Let’s Come Together

A classically bizarre video for a classic early 90s synth pop hit

If Chapter 24 The Return was a 90s lyric, it would be this smooth verse from The Beloved: “Let’s come together right now (oh yeah) in sweet harmony.” At the end of Chapter 23 most fans – myself included! – were convinced that epic shenanigans were underfoot, with Axe Woves and/or The Armorer up to no good, and epic reveals of Thrawn or the Mythosaur would set the stage for the next stage of the Mandoverse.

But we were – but I was – wrong. Instead, the cast of characters we’ve come to know and love resolved their tension, proved their worth, and came together to rid the galaxy of Moff Gideon and his trinkets in a fantastic sequence of battle scenes that ranks among the greats of Star Wars duels. Now, before you get all Duel of the Fates on me, I’m not here to rank, debate, or squabble, however. Move along. Move along.

I’ve been reflecting on faith in the Mandoverse and the faith(s) on display in the Mandoverse. In this Season 3 finale we watched as the Mandalorians cemented a unity that did not require uniformity. Among the Mandalorians, there were no winners or losers. No eventual ruling faction imposed planet-wide helmet requirements, nor a helmet prohibition. The Darksaber was lost, and with it the myth of its power. Yet this ended up being a blessing, allowing the Mandalorians to come together not around a blade or a bloodline, but around honor and heritage. The new normal of the new Mandalore is diversity – sharing certain commitments in common, while also living in distinct ways.

In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

enduring aphorism of some old saint

Unity without uniformity is a classic principle of Christian communion – even if it is a commitment that has proven difficult for Christians to actually practice. Some saint or theologian is said to have said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” For Lutherans, Article VII of the Augsburg Confession comes to mind, which states, “And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, rites or ceremonies, instituted by people, should be everywhere alike.”

The keys to unity without uniformity within a community are twofold:

  1. Each member and sub-group within the whole recognizes and honors the legitimacy of all other members and sub-group within the whole;
  2. A measured use of power by the authority/ies to privilege no particular group, honor sub-groups and their traditions, and cultivate shared commitments among the whole.

Saint Paul makes a related claim in 1 Corinthians 12, where he describes the many spiritual gifts that members of a Christian community would bear. Some would have the gift of prophesy, others tongues, others interpretation of tongues, and so forth and so on. Just as the human body cannot be comprised of only a single part – just a single ear or only a foot, let’s say – so too does the Christian body, the church, need many parts, many gifts to faithfully thrive. This embrace of difference within the unity of the body is essential for Christian community and, indeed, for any kind of community of purpose.

Mandalorians, with and without helmets, celebrate the relighting of the Great Forge by pounding their forearms together in a space clap

Because the Mandalorians are now a community that honors difference within their midst, nobody in our story needs any (additional) redemption or restoration to the community. A community that practices diversity has shared commitments and regulations while also allowing for and honoring difference. The challenge the Mandalorians will face is reflected in the temptation of the disciples to stop an exorcist who was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. “We tried to stop him because he was not following us.” Just because he’s “not following us” doesn’t make this other exorcist an antagonist to them or to their Lord, Jesus. The twelve disciples needed to learn that following Jesus wasn’t a calling limited to just them.

Toward the end of the episode we see a Mandalorian child named Ragnar take the oath while standing in the Living Waters. During the season’s first episode Ragnar’s oath was interrupted by the attack of a ridiculous Star Wars monster. It is fitting, then, that this season’s final episode sees this ritual’s completion. The baptismal images were, of course, more obvious than the red nose on a clown’s face. (Easter eggs and awesome design elements notwithstanding, subtlety is not an abiding Star Wars trait.) The Armorer poured water over Ragnar’s helmeted head while the surrounding Mandalorian community offered their assent to his new station, speaking a united, “This is the way,” the “Amen” of the Mandalorian congregation. Just as with baptism, this Mandalorian rite is not for the child alone, but instead is an act of the community as much as it is an act of the initiate. All the more significant was this for Ragnar, as his father Paz Viszla died in the battle to retake the planet. Now his family truly is the community.

Ragnar’s quasi baptismal rite of initiation

Following the completion of Ragnar’s rite of passage, Din Djarin brings Grogu to the waters to take the oath. The Armorer insists this can’t be done, as Grogu cannot speak for himself. Din Djarin then offers to adopt Grogu as his child, giving Din legal standing to speak for Grogu and to start training him as a Mandalorian. The congregation offers its assent, and the Armorer declares that it shall be “written in Song that Din Djarin is accepting this foundling as his son.” The Armorer, who acts as the community’s high priest and arbiter, gives Grogu a new name, or a second name (we’re not entirely sure how this works): Din Grogu. Just as parents speak for children in baptism, promising to raise them in a certain way of life, so too – standing at the Living Waters – did Din Djarin make a public vow to raise Grogu as his own child in the ways of the Mandalore.

Lastly, a note about how Mandalorian lore is recorded. “The songs of eons past foretold of the Mythosaur rising up to herald a new age of Mandalore.” We have several times heard the Armorer and others cite the “songs” of Mandalore, a kind of shared oral history that evokes the image of a people singing together. The book of Psalms is a book of songs, words of sorrow and hope, tales of God’s mighty works and exclamations of praise, cries of lament and of thanksgiving. For we who honor the Psalms as sacred, the story of God is contained in song, a communal act of worship that intends to tell and extend the community’s story through ritual repetition and the power of a sung word that binds a people to each other and to their God.

This is the way.

Published by Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Veteran. Jedi. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

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