Saturday, December 16, 2017

Touching the Dark Side Within Us All (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is on Ahch-To and has finally convinced Luke (Mark Hamill) to train her in the Jedi ways. Her very first lesson is an invitation to sit on the mountain side and “reach out.” She experiences the force—peace, violence, life, death, new life rising—and the balance of it all. As she meditates she is drawn to the dark side, it invites her and calls to her. She goes. Luke is terrified of her power and her willingness to reach out to the dark side so easily.

This revelation of Rey’s power and inclination could be devastating to fans who expect her to be a Luke Skywalker figure. A savior who is fully light “and in him there was no darkness.” We expect this spunky, pure girl to be fully light and to be the much-needed counterpart to the First Order’s darkness. But she’s not pure light. No one is.

During Rey’s time on Ahch-To she seeks out the dark side of the island. She heads to the underbelly hoping to find out who her parents are and effectively, who is she. The dark side of the island is a cave with a towering glass wall. Rey once again reaches out to the darkness touching the cloudy wall. Instantly, she experiences past and anticipates future in a long series of Reys upon Reys. Her actions reverberating as if in a chamber.

As she allows herself to move closer to the darkness, the foggy, frozen wall begins to clear as figures move closer on the other side. However, it is Rey she sees and not her parents. She is the only one revealed to herself.

Later in the film, Kylo Ren and Rey have an exchange about her parents. They’ve been connected by the powers of the Force through Snoke and have seen hidden parts of each other. He encourages her to name who her parents were because, perhaps, she’s always known and just hidden it away.

“They were nobody.”

Perhaps she had always known that. She had lived on Jakku long enough to ask around about her origin. It’s easier to compartmentalize and tuck it away. Of course, she reached to the dark side hoping for answers to her question. The identity of her parents and the hope of their return consumed her in the first film. Their identity consumes her still.

In the dark side of Ahch-To, she didn’t reach out to the darkness to be consumed by it as others have been. She reached out to touch it, to feel it, to understand, to know. There will always be feelings of loneliness, anger, abandonment, jealousy, or bitterness. We always have those emotions within our reach and they will come and go in our lives. Rey is allowing herself to touch her dark emotions, but not to be consumed by them. She touches her loneliness and doubt about self-worth, but she does not remain there.

In Christianity, we suffer from the same fears of the dark side as the Jedi. Our common metaphors for goodness center around light and light banishing out darkness. We feel comfortable centering our worship and praise around these things. Light is good and dark is bad.

Historically, this has led to awful theology which has driven white supremacy and the separation of the races. It’s a theology which permeates our Christian life today and white supremacy ideology continues to influence our institutions. What is the redeeming theology of darkness that we have been too afraid to touch?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi invites us into this theology in many ways. Those people which we have always anticipated as solidly good are not as we imagined. Those people which we had believed to be solidly bad are not necessarily so. The balance of the Force, the balance of life is that bad and good reside in all of us. Dark and light reside in all of us.

Just as the sun passes from day to night, we cannot have light always. The writers of the Old Testament understood the complex nature of life, injustice, hardship, and the need for lament. The range of human emotion is experienced in the Old Testament and the dark side of the soul is touched. Our own savior, Jesus Christ, had to enter darkness in order for resurrection and new life to be possible. That is the balance of Christian life that is the balance of the Force.

As Rey entered the dark side of Ahch-To to truly understand herself, so we must be willing to enter the dark parts of our own soul. If we’re not careful, we can be consumed by rage and harden our hearts. But it is not wrong to reach out and allow ourselves to truly feel the dark side of the soul. It is what we choose to do with those emotions that makes us somebody.
If you’re looking for a prayer that will help you acknowledge and truly feel “dark” emotions or “light” emotions, I would suggest the Welcoming Prayer. Here are some helpful resources for practicing Welcoming Prayer in your own life.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hogwarts Houses and Working Styles

There are a small number of people who will appreciate this post—the venn diagram of people who have taken or know about the Friendly StyleProfile (also referred to as Gilmore-Fraleigh) and Harry Potter fans is probably very small. The number of people who know the Gilmore-Fraleigh by a set of four colors—might be even fewer.

In college and through volunteer service I was introduced to the Gilmore-Fraleigh working style profile. This profile helps inform the way that we approach interacting with one another and especially how we work with different personalities and their conflict styles. On this profile I usually score a very high Accommodating/Harmonizing—which in the circles I have navigated in volunteer service and seminary is associated with Yellow. There are three other kinds of styles: Affiliating/Perfecting (Red), Achieving/Directing (Green), and Analyzing/Preserving (Blue). There are specific characteristics associated with each Style and I will touch on those below.

