On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we witness the origin of Darth Vader himself as we find Christian themes in STAR WARS III: REVENGE OF THE SITH. Does the Jedi Order miss the mark in trying to be lukewarm? Is that what ultimately convinces Anakin to become Darth Vader? All that and more in 3…2…1!
“Only A Sith Deals In Absolutes”
You’ve heard it said that “only a Sith deals in absolutes.” But I tell you this: “because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16).
What does it mean to be “lukewarm?” It means “neither hot nor cold”; some call it “room temperature.” It essentially means “comfortable,” something of which Jesus is extremely wary and something He actually cautions us against being.
From the very onset of the film, we see Anakin struggle with balancing two opposing “forces,” if you will. Anakin has two choices: 1, he can do what he inherently knows is right…that is, what he “should” do…and escort Dooku to the proper authorities while he is still alive; or 2, he can do what Palpatine is encouraging / ordering him to do…that is, what he “shouldn’t” do…and kill Dooku on the spot. Anakin obviously makes the latter choice much to his own dismay. Anakin tries to be the “neutral/lukewarm” Jedi he’s been trained to be, but he can’t.
Keep that in mind as we fast forward to the scene in which Mace Windu has Palpatine subdued. Just as Anakin enters the room, though, Palpatine then begins to play on Anakin’s sympathies – as he always has – and tries to get Anakin to stop Windu. Again, Anakin has to choose between what he knows is right and what he knows is wrong; that is, he has to choose between letting Windu live and kill Palpatine or letting Palpatine live and kill Windu. Of course, Palpatine coaxes Anakin into making the latter choice. Again, Anakin tries to be the “neutral/lukewarm” Jedi he’s been trained to be, but he can’t.
This reminds me so much of what Paul writes to the Roman Jews / newly converted Christians regarding their opinion of the Gentiles:
“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:14-16).
In the same way, the inhabitants of this “galaxy far, far away” don’t have nor do they need the expressed Judaic law to convict them of any transgressions against the Perfect, Absolute Good; it is written on his heart. Anakin inherently knows the difference between right and wrong – between the Light Side and the Dark Side – between what he ought to do and what he ought not to do.
It also reminds me of another part of Paul’s letter to this same group of people where he confesses his own fault: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19).
Getting back to the film: Obi-Wan then gives Anakin hidden assignment. The Jedi Order wants Anakin to spy on Palpatine. Anakin doesn’t feel good about this because he actually likes Palpatine. Obi-Wan then tries to encourage Anakin to “use his feelings” and realize that something is amiss, but Anakin won’t hear of it. By obeying these orders, he isn’t “neutral/lukewarm” anymore, he’s forced to take sides. Anakin is now realizing that the Jedi are being just as shady and secretive as the Sith.
Well, Anakin proves to be a poor spy because he reveals his cover to Palpatine while they’re at the theater. But Palpatine, smooth talker that he is, starts to speak ill of the Jedi. Anakin tries to defend his Jedi brothers, but Palpatine makes a good counterpoint and thus convinces Anakin that the Jedi miss the mark just as much as the Sith.
But Palpatine doesn’t point to the Perfect, Absolute Good of the “Light Side” to make his case, because he knows he would be wrong. Instead, he points to the failures of the imperfect, relative conduits for the “Light Side” – that is, the Jedi – to make his case. And this is what ultimately convinces Anakin that Palpatine is right, even though Anakin knows he is.
Of course, this all culminates into a climactic scene in which Anakin draws the proverbial line in the sand: “If you’re not with me, then you are my enemy.” And Obi-Wan tries to uphold the “neutral” stance of the Jedi by retorting with “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” Anakin sees right through it, and the rest is history.
It all points to a fundamental error in the Jedi Code: trying to be non-polarizing, non-controversial, non-political, neither “good” nor “bad” but “neutral,” “passive,” and yes, “lukewarm.”
In the same way, Jesus calls us to not be “lukewarm,” but to “abide” in Him. He spells it out perfectly in the Gospel of John:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers, and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John 15:5-6)
In conclusion, we can’t “neutral/lukewarm” because we were created by an absolute Father along with an absolute universe.
Anakin Knew Better, Though
It’s easy to point to Palpatine as a satan figure , but we should also focus on Anakin, specifically, his giving in to sin and the failure of the church. But even more, the Good News to be gleaned from the real tragedy of this story.
The natural tendency would be to point to James 4:17 NLT:
“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”
Anakin’s loyalty has always been divided, but now he is only focused on saving Padmé – to the the exclusion of doing what he knows is right. Righteousness. Because he has listened to (the) satan and violated his own conscience – becoming what Palpatine is according to 1 Tim. 4:1-2:
Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead.
Anakin and Obi Wan, believe it or not, can symbolize a part of the church. How? When Anakin feels guilty about some of the things he’s done but doesn’t reach out for the help of his brother Obi-Wan. But on the other hand, Obi-Wan doesn’t reach out when he knows Anakin needs him. It’s a double-edged heartbreak, but it highlights everything mentioned in the following passage from James:
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. (James 4:7-10)
Anakin couldn’t humble himself enough to confess his transgressions, and Obi-Wan couldn’t humble himself enough to help his erring brother. It start a downward spiral that results in this galaxy’s most evil conduit for the Dark Side of the Force ever: Darth Vader.
Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
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