Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Oprah, the Last Jedi

I confess that I did not stay up to watch the Golden Globe Award show; I never watch those shows unless someone who is staying with me wants to see them.  Thus, I did not see Oprah's speech.  I haven't read it, but I've heard/read snippets.

It was inspiring, as I expected.  She's always had a great way of connecting with those of us who aren't super wealthy, of reminding us that she comes from very meager beginnings.

I think we're losing sight of how many of us came from very meager beginnings, if you go back a generation or two or three.  But that doesn't detract from Oprah's speechmaking skills.  Lots of people from meager backgrounds don't make the most of their opportunities and certainly can't speak about it as powerfully as Oprah does.

Lots of people have been taking up a lot of time by discussing whether or not she should run for president.  We can genuinely say that we've seen worse candidates.  But would she be best?

I think her powers of inspiration could be important.  I'd like a candidate devoted to calling us all to live our best lives.  Would she have the legislative capability to put programs and money in place to help us do that?  She might.

I've been thinking a lot about politics and about our desire for a messiah in that arena, someone who can swoop in and fix things.  Anyone who has been in a leadership position of any kind knows it's not that easy.  Some days we're lucky, and the ideas we offer are accepted with enthusiasm--and they work.  Other days we spend time redoing work we thought was finished months ago; if we're lucky, we do the work with grace and with better results.

I keep thinking of movies and the stories they tell us about ourselves.  I saw  The Last Jedi less than 24 hours after Christmas Eve service and after an Advent month of longing--and after a political season that has included shifts I never would have forecast or believed.  I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of theology the movie presents.  It's an interesting blend of ancient religions and modern spirituality, as always.  I don't believe that the movie tells us that the destiny of humans is pre-ordained--and how interesting that twist is to me.

I love the message of the movie, at least the take-away message for me:  we don't fight evil by adopting the tools of the evil regime, we fight evil by saving what we love.  A parallel message is that we don't have to be part of a spiritual dynasty to join the fight for the future--the Force is available to us all.

I thought of our cultural desire for a Messiah, for someone who will save us.  But we're often doomed by our insistence on being the Messiah--it was interesting to watch this movie with the words of John the Baptist ringing in my head:  "I am not the Messiah."  I'm still thinking about these parallel ideas--how to respond to a world with so much need for a Messiah?  We can't be the Messiah, but people need more than just the promise that a Messiah will come.  I worry that I'm transposing my theological ideas on the movie, but here it is:  the Force (which I've always understood to be God) operates much more effectively in the world when there are spiritually attuned people to help.  Those light sabers and rocks won't move themselves. 

The idea that the Force can be used for good or for evil (or for profoundly mixed motives) isn't one that Christianity traditionally presents to believers, but it makes sense to me.  I don't see God as a parent, but as a partner, albeit a partner who knows more and has more resources than I do.

Our political lives would be very different if we saw our politicians in the same way, if we stopped waiting for someone to save us and instead saw opportunities to start creating the world where we want to live, if we did that hard and consistent work ourselves.

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