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“This is the way”: Looking into the spiritual mirror of “The Mandalorian”

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Ming-Na Wen, from left, Pedro Pascal, Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Kathleen Kennedy, and Werner Herzog attend the LA Premiere of "The Mandalorian" at the El Capitan Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Ming-Na Wen, from left, Pedro Pascal, Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Kathleen Kennedy, and Werner Herzog attend the LA Premiere of "The Mandalorian" at the El Capitan Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/Invision/AP)

The Mandalorian quickly became one of the most popular offerings on Disney+ when the streaming service debuted last year. 

The chance to explore an unfamiliar part of a beloved universe, coupled with the marketability (and meme-ability) of the baby Yoda character known as The Child, propelled it to success. And that combination has continued to prove effective in its second season. 

The show centers on the journey of Din Djarin, who was rescued and raised by the Mandalorians as a child, and baby Yoda as they try to return the latter to his people. 

One aspect of that journey that’s come into greater focus in recent episodes, however, is the “Way of the Mandalore.” The phrase “This is the way” was a common refrain in season one and became a popular cultural cliché as well, but the show has only recently begun to really explore the origins of the phrase. 

A recent episode introduced characters who have a very different understanding of “the way” than Djarin. His struggles reconciling the creeds with which he was raised and those of the other sects of Mandalorians promise to play a pivotal role across the rest of the season. 

And, as Daniel Burke writes, “It’s not hard to see some parallels with our own world . . . In some ways, the clash of religious views in ‘The Mandalorian’ echoes the story of American religion over the past few decades.”

In reality, that’s been a struggle Christians have faced for two thousand years. 

Which way is the right way?

Whether it was Jews versus Gentiles, Eastern Church versus Western Church, Catholic versus Protestant, or any number of interdenominational and intradenominational quarrels that have marred the church in recent decades, Christians have long bickered and fought over the proper way to practice our faith. 

Sometimes those debates were over legitimate and fundamental concerns. More often, though, they’ve been about spiritual preference rather than essentials of the faith. 

Being able to tell the difference will be vital if, as many expect, our culture continues down an increasingly antagonistic path with regards to any faith that does not conform to mainstream ideals.

Historically, Christians have often come out of such times stronger because their struggles forced them to prioritize unity over uniformity and focus more on the fundamentals of the faith than the pettier differences that often divide us in times of peace. 

Time will tell if that proves true for the church in America as well, but I am hopeful.

Jesus prayed for his church “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21).

This is the way.