This is a paper I had to write for my class. It’s a bit more interesting than some of my other posts lately.
It was 1977. I was eight years old and my dad was taking my younger brother and I to the movies. Just going to the movies at all was a rare treat, but this was a special day. I had been waiting for what seemed like forever to a young boy, for this day to arrive. I had heard about the hype and commotion over this film, and there was something in me that just longed for adventure. Maybe it’s something God placed within me – maybe it’s just my sinful self wanting for something more – but either way, that day would not be a disappointment. I remember leaving the theater that day with such excitement – feeling like something had changed – like nothing would ever be the same. What I felt was a sense of something larger, like the world wasn’t just about me anymore. There was more to it. My little corner of the universe was just that. . . little. What I was feeling – what I had experienced was just a microcosm of what the world was celebrating. Star Wars mania hit with resounding blows. Every friend I had was collecting Star Wars cards and action figures and quoting lines from the films to each other – and it wasn’t just the little kids like me either, it was universal. It was huge. It was larger than life. It was Star Wars! Today the Star Wars kingdom has exploded into so much more. There are on-line communities who explore the “expanded universe” (including books, video games, etc. which were not a part of the films) together and even argue over the finer details of the films. There are an ever-increasing number of action figures and Star Wars merchandise on the shelves at stores and even television shows that parody the films.
As I look back on those days, I ask myself, “What was it about Star Wars that resonated in such deep ways with people all over the world?” I believe that the answer to that question can be found in how the themes of the films line up with the longings of the human heart which God placed within each of us. Although the writer, George Lucas was simply trying to tell a good story, these films actually point to God. (Maybe that speaks of the longings of Lucas’ heart too.) Speaking of his intentions with Star Wars in an interview, Lucas said, “I wanted it to be a traditional moral study, to have some sort of palpable precepts in it that children could understand.” He continued, “There is always a lesson to be learned. . .Traditionally, we get them from church, family, art and in the modern world, we get them from the media – – from movies.” Later on in his career, Lucas said, “The Force evolved out of various developments of character and plot. I wanted a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God and there is good and evil. . . . . I believe in God and I believe in right and wrong. I also believe that there are basic tenets which through history have developed into certainties, such as ‘thou shalt not kill.’ I don’t want to hurt other people. ‘Do unto others…’ is the philosophy that permeates my work.”
It becomes evident that Lucas wasn’t specifically writing about the God of the Bible, but I intend to point out many of the places where his Methodist upbringing reveals itself. Although there are many illustrations from each of the six films, I will limit myself to Episode IV, “A New Hope” which was the first film to be made.
In the beginning of Episode IV, we meet Luke Skywalker. He is a young man who feels trapped by his circumstances. He senses that there is more to life than the crops and equipment repairs that he has learned under his uncle Owen. Luke, like every Christian, has a calling on his life. He’s not sure what it is, but feels an unrest and restlessness, until he finds rest in seeking the ways of the Jedi. This longing, this calling is described by C.S. Lewis, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. [So] I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” This longing is also described by Blaise Pascal as a “God-shaped vacuum” or in Ecclesiastes 3:11, God says that He has “set eternity in their hearts.” God is calling each of us into relationship with Himself even in the way He created us. Like us, Luke would not find rest until he found it in his calling.
It’s also interesting to note that Luke was tired of the normal life he had been leading. John Eldridge says, “In the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” I believe that this is true – little boys play and imagine their future as warrior heroes, firemen, and athletes who’s lives are filled with one adventure after another. How many little boys dream of being office desk jockeys? If this is true, then Luke was given an opportunity to chase those desires in ways that every man longs for. Eldridge continues, “If we believe that man is made in the image of God, then we would do well to remember that ‘the Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name'(Ex. 15:3).”
In one scene, Luke, with light saber in hand, is concentrating on a silver sphere which hovers in the air. Without warning, the sphere lunges forward and emits a small electric bolt hitting Luke in the hip. Han Solo laughs saying that no light saber can compare to a good blaster. Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Jedi and new friend of Luke’s just smiles on as Han rants about his doubts concerning the “Force.” Obi-Wan places a helmet on Luke’s head with the blast shield down and encourages him to try again. Luke complains that he can’t see anything, but Obi-Wan continues to encourage him saying, “This time let go of your conscience self and act on instinct.” He continues, “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” Luke gets hit again, but then settles in and concentrates. He moves quickly without hesitation, and blocks the sphere three times in a row. “You see,” said Obi-Wan, “You can do it.”
