On December 18th, after having to wait for over seven years, fans of the Star Wars series were treated to a new movie release that had the “force awaken” and Han Solo put to rest (my son freaked out upon hearing this last detail). Sci-Fi junkies waited in line for hours, and many dressed up in costumes to commemorate the opening of the movie.
Only seven days before Christmas, the movie captured the attention of an American populace that is intrigued with a fictional battle in a far away place. Imagination has always been a powerful tool for exploration and entertainment. Rabid moviegoers spend millions as George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, and Disney, the recent purchaser, celebrate their production.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, thousands of churches in America will celebrate Christmas with children plays, musical cantatas, candlelight communion services and perhaps even a living Christmas tree or a spiritual adaptation of the old Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol”.
Somewhere in between lies an interesting conversation about the power of a Star to lead us, and the intrigue of a battle to save us. Notwithstanding the fact that many consider the story of Jesus in a manger to be just as fictional as Luke Skywalker and Princess Lea, one must admit that the staying power of the Bethlehem birth of Christ is more revealing than the success of Star Wars.
Although, I am probably one of only a few humans on earth that have not ever watched a Star Wars movie, my understanding of the series is that there is a battle between good and evil. A rebel alliance and a galactic empire. Then of course, based on my extensive research, there is a war in the stars. All of which makes me yawn until I think of its spiritual application.
The book of Matthew records that wise men over two thousand years ago and from somewhere in the East followed an unusual star for thousands of miles to Jerusalem. There must have been something special about this star that they followed for such a distance and to King Herod of Israel’s court. Upon arriving, they announced by asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen His star in the East and are come to worship him.”
This declaration did not sit well with the present King of the Jews, Herod. He concocted a plan to kill the baby Jesus, but when the wise men did not participate in this scheme, Herod had all the infants in Bethlehem killed to remove this threat to his throne. Not only were the wise men supernaturally warned of the plot, Joseph, the father of Jesus, was also warned and he had already moved his young family to Egypt.
Beyond the miracle of God clothing himself in flesh and being born in the most humbling of all circumstances… in a barn and laid in a feeding trough, lies the contrast between the greatest gift bestowed upon humanity and the greatest battle known to man.
This story was the original Star Wars. It was not Han Solo or Darth Vader. It was not the galactic empire or the rebel alliance. It was Jesus, Joseph, Herod and wise men from the East. Sort of a Holy Alliance and an Evil Empire. The miracle was born in the midst of danger, fear, intrigue, and uncertainty.
A star is light, and this Light called Christ was born under the cloak of a pretty serious lampshade. The Star of Light was shrouded with unlikely circumstances and unappealing surroundings. Although, it was the answer to the prayers of millions of people over a period of thousands of year, it was not obvious.
That light is the hope that each of us has in Christ. It is the real force, and when it awakens, anything is possible. The lyrics of a Jane Taylor poem in the 19th Century reminds us of the dream and the wonder: “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky…”
The beauty of a star or the wonder of a child is not easy to bottle, and no doubt will always have the adversity of dream killers and naysayers, still it is what illuminates our hearts and brightens our soul. It is the Christmas message, and it is alive and well.
Recently nominated by TIME Magazine for “Person of the Year”, Kim Davis was not even on the radar of America only a few months ago. Outside of the small county in Kentucky where she was voted in as the county clerk, Kim Davis was unknown.
In the wake of the United States Supreme Court 5 to 4 decision in early summer that legalized same-sex marriage, Kim Davis refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples where her name was on the license as the county clerk.
Kim Davis was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) for refusing to issue the licenses with her name on them. Citing sincerely held religious beliefs and requesting religious accommodation, Kim Davis stood her ground.
A federal judge ordered Kim to issue the licenses notwithstanding that Kentucky law had not yet been changed to accommodate the recent Supreme Court decision. In spite of the tension between states’ rights and Federal rights concerning this issue, Kim was sent to jail for following her right of conscience.
Mat Staver, the attorney who represented her stated, “Kim joins a long list of people who were imprisoned for their conscience. People who today we admire like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Jan Huss, John Bunyan, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and others like them. Each had their own cause, but they all shared the same resolve not to violate their consciences.”
There is no debate that Kim was the first person jailed in America as a result of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. After a media firestorm that captured the attention of America and perhaps when the federal judge realized that placing Kim in jail was just pouring fuel on the fire, Kim was released from jail on September 8th, 2015.
The subsequent fall out of this stand off resulted in Kentucky electing a new Governor by the name of Matt Bevin who, immediately upon being sworn in, changed the county clerk licenses and marriage forms in Kentucky so the county clerk’s name does not have to be on the license.
Kim Davis was on the cover of USA Today, met with the Pope, was visited by Presidential candidates and on Sunday, December 13th will speak at First Pentecostal Church in Palm Bay, Florida at 11:00am.
All of the attention and discussion has brought to a head more than just the differences between people who oppose same-sex marriage and people that approve of same-sex marriage, it has crystalized a concern that sincerely held religious beliefs could become a crime.
It has long been understood in Constitutional law circles that the tension between the free exercise clause and the establishment clause of the first amendment defines the concept that individual rights only extend to the point that they violate someone else’s rights.
You may feel passionate about your cause but that does not entitle you to disregard others whose beliefs may differ. A spirited discussion in our culture is under way concerning the treatment of an alternate lifestyle, but there is no basis in the Constitution to trample on the majority to appease the minority.
Most people have a sense of fairness and believe that others should be treated with respect, but to what point does that respect for others become restriction for an opposing demographic.
In my first year of law school, a couple of students questioned me after class concerning my statements of fairness in affirmative action and set-aside programs. They used a foot race to illustrate that if one person has been held back, it is not fair to just turn them loose. “The person who has been held back must have assistance like a bicycle to catch up to the other runners”, they insisted. I agreed but then asked, “Does the person get off the bike, once they catch up?”
The reason that Kim Davis captured our attention is because in our quest for fairness, we are not willing to sacrifice our sincerely held religious beliefs. It is more than just what our country was founded upon, it is the heart and soul of our conscience.
Just a few years ago few people would have believed that a Christian could be put in jail for their beliefs, but the bicycle can become a motorcycle and folks start getting run over and put in jail. Putting Kim Davis in jail made all of us as a country sit up and ask, “what if that was me, what would I do?”
Does all of this warrant a “Person of the Year” award? If not what does? Regardless if you agree or disagree with Kim Davis, religious freedom is something that every one of us should stand for. Kim Davis will address this issue on Religious Freedom Day at First Pentecostal Church in Palm Bay, this Sunday December 13th at 11:00am. www.fpcpalmbay.com.