Rogue One’s Chirrut and Baze are not a couple

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Father Ryan O’Neill is the vocations director for the Archdiocese of Denver.

I think sexuality is very important, but when the world I live in constantly tells me that all of my intimate relationships should be erotic in nature, something rebels inside of me. This happened recently upon reading speculation on the internet that the relationship between Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus in the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, is of a homosexual nature.

As I watched Rogue One, I was deeply moved by the characters and relationship of Chirrut and Baze. However, I was disgusted when I noticed how many articles were implying, or reading into these characters and their relationship, a homosexual romance. I do not think this is the right or true interpretation of Chirrut and Baze’s relationship, but rather a projection of our social mores into these characters, which speaks to a huge hole in our social life.

In the movie there is no evidence of any physical affection between Chirrut and Baze. We never hear them calling each other pet-names or nick-names like most lovers would do. And they never talk about a common life together beyond their common mission as Guardians of the Whills.

I propose that Chirrut and Baze are friends—may I go so far as to say they are intimate friends—but that their friendship is not based on physical attraction, but rather on a common unchanging purpose.

In fact, I think Chirrut and Baze are good role models for what ails our society. To begin with, it is fruitless to try to understand these characters without a religious lens. They are both Guardians of the Whills in the Star Wars universe, which means they are attached to the religion of the Force. Chirrut is a monk, and as far as we can tell Baze is a disillusioned monk. I don’t have to try very hard to convince anyone who has seen this movie of Chirrut’s faith in the Force. Baze even makes fun of Chirrut for praying while they are locked in jail cell. And not to mention Chirrut is blind, an obvious symbol most world religions use to describe the life of someone who believes in a higher power.

It seems more likely to me that Chirrut and Baze are friends because of their common love for the Force and the temple of Jedha. They both believe in something greater than themselves and they were both drawn to become warrior monks in service of the temple in Jedha and to promote the Light side of the Force throughout the galaxy. They grew closer as they found that they both had a common unchanging purpose in love and service of the temple in Jedha.

I do not think many people have an experience of this kind of friendship, so the tendency is to force spiritual and intimate relationships into a sexual context. There is something deeply flawed in our society if we think that all moments of intimacy end with an erotic act. It’s a symptom of a culture that is oversaturated with an unhealthy view of sexuality, and is ignorant of different kinds of intimacy.

Loneliness is increasing in the world, and we are told that more sex is the answer. I disagree. We are lonely because we have acquaintances and sexual partners, but very few intimate friends.

Our society is starving for true intimacy, and when I say intimacy, I do not mean sex. True intimacy is sharing my deepest thoughts, feelings, and desires with another person. What we all really want is true intimacy with others—a deep sharing of our hearts. One way to achieve this desire is to begin establishing relationships based on a common purpose.

The more we tend to make every intimate relationship a sexual relationship the more self-absorbed and less free we will become. I propose we consider the model of Chirrut and Baze, who love each other as friends, founded on a common purpose of service to the Light side. This frees them to be intimate with each other in a manner that is only possible if there is a higher power or greater cause that both men worship and seek to serve. If their relationship becomes self-absorbed and all about “us”, then it will quickly devolve into using the other person for his own emotional or physical pleasure.

I would also suggest that in the real world there are many examples of healthy friendships between persons of the same sex that are not homosexual in nature. For example, there are many Catholic priests who are living in this kind of intimacy with their brother priests. And I would even dare to say that there are people with same sex attraction who have taken Jesus’ call to chastity seriously and are living in a healthy non-erotic intimacy with their friends. Not only is it possible, but it’s urgently necessary.

Photo credit: Disney

COMING UP: Star Wars and the eternal struggle between light and darkness

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Unless you’ve been living in a galaxy far, far away, it’s nigh impossible to have not caught onto the newly reawakened Star Wars craze, and even then, it’s likely to have reached your corner of the universe. It’s been nearly 40 years since the first entry in the epic space drama was released, and as J.J. Abrams kicks off this new “sequel trilogy” with The Force Awakens, the Han Solo cosplayers and Ewok sympathizers aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.

I’ll admit it: I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. I became hooked on the series as a kid and haven’t looked back since, so in case you’re wondering, yes: I braved the bitter cold and ravenous crowds and went to see The Force Awakens opening night. As a film, I thought it was brilliant: dazzling effects, great throwbacks to the original films and one of the most complex villains of any Star Wars film. While watching it though, another, deeper thought dawned on me: namely, the close link between the epic tale of Star Wars and that of our salvation through Christ.

Without spoiling too much, The Force Awakens centers around a search. With the evil First Order rising to power in the galaxy, led by the Sith lord Kylo Ren, protagonists new and old are desperate to find Luke Skywalker, the last remaining member of the Jedi order. They feel that Skywalker is their last hope in overcoming the evil spreading through the galaxy and thus restoring the good; in other words, Skywalker is viewed as a savior of sorts.

We also mustn’t forget the Force, the invisible energy which flows through and binds all living things. As Han Solo points out in the film, the Force is thought by many to be nothing more than a fairy tale, but he assures the audience, “It’s real. All of it.” You see, only certain people are able to use the Force, and a sense of morality comes into play. A disposition to do good works with the Force makes one a Jedi; this is referred to as the “light side” of the Force. To use to the Force for evil, however, sends one down a blackened path to the “dark side” of the Force.

This where the conflict lies in Star Wars, and as a follower of Christ, it sounds awfully familiar. Just as the characters in Star Wars are caught in the midst of a battle between the light and dark sides of the Force, Christians often find themselves entrenched in a similar struggle in the day-to-day task of being an authentic disciple of Christ. Those with the Force must choose between the light or dark side, and Christians must make a choice between love and sin.

The code of the Jedi order bears some very distinct similarities to the teachings of Christ; Jedi are rigorously trained to be patient in their approach to situations, to never act out of anger or spite, and of course, to use their powers for the benefit of others. The code of the Sith, however, is the absence of all of these things. The Sith act brashly, harbor grudges toward their enemies and use their powers for personal gain. In the Christian’s world, the Sith stand for all that the evil one stands for.

From a human standpoint, becoming a Jedi is a difficult task. We are not naturally patient, but we are naturally selfish. Just as Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Mt. 7:14), the path to being a Jedi is a narrow one. As we saw happen with Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy, it is much easier to succumb to the temptations of the dark side. To fall into sin is a much simpler undertaking; it feels good, it feels natural.

But still, we fight. We are called to fight those urges that sin brings about. Temptation, lust, jealousy…these things lead to the dark side. These lead to a path of temporary fulfillment, lack of self-control, and ultimately, a very deep longing for something greater. Christ is that something greater. To choose the light side means to choose life, and to choose life means to choose Christ, who is love. To be a Christian is to be a Jedi.

And so, my fellow Jedi, turn from the ways of the dark side, go forth into battle with your trusty lightsaber, and please, try not to cut off your hand.