Luke replies, “You know I did feel something. I could almost see the remote!”
“That’s good.” Obi-Wan smiles, “You have taken your first step into a larger world.”
A larger world. Isn’t that exactly what Luke had been looking for? Are we any different? It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, young people want to be somewhere else – somewhere unknown – someplace new – someplace different. We all long for more – for adventure. I can’t help but notice that what it took for him to take his first step into this new world was a little faith. Faith that he could hit the sphere without his eyes. Just as Obi-Wan led Luke into this kind of life-changing faith, Jesus came to lead us there too. What is faith? Well, according to Star Wars, it’s trust in yourself, your “instinct.” As Christians we can’t ascribe to that, but at least they got the trust part right. For us, it’s trust in Jesus. Luke had to trust Obi-Wan’s leadership and he had to “let go of his conscience self.”
This part we can agree with. Letting go of ourselves, we must trust Jesus. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Another place that we see clear spiritual implications in Star Wars is with the systems of the Jedi Council. According to Genesis, man was created in the image of God, and as such, we are not loners – we need each other. In the same way, God Himself is a community – Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The structures of the Jedi reflect this. According to Timothy Paul Jones, “Every Jedi needs guidance and no Jedi stands alone. Every youngling has a teacher, every Padawan has a guide. Not only do the Jedi draw wisdom from living mentors, but they also absorb the teachings of past masters.” This echoes the rabbinical educational systems of the Bible. Ancient Jews knew community in ways that we have lost over the years. A young man who sought to be educated would go to a Rabbi and begin to live under his “yoke” (teaching). In a very real sense, it was the rabbi’s job to train this young man in the way of the masters. Not unlike the Jedi, the rabbis themselves had been trained by learned men and continued to seek and “absorb the teachings of past masters“ by studying the Scriptures. I personally believe that this helps to explain the popularity Star Wars. We all long for this kind of community and the Jedi council seems to be a form of family that is healthy. Jones continues saying, “Every part of a Jedi’s existence is inherently communal, a matter of doing life together.” I wonder how the Christian community would be different if we truly sought this kind of existence. If we each were involved in small groups who were honest about their lives, encouraged one another, gave advise to one another, held each
other accountable to the Scriptural guidelines we claim to hold so high? What kind of group would it take for us to find a true community that we respected enough to actually seek their counsel? At one point in Episode 6, (I know. . . I am limiting my argument to Episode 4, but please allow me this indulgence.) Emperor Palpatine tells Luke that his weakness is his “faith in your friends.” I long to be accused of being that kind of friend. It’s no wonder we all relate to Luke so well – he’s the kind of guy we all wish to be and to have as a friend.
Another scene in “A New Hope” also stands out for me for its’ spiritual implications. Han Solo, Chewy, Luke, and Obi-Wan Kenobi are in the Millennium Falcon and chasing a small fighter when they come across a “small moon.” As they approach they realize, “That’s no moon,” but it’s a space station. We know it now as the “Death Star.” As they approach they get caught in its’ “tractor beam” (also called a grappling ray) and cannot fight against it. The only way to escape is for Obi-Wan to make his way to the main reactor (where the tractor beam drew its power) and shut down one of its’ seven links. The “Death Star” is without a doubt a clear representation of the power of evil. As Christians, it always amazes me at how Satan seeks us out to “steal, kill, and destroy us.” Much like the tractor beam, when we’ve come too close, he draws us in and seeks to turn us to the “dark side.” Without the aid of Jesus (a spiritual Master similar to Obi-Wan) we could never get out of Satan’s clenches. There are many other comparisons between Obi-Wan and Jesus, but I’ll stick with just two: (1) Luke Skywalker’s life is completely changed when he meets Obi-Wan and begins his Jedi training. In the same way, Jesus transforms us and trains us in the proper ways to live. (2) It’s also interesting to note that Obi-Wan dies in Episode IV and is actually stronger in death than even in life. Much like the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent after His death/resurrection, Obi-Wan appears as a spirit to Luke and speaks to him to give him strength and guidance during the rebel’s trench attack on the Death Star.
