named Matthew, low and humble fisherman such as James & John and Peter & Andrew, and a former guerilla fighter and terrorist named Simon. As a whole, the 12 also were quite an eclectic and “dirty dozen” themselves, in that they clearly did not all agree with each other, were often perplexed and confused by the teachings of their Rabbi, and most turned tail and ran when Jesus was arrested, if they did not betray or deny him. Total opposites and varying perspectives on their Master’s teachings? It appears that is who Jesus called to be His 12. Both the scriptural and historical accounts all recount of the Apostles’ great zeal in proclaiming the gospel of salvation, and of their determination to begin building the Kingdom which Jesus spoke of. Nearly all of them were executed for their faith, some even being crucified. Yet, without this band of wildly different individuals, who came to rely on each other in strength and in vulnerability, the transforming power of Christ’s love and sacrifice would not be known to the millions who came to experience such amazing grace across the 2,000 years since Jesus walked this Earth.

The title of this blog mentioned “the call to embrace and rebel”. In my reflections since my time in this program, I have come to understand that the call to follow Jesus, is in fact a call to rebel. That may seem strange, perhaps even dangerous to some, but I have become increasingly firm in my belief that walking in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth means to rebel against against any and all powers of apathy, nullification, injustice, oppression, and what I would call the theological fallacy of despair. Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, put it this way: “We need some Christians who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God — like Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something close to the dream that God dreams for it. And for those who would follow him, those who would be his disciples, those who would live as and be the people of the Way? It might come as a shock, but they are called to craziness.” The nightmare has, in recent months, been unrelenting it would seem. Ranging from the senseless murder of children by the bombs and chemical weapons of a fascist regime in Syria, to the election of a misogynistic demagogue who won on a platform based in xenophobia, racism, and Islamophobia, it has been difficult at times for myself, and I imagine many others, to see in this present darkness, any light or ray of hope. But is in this dark time now, that I believe that all those who follow in the path of Jesus Christ, have perhaps the greatest opportunity to be witnesses of love, sowers of the seeds of peace, and servants to the cause of salvation for all humanity. Now is the time for us to embrace the the differences that God made us all with, so that we may be stronger together to help bring the Kingdom to fruition. Now is the time to be brave and foolish enough to believe that we can make a difference in the world. For if we are steadfast, we know that by the grace of God, no darkness, no evil, can ever destroy the beacon of hope that we have in Christ.

I would like to conclude by sharing with you a piece from the score of Rogue One. As you listen to this theme for the character of Jyn Erso, the leader and heroine of the story, I invite you to ponder and reflect on the unique strengths that you have, the things that stoke your heart to passion and action, and the reality of hope in this present time. May the Force be with you.

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