Ahsoka Tano and Church Hurt
Ahsoka Tano and Church Hurt
After my family watched Mandalorian together on Disney+, I finally decided to take the plunge and watch Clone Wars with my kids. I had never seen a single episode of it, but my diligent nerdcore friends always pushed me to watch that and Rebels. We finished Clone Wars in a couple months, and Rebels within a month. I can say whole heartedly that Clone Wars and Rebels makes the entire breadth of Star Wars better. It also makes the Mandalorian and Jedi Fallen Order immensely better stories and more meaningful experiences.
One of the things I enjoyed the most was seeing my kids invest more in the characters. The Obi-Wan/Satine story made me care more about Obi, but for them, the character that hit them hardest was Ahsoka Tano. To me, Ahsoka initially was just the annoying kid sister to emo older brother Anakin, often times reminding me of Ashley from the Resident Evil 4. Every time Ahsoka said, “Master!” all I heard was Ashley screaming “LEON!!!” while in the throes of peril.
That impression didn’t last long, and Ahsoka quickly became my girl’s favorite Jedi. Ahsoka had the up-close influences of some of the greatest Jedi of all. She ran missions with Obi-Wan, trained younglings with Yoda, and held her own against some of the fiercest forces of the Dark Side. Yet in the end, she wasn’t taken out by an evil Sith lord, but instead by her own people.
Ahsoka survived for years against the strongest forces of evil in the galaxy, and the equally dangerous prospect of being Anakin Skywalker’s padawan. Even before Anakin had turned to the dark side, he was rebellious, impulsive, emotional, easily angered, and in the matters of relationships, a deceptive hypocrite. I’m not dissing Anakin; in all reality, the previous sentence describes me as equally as it does Ani. Being the direct disciple of such a chaotic force is just as dangerous and deadly at times as having Palpatine trying to destroy your life.
She survived the bulk of the clone wars and being Anakin’s padawan, but was eventually taken down by the people she called family. Ahsoka had spent her entire life from youngling up, training to be a Jedi. She had fought head on in wars that didn’t directly involve her. She had saved the lives of people that would have gladly seen her die. She stood up for what she believed in, and truly modeled the best of what being a Jedi could be. Then came her setup.
Barris used her one-time friend as the patsy for her acts of terrorism and rebellion against the Jedi. Not just allowing Ahsoka to take the blame, but intentionally manipulating Ahsoka to be the face of her sadistic crimes. The girl who had been the model Jedi, the girl who had helped keep Anakin’s dark side from taking control, the girl who in all actuality could have probably prevented much of the atrocities this galaxy would see in the generations to come, was cast off and abandoned. All of this was accomplished with just a little deception and misdirection. The people she had stood and fought beside her entire life were willing to cast off their faith and trust in her so quickly. She goes from faithfully doing her duty to in mere minutes being hunted down by her compatriots, knowing them well enough that just based on the appearance of the situation, that she was completely abandoned.
As Anakin pursues her through the prison and eventually the sewers, they have this dialogue:
Anakin: Stop running Ahsoka: You can’t help me, master. Someone’s setting me up. Anakin: I believe you, Ahsoka. Ahsoka: But no one else will. Anakin: Ahsoka, what are you doing? Ahsoka: You didn’t even try to come and help me. Anakin: They wouldn’t let me in to talk to you. Ahsoka: You could have if you tried. Anakin: How would that look Ahsoka? Huh? Forcing my way in would have made you look even more guilty. Ahsoka: I’m not guilty!!! Anakin: Then we have to prove you’re innocent. The only way we can do that is by going back. Ahsoka: I don’t know who to trust. Anakin: Listen, I would never let anyone hurt you, Ahsoka, never. But you need to come back and make your case to the council. Ahsoka: No. I’m not going to take the fall for something I didn’t do.
