Paris, Romans and the Dark Side of the Force by Margot R Hodson

The COP21 meeting in Paris has ended with a very positive agreement for going forward. As the delegates return home, will they be able to inspire the leaders of their countries to take the necessary steps to avoid out of control climate change? Though the steps that need to be taken are well-known, actually doing them seems more difficult. This inertia is mirrored at an individual level, where all but the truly committed struggle to make changes to lifestyle that will lead to a safer future for everyone. How can we make the shift? As Paris comes to a close there is another grand opening: the latest Star Wars movie hits a screen near you on 18th December, just in time for Christmas. Can understanding the Dark Side of the Force teach us anything about responding to climate change?

An ancient rabbinic tradition taught about two inclinations in the human soul: one for good and one toward evil. This might seem dualistic but the ‘evil inclination’ is not wholly negative. It is rather basic human instincts that have the potential for evil action. The Talmud teaches that a person would not buy a house or take a marriage partner without the evil inclination. It needs controlling however. In rabbinic thought, human maturity comes as we develop our good inclination and are able to resist the evil inclination, so that good prevails.

I have found these ideas helpful in understanding Romans 7-8 and the approach toward good and evil in Star Wars! In Romans chapter 7, Paul speaks of a personal struggle with good and evil inclinations. Had Paul come into contact with this way of thinking? Paul longs to follow his good inclination, but concludes that controlling his evil inclination in his own strength is not possible (Romans 7:15-24). Paul’s struggle leads to a dramatic resolution in Romans 8: ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death’ (Romans 8:1-2). Paul’s fight with his evil inclination had been won by Christ through his death and resurrection. We no longer need to struggle alone. Christ has dealt with our sin and the Spirit of Christ now dwells in us and aids us in our weakness.

The cross not only dealt with our own personal sin, a myriad of evil desires and actions; the cross once and for all broke the power of evil. The Dark Side of the Force is a fading power, running on battery with no recharge. So creation groans but eagerly awaits a glorious freedom (Romans 8:18-21). That freedom comes with the revelation of the glory of redeemed humanity. For creation there has been no choice, no inclination to wrestle with, however ineffectively. It is subject to frustration. Creation groans and is in pain from the evil in the world.

How will world leaders respond to the very positive outcome of the Paris COP21 summit? Will the Dark Side of the Force prevail? Will the nations know what to do but lack the political will to do it? In the eternal scheme of things, there is a connection between the release of creation from the bondage to decay and the revelation of redeemed humanity (Romans 8:21). We need look no further to find a role for Christians in the long struggle that faces us to control the evil inclination and bring creation back from the brink of climate change catastrophe. Our role is to point toward a free and redeemed creation. The Spirit of God at work in us will aid us not only to live out own lives in Christ, but also to witness to the world to strengthen and encourage everyone to stand against the dark force that, if left unchecked, will overwhelm us. Christ will ultimately lead us towards a greener, safer future. Our role is to live that out in our words, our actions and our prayers.

© Margot R Hodson, 15 December 2015

The Revd Margot R Hodson is a vicar in rural Buckinghamshire. She speaks widely on environmental issues and has written several books including ‘A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues’, written jointly with her husband, Dr Martin Hodson and published by BRF.

‘Light sabres in space’ image used under license from