Darth Vader is still another clear representation of evil or Satan. Throughout the film, he recognizes the potential in Skywalker, and seeks to turn him to the “dark side.” Satan works in similar ways trying to position himself in such a way that we would respond to him favorably. Douglas LeBlanc says, “This is realistic filmmaking, for few of us merely stumble into doing evil. Often because of fear, pain or a sense of helplessness we lash out.” Dick Staub adds another dimension saying, “Darth Vader was persistent in his pursuit of Luke Skywalker, desiring to turn him from a potentially powerful foe to a deceived ally, a relationship that parallels the dark side’s hounding of the Jedi Christian. . . There is Hope. Julian of Norwich warned, ‘Jesus said not: thou shalt not be troubled, thou shalt not be tempted, nor thou shalt not be mistreated. But he said: thou shalt not be overcome.’“
One of the enjoyable aspects of Star Wars is the clear distinction between good and evil. It’s not difficult to realize that Darth Vader and all of the Empire are the “bad guys” and that Luke, the rebel alliance, and the Jedi are the “good guys.” This also aids in the appeal of these films. It’s easy to imagine yourself in the struggle when the battle lines are drawn so clearly. Unfortunately, the world we live in has a difficult time with making these distinctions because Satan has attempted to redraw those lines. Through our daily news, we witness parents who abuse their children, preachers who cheat on their wives, and all sorts of other contradictions. It’s not as hard as Satan wants us to think though. Like Star Wars, Paul spells it out pretty clearly saying, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” With the battle lines drawn so clearly, I find myself wanting to join the rebel alliance against the evil forces of sin in this world. Would you join me in my struggle?
There are so many more examples of Christian theology in the Star Wars films, but I will not tackle any more for now. Notice the implications of some of these quotes from the other films:
Luke: “I don’t. . .I don’t believe it.”
Yoda: “That is why you fail.” (Episode V)
Luke: “I’ll give it a try.”
Yoda: “No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” (Episode V)
Qui-Gon Jinn: “Our meeting was not a coincidence. Nothing happens by
accident.” (Episode I)
Qui-Gon Jinn: “Nothing happens by accident. . .Finding [Anakin] was the will of
the Force.” (Episode I)
Anakin Skywalker: “I’ve become more powerful than any Jedi has ever dreamed
of.” (Episode III)
Obi-Wan Kenobi: “You have made a commitment to the Jedi Order, Anakin. A
commitment not easily broken.” (Episode II)
Yoda: “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” (Episode
Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to
hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (Episode I)
Luke: “Father, please. Help me.” (Episode VI)
Luke: “But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda: “You will know. When you are calm, at peace.” (Episode V)
To summarize, let’s do a quick overview. It seems that “Star Wars” resonated with people because of the deep desires that God has placed within us as humans. George Lucas himself has those longings and therefore, Star Wars reflects them. Those longings are personified in Luke Skywalker who dreams of a life of adventure and purpose. As he learns to trust Obi-Wan Kenobi, he steps into a larger world and begins his journey to becoming a Jedi. Christians must also take these steps into a new life by trusting in Jesus and beginning their journey to becoming a disciple. Like God Himself, the Jedi Council and educational structures are practiced in community. We Christians must also find community for encouragement, accountability, and strength. Satan’s pursuit and power are personified in Darth Vader and the Death Star, but we find hope in overcoming them in Christ. As Obi-Wan made the way for our heroes to escape, Jesus has made our escape from sin possible by his work on the cross. As Obi-Wan’s death led to greater strength in a spiritual form, so Christ’s death and resurrection have brought about the gift of the Holy Spirit, empowering us to live as Christian Jedi Masters.
“Star Wars” was an epic film which inspired people all over the world to imagine and dream! As they watched, they believed in the heroes and rooted them on. The battle between good and evil is an epic battle! Will you join the forces with me in the struggle? Will you believe in the hero (Jesus) and root Him on? It’s an adventure that we all live. My prayer is that you’ll live it on my side of the battle line, ’cause in the end. . . . . . JESUS WINS!!!!!