Having your chosen family abandon or condemn you is not something anyone is ever prepared for. I’ve never had a council of force wielders denounce me, clone troopers start firing at me, or a stubborn Jedi knight chase me through sewers, but I have had church people do some very similar actions. Realistically, no one will hurt a Christian more than other Christians. We are people that follow the path of a perfect savior, but execute it so poorly. We offer love, forgiveness, grace, compassion, and acceptance, but then literally destroy and dismantle someone for making mistakes or choices we already knew were part of who they are in nature. It’s disheartening.
This isn’t a rejection of Christianity. I’m a believer. I’m a pastor. My faith is in Christ, but man, we can really suck at being Christ-like. When people fail (or even seem to fail), it’s really easy to abandon all the grace of which we speak of and suddenly become self-righteous judges. Matt Morginsky, wrote these lyrics,
“Is that your proudest lie? That you’re shocked when a sinner sins?”
The church doesn’t offer lightsabers and fancy titles, but it does offer love, family, and forgiveness like no other. When the church abandons those it had accepted, loved, and told they were family, it burns more than being impaled by a lightsaber. Jedi have extremely strict restrictions on how to live and conduct their actions and aren’t exactly big on grace. Christians, on the other hand, should be the most loving, patient, forgiving people in existence. Jesus commands us to love ourselves, our neighbors, our enemies, and one another. Our love is called to have the same depth with which Jesus loved. If we have that love in us and manifesting in our actions, it should be dramatically noticeable in comparison to the way most of the world operates. Look at how Paul describes love, and subsequently, what should be the way we live and treat others
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” - 1 Corinthians 13:1-7.
Paul makes it clear of not only what love truly is, but that if we don’t have it in us and expressing outwardly through us, then nothing we say or do actually matters. That’s why it’s such a betrayal when the people we think are our brothers and sisters are so hurtful towards us. They are literally denying us the one thing that should unite us all. For Ahsoka this feeling of betrayal came when she knew that the people she considered family wouldn’t trust her and believe her. This fear was only confirmed and cemented when she was finally captured. She wasn’t just captured because she was guilty or made mistakes; she was captured because she trusted her friend and her sister. She was equally betrayed by Barris in the setup and the takedown, as well as the unsupportive response of the Jedi council to come.
Most “Church hurt” comes from people being selfish in trying to get their own way, or often in condemning someone for their mistakes or the appearance of mistakes. I’ve been in full-time ministry since I was 18 years old, and have had so many good opportunities and blessings. I’ve seen God work so many times and have so many things I could praise Him for. I’ve also seen Christians truly be the things they are called to be, but honestly, through all the years of experience, the times Christians have hurt me have a tendency to stand out the most.
I fight against that. I choose not to dwell on them. I work hard to not allow that to be something I focus on. It’s just a truth of life: negative and painful things tend to live in our memory because of the trauma they induce. Honestly, when I sat down to start really writing this chapter, it was a really depressing experience. Just writing the intro and doing some outlines made me think on some stuff that is still incredibly hurtful for me, and I just had to stop writing. Here are just some of the things I’ve had to struggle through as a minister:
Parents who attacked me over misinformation with their students, and the pastor who just abandoned me, allowing a parent to berate me and make me feel unwelcome in my own church.
A camper that accused me of child abuse, and then later admitted he made it up because he didn’t like camp and wanted to stay home, and the camp that literally took all my belongings and threw them on the street corner before even speaking to me about the situation.
Times my spiritual leaders treated me like I didn’t deserve basic human accommodations or rights.
Times my spiritual leaders were hurtful to my family members.
Times my co-ministers were so hurtful that I would rather give up being a pastor than to have to deal with them.
Times my co ministers so blatantly ignored how to biblically deal with conflict resolution that I didn’t think I could trust them.
Times people I expected my friends to stand by me in toughest times, and rather just stood there and watched me fall and suffer, even after I had reached out to them for help.
These have all been real things in my life, and what’s possibly even more hurtful is that I know I’ve probably been a source of pain like this for other people in my life as well. It’s so hard, and we are so far from who we should be some days.
