Our Life Together

January 27, 2022

Jim Hopkins

January 28, 2022

Helmet Policies, Sabbath Observance and 2022

We are in a battle on many fronts. That much is clear as we begin 2022.

Medically, we are in a battle to subdue COVID-19. Politically, we are in a battle to preserve democracy. Religiously, we are in a battle to keep Christ in Christianity. Thus, television series like “The Mandalorian” offer meaningful reflection on the world we live in, raising questions such as how we best wage the battles of our time.

One of those questions is, “Are we better off keeping our helmets on or taking them off?” If, like me, you watch the series, then you know that the title character, following the Way of the Mandalores, neither takes off his helmet nor allows it to be removed by others. There are reasons practical (the helmet provides protection) and spiritual (“This is the Way”) for this practice.

However, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that practitioners of the Way are far from united in this practice. Some, like the more fanatical Children of the Watch, for-bid the removal of one’s helmet with few exceptions. Others, such as the storied anti-Imperial warrior Bo-Katan, take off their helmet whenever they please.

As the plot progresses, we see Din Djarin, the Mandalorian, adhering to the no removal rule with great fervor but also beginning to recognize that there are times when his own health, as well as the well-being of others, require him to remove his mask. Of particular importance is the moment when he is bidding Grogu, the little being he has been caring for, farewell. His mask is off so that the little one, along with viewers, will see the depth of his compassion.

The helmet, on versus off tension, in “The Mandalorian” is a reminder that while creeds, codes, promises and oaths can serve us well in the waging of battles, there are times they must be surrendered in service to a higher call, a greater good.

Knowing when, where and why to make such a sacrifice is a most difficult decision. There are times we let go of our creeds too easily. There are times when we hold on to them too long.
Sabbath observance was a big deal for Jesus and his earliest disciples. It was such a big deal that it was one of those life-defining codes. Quite naturally, exactly how the Sabbath was to be honored was a matter of debate and controversy.

In the lively, diverse religious world of the time of Jesus, there were those that said human beings must bow before a very high standard of sabbath observance. There were others who said sabbath observance must be shaped by the human condition.

Jesus identified with the latter perspective. He taught, “The Sabbath was created for humans; humans weren’t created for the Sabbath.”

For Jesus, the question to be asked of every word spoken, attitude expressed, action taken and belief held is, “How does this serve and benefit humanity?”

In Mandalorian terms, do we keep our helmets on or do we more effectively accomplish our goals by taking them off?

In times of battle, our helmets can define us and protect us. Yet, they can also keep us from connecting with friends, allies, even foes, in ways that we need to connect.

Then, as now – and in both fictional shows and our daily lives – the struggle is the same.

Debates about sabbath observance aside, Jesus’ approach to a long-standing tradition in the world in which we are fighting hard battles is instructive.

The question, “how does this serve humanity?” must be ever before us.

Published in GoodFaithMedia 1-11-22 by Jim Hopkins