I did not leave evangelical Christianity with an incredible conviction. Instead, I had a lot of grief and a journey of many years to recover what I lost.
My relationship with my faith was very serious during high school and college. I spent almost every evening and weekend in church activities. I enjoyed the shared sense of purpose that came from being in a group of people committed to serving God and each other, who I could depend on and who depended on me. We went on mission trips, started Bible studies and prayer groups, fasted together, and constantly talked about how to make Christ known through our words and actions.
Once I moved to Japan and had a physical distance from the church, I began to question some of the basic assumptions I had made and been taught about life. I remember feeling at war with myself as I transcended my previous worldview — not because I chose to, but because I couldn’t fit my experiences into the context of my religion. I met many people who were hurt by the church and saw too many examples of how what was taught did not match what was practiced.
I’m not alone. More and more people choose to they leave behind their religious background, but not necessarily their spirituality. Oddly enough, the closest reflection of my journey is in “Star Wars,” specifically through the character Ahsoka Tano.
Ahsoka – who first appeared in Dave Filoni’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars – is speculated to guest star in Season 3 of “The Mandalorian,” and stars in the Disney+ spinoff “Ahsoka.” However, it is more than that the first BIPOC woman to lead a “Star Wars” series, starring Rosario Dawson. He also represents me and others who have a complicated faith.
In season 5 of the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, Ahsoka is accused of bombing the Jedi Temple. Despite Anakin Skywalker’s steadfast belief that his Padawan is innocent, the Jedi Council is determined to find her, excommunicate her from the Jedi Order, and ultimately leave her fate to an outside court martial.
When she is proven innocent, the Jedi invite her back, with the caveat that “this was actually [her] great test’ to make her a ‘greater Jedi’. But seeing the hypocrisy of the Jedi Order, realizing how she has become complicit in a war that causes more harm than good, and knowing that she must find her own way, she rejects their invitation and turns away from her religion. her family and lifestyle.
“I’m not a Jedi,” Ahsoka Tano said during her duel with Darth Vader in “Star Wars Rebels.” She’s neither a Sith nor a Jedi, but Ahsoka’s connection to the force is undeniable.
When my world overtook my worldview, I, like Ahsoka, had to figure out who I was outside of my religion. So I let myself search for answers to life’s biggest questions. I didn’t denounce Christ – just like Ahsoka didn’t reject the power – but it meant I had to question the institution and belief system to decide my perspectives.
Seeing Ahsoka walk away from the Jedi Temple brought tears to her eyes. I felt like I could see myself on the screen. Her journey helped me process my departure from my religious traditions. I had the opportunity to validate my choice to keep certain parts of my faith.
I watched this scene over and over on my laptop as I huddled next to a heater on my tatami floor in rural Japan. Coming from sunny Southern California, the cold was a shock. And my new quiet life without the constant company of my church community overwhelmed me. And on that tatami floor, I realized that I couldn’t participate in church like I did in college.
Based on what I was taught, I had said and done things against the very values that Christians are meant to stand for. I no longer wanted to be a part of organizations that perpetuated judgment, homophobia, hypocrisy and the discouragement of critical thinking.
The limitations of the Jedi Order are the limitations of many religious organizations, but I can only speak for mine. A religion that prizes and prioritizes tradition over the context, individuality, and complexity of free will ultimately loses its relevance.
The “light side” of the force, claimed to be the Jedi Order, was not a clear force for good. Even in the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke is urged by his Jedi Master to let go of his attachments when his friends are in danger of completing his Jedi training. He rejects it, however, and leaves to save Han and Leia.
In “The Mandalorian,” Din Djarin removes his mask twice in front of another person—despite rules preaching against the act—for the sake of the child he loves.
Between the events of “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels,” Ahsoka builds a new lightsaber that is neither blue nor green nor red. her new lightsaber is white. Ahsoka rejected the dichotomy of light side and dark side, but continued her commitment to the fight for justice as a rebel against the empire.
Those Star Wars moments gave me the courage to walk away from the parts of religion that don’t serve me while still letting me have the parts that do.
I don’t know what’s in store for Ahsoka’s journey of faith as her story continues on Disney+. And I don’t know what’s in store for me.
But I am committed to seeing others — not with right and wrong dichotomies — but with the complexity they deserve. Fortunately, I found a way to do this through my faith in Christ and not without it.
This Made Me is a HuffPost series about the pop culture that unlocked something inside us, helped us fit in, taught us something, or became an entry point into something bigger.