I am somone who enjoys taking personality profiles and learning more about myself and others. The Gilmore-Fraleigh and Myers-Briggs have been a huge help in navigating work and personal relationships. As an avid fan of Harry Potter, I also HAD to know which house I would be sorted into at Hogwarts. I took the quiz as soon as it came out on Pottermore. While always considering myself a cool Gryffindor like the rest of the Golden Trio—much to my dismay I was a Hufflepuff. A Hufflepuff?

Then I began to read about Hufflepuffs and well, it made sense.

Last month, I stumbled upon a video from Buzzfeed—“Struggles only Hufflepuffs understand.” This depiction cracked me up—but it also reminded me of the Accomodating/Harmonizing style in major excess. Then this week, I was thinking about what a neat coincidence it was that I am Yellow in the Gilmore-Fraleigh and Hufflepuff’s primary color is yellow. But wait…four colors, four houses…did the other three match up similarly? Gryffindor would be Red or Affiliating/Perfecting. Slytherin would be Green or Achieving/Directing. Ravenclaw would be Blue or Analyzing/Preserving.


The house colors tied in with the colors of the Gilmore-Fraleigh, but not only that—they actually MATCH. Below is a brief comparison of the Hogwarts Houses and their corresponding Style in the Gilmore-Fraleigh working styles. (I pulled examples from their “intimate partners” profile, so it might have a relationship slant.)

GryffindorFan-given Motto: Do what is right.
Key CharacteristicsGryffindors have virtues of courage, bravery, and determination.
Most likely to leap before they look.
They want a fight to be a fair one.
They care enough about justice to get into a fight, even if that fight involves an argument with a friend.
Passionate: about beliefs, and standing up for what they believe in.
Gryffindors care deeply about people.

Affiliating/Perfecting (Red)Strengths: They expect to learn from experience and do better next time.
Willing to confront and challenge an authority because of violation of policy and/or procedure when principles are at stake. They are willing to endure ridicule and threats to safety to maintain value-based stand.
They are able to empathize--are compassionate and understanding.
Fiercely loyal and are service minded people willing to work behind the scenes.

Favorite Sayings:
“No pain, no gain!”
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
“If its worth doing, it is worth doing well.”

Fan-given Motto: Do what is nice.
Key Characteristics of Hufflepuffs Hufflepuffs value hard work, patience, loyalty, and fair play.
They are group-oriented and value teamwork.
They prefer to avoid discomfort and confrontation.
If doing something just is going to cause discord within the group, Hufflepuff’s are the most likely to simply avoid conflict, even if it means a miscarriage of justice.
They are thoughtful, kind, and caring.

Accommodating/Harmonizing (Yellow)
Strengths: Flexible and will "go with the flow" for the sake of the group.
Sympathetic to the feelings and needs of others.
They are good-natured, amusing, flexible, and supportive.

Favorite sayings: “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
“Peace at any price!”

SlytherinFan-given Motto: Do what is necessary.
Key CharacteristicsSlytherin produces leaders who are proud, ambitious, and cunning.
They fears public humiliation more than anything.
Slytherins care more about their reputation in the here and now.
They won’t fall back or be cautious--but will dive in and charge forward.
Lack a sense of fair-play.
Cerebral—they don’t care so much for people. No patience for incompetence in others.

Achieving/Directing (Green)Strengths: They eagerly accepts difficult challenges.
Appears knowledgable, capable, and open (so as to win the confidence and trust of others).
They are a ready source of ideas, possibilities and new methods for accomplishing goals.
They want to demonstrate competence, have impact, get things done and reap the rewards of achievement.

Favorite Sayings: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
“Strike while the iron is hot!”
“Good losers usually are!”

RavenclawFan-given Motto: Do what is wise.
Key CharacteristicsRavenclaws prize wit, learning, and wisdom. Their founder's, Rowena Ravenclaw, diadem features a quote that sums up their beliefs: “Wit beyond measure is a man’s greatest treasure.”
They are curious and love of learning.
They are going to hate if people ridicule them for their beliefs, if only because they’ve thought about them so much.
Much more likely to stop and review a situation before charging forward.
Free-thinkers, likely to analyze everything.
Do care for humanity, but are more cerebral than Gryffindor of Hufflepuff.