Whether it’s that we see someone who is struggling or someone who has completely walked away, we have a responsibility to care for them and bring them home. Our job is not to condemn them for making mistakes or losing their way When Ahsoka initially outran Anakin and the Clone Troopers, Anakin returned to the Jedi council. He pleaded to them to allow him to be the one to bring his friend home. Bringing the lost home is literally the repetitive mandate of Christianity. Yoda and Obi sided with Anakin, and allowed him the opportunity.
“Go swiftly then, Skywalker, and bring back this lost child before it is too late.”
Anakin wasn’t seeking Ahsoka to condemn her or punish her, but because he didn’t want his padawan lost and being hunted. That is how Jesus sees us when we struggle and stumble. When we are led astray or simply making stupid choices, He wants us to bring us home to safety. Look at how Jesus describes this.
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. - Luke 15: 3-7.
Jesus looks at someone who is lost as worth leaving everything else to pursue. So many Christians look at someone who is lost as “good riddance,” or that “their relationship with God was never real.” They look at them as unworthy for struggling, making mistakes, or just being lost, and that’s not what Jesus modeled or commanded. Paul, who had obviously made plenty of poor life choices, understood this. He knew what it was like to be the 1 lost sheep causing a world of trouble. He knew what it was like to literally have Jesus come after him and bring him home. When Paul addresses the Galatian church on the topic, it’s coming from a place of experience. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” - Galatians 6:1-5. There are some really key words here to focus on: sin, restore, burden, and load.
The Greek word here for sin is “paraptōmati,” and that literally means any mistake, from a false step to an intentional wrong action.
The Greek word here for restore is "katartizo." It’s the word that would be used for setting a broken bone.
The Greek word for burden is “baros,” which means the emotional, physical, spiritual, or mental pressures placed on someone.
The Geek word for load is “phortion,” a task or service to be performed by an individual.
Paul shows us that when someone has made a mistake, whether small or huge, that they are to be restored and not condemned or shamed. That restoration, like setting a broken bone, might not be pleasant, but it is to be done GENTLY! You then need to help carry the stuff they can’t so that they are able to carry what only they can. You carry the stuff that’s placed on them because of their situation and actions so that they can actually walk and move forward. Anakin’s goal the entire time was to restore Ahsoka. When we see someone struggling, our response should be to restore them. So, when other Christians see someone struggling and do the opposite of this, there is obvious hurt, confusion, and pain. Not only should we be agents of their restoration, but we should be their first and last lines of encouragement and defense. We need to be willing to look at people in the worst of circumstances and still believe in them. It’s easy when you spend so much time teaching people about a sin nature and the fallen state of mankind to forget that we still need to see the best in people and give them the benefit of the doubt even when it doesn’t seem likely. To look at someone who is seemingly doing evil and still believe that they are good and help them to see that in themselves is part of the restoration process.
Once Ahsoka was captured and in custody, Obi-Wan still cried out for her to be defended, to stand with her in solidarity despite the seemingly obvious evidence of her guilt. He said,
“We need to stand together with Ahsoka.”
Jedi were spiritual guides. They were peaceful warriors in tune with the living power of the force, yet they couldn’t look past the blaringly obvious set up that was right in front of them. We can’t be quick to abandon or condemn our people, regardless of how bad the situation looks. They were a sinner in need of grace before they met Jesus, and the same is true after they met Jesus. His response doesn’t change and ours shouldn’t either. We need to be beside our struggling family in all they go through.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” - Colossians 3:12-14
I can understand why the Jedi Order, being so involved in government and politics, would cast aside someone so easily, but if you read the scripture above, there is no way we can treat someone harshly or cast them aside and still actually be following what Christ called us to. We don’t need to just look at how we can stand with the struggling or forgive the fallen, but we should constantly be proactively making each other stronger.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” - Hebrews 10:24-25
None of this is what happened to Ahsoka though. She was brought before the people she had served alongside of for years, and was cast aside with no grace at all.
