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The Empire (Always) Strikes Back

Monday, November 14, 2016 @ 10:04 AM The Empire (Always) Strikes Back Ed Vitagliano Executive Vice-President MORE

When it comes to the Star Wars movie franchise, I’m not exactly a huge fan. I enjoyed the first three, saw the fourth, but haven’t watched any new ones since. Frankly, although I’m a science fiction fan, all that false religion, “may the force be with you” garbage just got on my nerves. 

I do remember this from the middle film of the original trilogy, and I think it’s something Christians should keep in mind: The Empire Always Strikes Back. 

In light of the recent election, of course, I am not referring to storm troopers. I am referring to the secular progressives. 

In the aftermath of the triumph of Donald Trump, we are seeing signs of this in the reactions of the humanists among us. From the typical threats of a Hollywood “walk out” from America unto distant shores, to the nearly sackcloth-and-ashes mourning of media pundits; from the sobbing of snowflakes on college campuses, to the violence of some protests in the election aftermath; it is clear that the secular progressive movement won’t slump away into the night. 

The fact is, you don’t mess with Darth Vader and blow up the emperor’s death star and expect there to be no backlash. 

For those Christians who think this past election was the end of the matter, think again. The struggle to restore the constitutional order is not over by any means. Of course, it’s not beginning, either. It is merely continuing. We have received a brief reprieve, more along the lines of the break between quarters of a football game. Let me switch metaphors: This is not the end of the culture wars, and it isn’t even a ceasefire. We will soon head back to the front. 

What we will see over the coming weeks and months is a backlash from the secular progressives whose entire lives are built around this life and this life alone. For them, there is no spiritual life and certainly no eternal life. There is no God and no loving Savior. There are no loved ones awaiting our arrival through the Pearly Gates and no fiery anguish in hell to fear. 

This means there is no ultimate purpose in life for the humanist. There is only now and the succession of nows to follow, so secular progressives aim to create one that suits them – because that’s all there is. And Christians and other constitutionalists had better not get in their way. 

This process of the progress of truth followed by backlash is played out over and over in the New Testament. In Acts 6, for example, we see the church growing: “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (vs. 7). 

This is the triumph of the truth – and all of Jerusalem is glad to see it, right? Stephan, a man of God, is even “performing great wonders and signs among the people” (vs. 8). The world rejoices to see the afflicted granted help from God, right? 

No, because the empire always strikes back. Some of the resistant Jewish leaders begin to argue with Stephen, but they are shown to be the rebels that they are. Shut down by a man filled with wisdom and the Spirit, these stubborn unbelievers give up their futile battle against the Lord – right? 

Of course not. They ramp up their efforts. They scheme, they bring forward liars – whom they’ve coached to tell exactly the right lies – and bring accusations against Stephan. Then they stir up the people and the Jewish council and drag the man of God to a sham of a trial. Sound familiar? Most of us know what happens next. 

Because the empire always strikes back. 

Am I implying some sort of connection between Trump and Jesus? No, of course not. Between the GOP platform and the gospel? No, that’s silly. Between America and the kingdom of God? That’s even sillier – although it’s probably a toss-up. 

What I am saying is that, behind the scenes being played out in the natural, this past election was about two spiritually divergent worldviews. I’m pretty sure these two very flawed candidates had no idea this was the case. 

Are we as a people to be ruled by God and His laws or not? That’s what’s at stake in the culture wars. Every square inch of the battlefield is about that question. 

Yet Christians are not only armed with the truth, we are also armed with love. We know there is more to life than a sequence of nows, and that knowledge makes room for compassion, forgiveness, and grace. 

When the empire strikes back, we must respond with the graciousness of Stephen, when he prayed on the doorstep of a martyr’s death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). 

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