Analyzing/Preserving (Blue)Strengths: They will pore over details of history and background.
They are not likely to get caught in flashy impractical scheme.
They enjoys sorting classifying and organizing information.
Desire to be safe and certain; to avoid foolishness and failure.

Favorite Sayings: “Look before you leap.”
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
“Better safe than sorry.”


After reading more about the houses and their characteristics based on the Pottermore Sorting Hat Quiz--they don't line up quite perfectly. Although, I do believe certain characteristics line up very well! For example, Slytherin and Ravenclaw are cerebral, whereas Gryffindor and Hufflepuff are people-oriented. The fact that Gryffindor is people-oriented toward large themes of justice/injustice and Hufflepuff is concerned about teamwork and group cohesion.

But really--at the end of the day, you are more than your Hogwarts House and the sum of your personality tests.

What do you think about the pairings? Do you think they match up? Which Hogwarts house are you in? What is your Gilmore-Fraleigh working style?

Resources:"The traits of the four houses."

"What your Hogwarts house says about you" pages on 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Christian Ethic for Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism as a Christian value has been an evolving ethic for me. It has been inspired by many books, experiences, and conversations over the years. I began my vegetarian journey in 2010 and have been refusing meat for almost seven years. Really the root of my decision to pursue a vegetarian lifestyle is based in my belief in Christian non-violence.
Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and came to overturn imperialistic oppression, set us free from violence and sin, and show us a third way of living in the world. Jesus taught the love of enemies and the intentional, relational care of the "least of these." Jesus proclaims Good News for the poor and release for the captives and I believe this extends to all of the created world.

Non-violence towards the land. 
In Genesis 2, humanity is born of dust. We are creatures OF the land--creatures created to till and serve the land. Our current agricultural system makes use of the land in an extremely unsustainable way. A way that is destructive, violent and not sustainable for all life on Earth, let alone all human life on Earth. The amount of land, water, and grain to feed to produce meat is astronomical compared to a vegan or even vegetarian based diet.
Around 2,500 gallons of water is consumed in the production of a single pound of beef. If I had a single pound of beef each week 130,000 gallons of water would have been used. In relation to showers and water usage, if I took a 10 minute shower at 5 gallons a minute every single day of the year I would have consumed 18,250. While limiting showers and water usage in our home is important that's a small, small amount compared to the impact that our meat consumption has on creation. Not to mention the pollution of water-ways and ocean dead zones as a result of concentrated agriculture.
A vegan diet uses 1/18th of the land that a meat-eater does in the course of a year. Over 45% of the Earth's landmass is being used for animal agriculture, which is a threat to the rainforest (and their indigenous populations-humans, animals, and plants). We argue about the ability to feed Earth's burgeoning population -- and yet, we possess more than enough land to feed and sustain humanity on a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet.

Non-violence towards other creatures. 
Jesus calls us to care for the least of these. He continually draws attention to societies minorities in the form of women, children, the sick, lonely, imprisoned, and so on. Jesus' Kingdom is radical and upside down from the world around us.
I could not kill an animal myself--how could I ask that of someone else? The act of killing another animals is brutal. The mass production, industrialization of animals means that humans involved in slaughterhouses are killing many, many animals each day. One person's job may be the slit a cows throat over and over again (after a metal bolt has been smashed into it's head). It's a difficult, ugly job to kill something in this way.
I see a connection between the killing of animals and the killing of humans. Often a murder or rape or killing occurs because someone has degraded, or dehumanized another. We can make others into animals justifying a killing because of a belief that they are less than human. A vegetarian ethic could, by extension, hold all human life with a higher value because of a value of other creatures.
Non-Human creatures. 
Our Christian origin story in Genesis 1 and 2 suggests that God's idyllic plan for creation is vegetarianism.
"God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so." - Genesis 1:29-30, NRSV
While we don't live at the beginning of Creation or in the Garden of Eden, our Christian call is to live as if we are in the Kingdom of God for it is surely among us (Luke 17:21). Not only does God prescribe a vegan lifestyle in the book of Genesis, but God proclaims that all of creation is good. We give reasons for not eating our cats and dogs, but the same reasons could apply to pigs, who are much smarter than dogs! Mountains and oceans, birds of the air and the fish of the sea, the flowering plants and creepy crawling land animals are all inherently good in the sight of God. Independent of our reliance on creation for sustenance and our very livelihood--creation has it's own worth independent of us. Who are we to abuse and to kill? 

Do you practice a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle as a Christian? Why or why not?  

© Katie H.
Maira Gall