May the Universe Be With You
by Linda Kracht
Star Wars fever is heating up as fans await the release of the much anticipated (promoted) Star Wars; The Force Awakens this December. Every Star Wars fan expects this movie to deliver on the promise to shock and awe even more than its predecessor films. A man dying of a rare form of cancer hoped to live long enough to see the film — and he did. Ethan Sacks writing for the NYDaily News [11-15-2015] stated “Now that’s what you call a Hollywood ending. A terminally ill Texas man (Daniel Fleetwood) was granted his dying wish to see Star Wars: the Force Awakens before “succumbing to cancer after LucasFilm employees brought a copy of the most highly anticipated movie in the galaxy to Fleetwood’s home.” He died several days later. Many fans would bid him farewell with the famous Star Wars line: may the force be with you.
Just a week ago, the city of Paris felt a force that nobody would wish on any peoples except for the jihadists carrying it out. Amidst its rubble and hurt, one news agency interviewed a survivor of the Bataclan shooting rampage. The investigative reporter asked the survivor how she managed to escape death. Her response stunned me because of its immediacy, its simplicity and its oddity. She responded: “the Universe was with me.” Thinking I was hearing things, I asked others to confirm what she had said and they did. She had just given credit to the belief that the Universe was with her. She didn’t give credit to God Himself but to his creation. She didn’t even give credit to friends, or family. She gave credit to the force [of the Universe]!
Her credit seems to be a blend of spiritual and philosophical nonsense. Maybe we should give her a break and overlook the statement considering her circumstances. However, precisely because of the special circumstances, I expected to hear what she really thinks. Moments of crisis readily reveal our inner beliefs ; these are very personal, very deep-seated and come forth naturally and without much effort. So, imagine the surprise of hearing her expound naturally and without effort about the force of the universe. As a believer, I hoped to hear her give credit to God even though that might suggest to others that God failed to protect the ones who died that day. Instead, she gave thanks to the Universe. Very Star Wars like words that evidenced false beliefs and worship. Romans 8:31 teaches us: “if God is for us, who can be against us?” The Bataclan victim seems to hint that if the Universe is for her, what/who can be against her?
The statement struck me in part because of the warnings issued by the prophet Isaiah to Israel (and to us because God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; His Word matters even today). Isaiah warned Israel of the woe that would come their way principally because of their false worship, iniquity, arrogance and haughtiness. False worship was the reason that led to their other errors including iniquity, arrogance and haughtiness. They had arrived at the time in which they thought they could live well enough on their own. They did not believe that they needed God even though they pretended to. Why was false worship such a temptation for the Israelites? Because of their assimilation in and with neighboring states and kingdoms that did not believe in God. That helps to explain our false worship as well. Perhaps the modern world doesn’t worship false gods such as golden calves or other statues but it appears the case that some people worship things God made (His Universe) rather than God Himself. Consequently, like Israel, we also have problems with iniquity, arrogance, and haughtiness.
What do the latter terms imply? Iniquity refers to the failure to live/lead moral lives. In turn this causes us to forget about the needs of others especially the sick, the weak, the poor, and the widows. Haughtiness is giving the appearance of being morally upright and superior while one’s personal and interior disposition is the opposite. Arrogance is having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.
False worship will always take us further away from doing as God instructs us and that includes the taking care of the poor, reliance on God, avoiding false worship and avoiding divination (crediting starts or the universe with our own good luck). This explains why the victim’s statement struck me so profoundly. Her credit was to things made by God and not God Himself. Did you know that orthodox means to give right praise to God alone? So, like this young woman, we often fail to give right praise to God alone which in turn leads us to the pathways of haughtiness, arrogance, and immoral behavior.