Yoda: Padawan Tano, serious charges have been levied against you. How plead you? Ahsoka: Not guilty master! I would never take the lives of innocents. The values of the Jedi are sacred to me.... I was set up and deceived, as you are being deceived now... I am not deceiving you. Anakin: You’ve already made your decision, haven’t you? This meeting is just a formality! Yoda: Reached a decision we have, though not in total agreement are we. Windu: It is the council’s opinion that Padawan Ahsoka Tano has committed sedition against the republic, and thus, she will be expelled from the Jedi Order. Ki-Adi-Mundi: Your Padawan status will be stripped from you, and you shall forfeit all rank and privileges within the Grand Army of the Republic. You will be turned over to the Republic courts to await your trial, and whatever punishment they will set for you. Henceforth, you are barred from the Jedi Order.”
That was her own people that just cast her aside. That was her order, and her family. Without even a full trial, her family was willing to cast her off. So many people have been hurt by the church with their knee jerk reaction to cast off someone who has fallen, completely ignoring the fact that none of us are righteous in our own strength. Some of us can still limp away from these situations with faith in God, even if we can’t trust His people, but that is a bitter place to be.
“Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” - Psalm 27:10.
That’s the difficult part. It’s hard to have any faith in people or even ourselves when our own families cast us aside. Ahsoka said it herself–
“I thought I was part of that order, but everyone except Anakin, has abandoned me. I’m not holding out much hope the senate will treat me any better.”
The entire time, Ahoska had an accuser. Yes, Barriss set her up, but Tarkin took the heavy load of becoming her accuser. The entire time, he and all the forces he represented accused her relentlessly. He glibly threw accusation after accusation at her, while no one but Padme stood to defend her in her trial. Padme’s political prowess was completely overwhelmed in the weight of the force of Tarkin’s accusation. Ahsoka was innocent, but that never stopped Tarkin’s accusations.
The crazy thing is, WE actually are guilty. We are all sinners. We are all guilty of the wages of sin that brought Christ’s death and our separation of God. We are born guilty, but that didn’t stop Jesus from loving and forgiving us. That’s why it’s so hurtful when our brothers and sisters, who are equally guilty as we are, not only fail to defend us, but join in with our accuser. Scripture tells us in Revelation 12, when all is said and done, that Satan has been our accuser day and night before God. We literally have someone trying to take us down every waking moment.
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” - Revelation 12:10
Peter even goes on to describe him as a lion, hunting us down.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” - 1 Peter 5:8.
We have enough problems on our own. We literally have an accuser waging war on who we are day in and day out. We don’t need our family to become the accuser’s accomplices. Anytime we join in on tearing another brother or sister down, we literally cross the aisle from standing on the side of defense with God to standing on the side of our enemy with the accuser. Our brothers and sisters have enough to worry about without yet another family member turning on them.
Barriss is finally captured thanks to Anakin’s diligence, and brought before the senate trial. Here is her confession:
“I’ve come to realize what many of the people in the Republic have come to realize, that the Jedi are the ones responsible for this war, that we’ve so lost our way that we have become villains in this conflict, that we are the ones that should be put on trial, all of us! And my attack on the temple was an attack on what the Jedi have become, an army fighting for the dark side, fallen from the light that we once held so dear. This Republic is failing! It’s only a matter of time.”
Barriss had been so wounded by the people that she called family that she turned against them, and in the same way caused that bitterness to spread and fall on Ahsoka as well. That is so real in our lives, too. Church hurt spreads like a virus. We either become so bitter that we walk away, or we stay and contaminate everything we touch. Ahsoka was absolutely wronged, and while she didn’t violently lash out, that hurt changed who she was.
Plo Kloon: You have our most humble apologies, little ‘Soka. The council was wrong to accuse you. Saesee Tiin: You have shown such great strength and resilience in your struggle to prove your innocence. Ki-Adi-Mundi: This is the true sign of a Jedi knight. Windu: This was actually your great trial. Now we see that. We understand that the force works in mysterious ways, and because of this trial, you have become a greater Jedi than you would have otherwise. Yoda: Back into the order you may come. Anakin: They’re asking you back Ahsoka. I’m asking you back. Ahsoka: I’m sorry, master, but I’m not coming back. Anakin: Why are you doing this? Ahsoka: The council didn’t trust me, so how can I trust myself? Anakin: What About me? I believed in you. I stood by you. Ahsoka: I know you believe in me, Anakin, and I’m grateful for that. But this isn’t about you. I can’t stay here any longer, not now. Anakin: The Jedi Order is your life. You can’t just throw it away like this. Ahsoka, you are making a mistake. Ahsoka: Maybe, but I have to sort this out on my own, without the council, without you. Anakin: I understand, more than you realize. I understand wanting to walk away from the order. Ahsoka: I know.
Ahsoka knew Anakin stood by her and loved her, but the rest of her family abandoning her was more than she could take. For every person that wounds another brother or sister in their church family, there’s probably a dozen that love and support, but that doesn’t make it easier to stick around. Literally I had a family leave my church over something that happened 20 years ago before our church even existed. They carried that pain and association with them. I also know that our church has failed people. I know there are people I love dearly that won’t be part of my church because others have hurt them, and I hate that. It’s haunting. I struggle as a friend, a brother, and a pastor with this.
Yoda struggled with it, too. When he was on his huge spiritual journey at the end of season 6, he was faced with his greatest fears and failures, and it was none other than the loss of Ahsoka.
Ahsoka: Master Yoda, please, help me. I’m, I’m dying. Yoda: What has happened here, Padawan? Who has done this? Ahsoka: The Sith. Yoda: How? Ahsoka: You told me I would finish my training and become a Jedi, but the council expelled me. Why would you do that? Will I still become one with the force when I die? Master, will I be a Jedi? Yoda: Padawan? Padawan? Ahsoka, no. No. No. Not strong enough I was. No. Failed I have—failed them all.”
Yoda saw thousands of people, clones, and friends die in the course of his leadership, yet letting Ahsoka down is one of the things that haunted him most.
What do we do with all this? For Ahsoka, we've seen further steps of her journey. We see that although she takes steps to help and fight alongside the Jedi again, she never becomes one in the times of Clone Wars and Rebels. She goes on to be a powerful leader in the rebellion, and helps younger Jedi’s find their way. Her voice is even one of those encouraging Rey to rise in the Rise of Skywalker. While she lived on, her relationship with her Jedi family was never fully restored. What about for us?
I’ve already covered the fact that as Christians we are commanded to forgive, that this is who we should be. So, I would beg of you, if someone has hurt you, forgive them. Don’t wait for them to repent, or even be sorry. Forgive them. Let go of the burden of their failures.
I love the fact that Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” from the cross. Jesus straight up prayed to God for the murderous people of this world to be forgiven because they didn’t understand the weight of all they were doing. Most of the people that have hurt us don’t understand the depths of the pain they inflict either. Jesus wants us to forgive them and be reconciled. It’s hard for sinful flawed humans to always represent a holy eternal God well, but we shouldn’t limit Him or our relationship with Him to the failures of people. Realistically the only place we will ever find true comfort in our hurt is from God, so if we aren’t going to Him as the source of healing in our hurts, we won’t find it. But we are also told not only to find our comfort in Him, but to share that comfort with those who need it.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” - 2 Corinthians 1: 3-5.
The other thing I would beg is this. If you are a Christian, a pastor, a church leader, youth leader, door holder, whatever, and you know you have hurt someone, fix it! Humble yourself. No matter how long it’s been, go to them. Jesus shows us this clearly in Matthew 5:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” - Matthew 5:23-24.
Don’t live with the regret of knowing you are the reason someone can’t be near God or His people. Even if they don’t accept, you have the responsibility to make it right. As Yoda stated, “Luminos beings are we,” but if we fail to own our mistakes and bring healing and humility to the areas we fail, all we bring is darkness to the family of God and the people trying to find Him.