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~ Star Wars ~

Other than The Passion of the Christ, this is the first Reflection to consider the metaphors in a popular Hollywood film. There were so many discussions and commentary in Christian circles about The Lord of the Ring and Harry Potter I believed I could not add much to it, though I paid attention to both the thoughtful reviews and emotional ranting regarding these film series and the books upon which they were based. You will recall Christian evangelicals generally praised Tolien's works while the Harry Potter series were condemned for their references to wizardry and magic. I was a bit amused by this since both stories clearly depicted the confrontation between good and evil, in both stories the good prevailed as a result of self-sacrifice in the face of personal danger, and both stories involved the incantation of magic and reliance on mystical dynamics. Why this was not acknowledged in Tolkien's works by many Christians is a question I'm still pondering. I guess people see only what they want to believe.

Anyway, Star Wars is garnering Christian attention now. The reviews I've read are only slightly mixed, the majority applauding the film series. Central to them is the prevalence of "The Force," a term that intrigued me starting in 1977 when I saw the first film. The Force can be used as a metaphor for the centrality of most religious traditions, yet transcends them since the Force is actually self-evident and almost empirically testable even to those of no religious persuasion. "You're referring to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force. . . . You believe it's this boy? Bring him before us, then" (Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace).
Anakin is that boy discovered by a Jedi Knight. The Jedi Knights are a religious order of warriors, powerful and knowledgeable, but not invincible and not power-seekers for their own gain, but for the good of all. People are not easily brought into the order, having to undergo a vigorous apprenticeship and tests, not of their beliefs, but of their conduct, behavior and character.

An ancient and revered Jedi Master, Yoda, senses fear in Anakin. “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering,” he gently but authoritatively informs the scared child. The order's philosophy is that of exhibiting stillness, peacefulness, and passivity. Emotions must be controlled to harmonize with the Force in service of others. Anakin fails to learn this and, like Judas, turns to the "dark side."

A seeker's pilgrimage toward the divine is the fundamental story of most spiritual traditions. Unique to the Christian faith is the pursuit of the seeker (and non-seekers) by the Lord of the Force, of Life, of all things. He has always been seeking and calling to us!

God, the Father, incarnated to meet us in the baby Jesus. "God so loved the world that He sent his only Son" (John 3:16). Christ's parables abound with the message of God's search for the lost, such as the shepherd who leaves his flock to find one lost sheep and the father who runs out to greet his returning prodigal son.

The Force is seeking the Jedi Knight as he pursues union with the Force. The "dark side" powerfully entices us with diversions from our quest for God, yet Christians are reassured that it cannot inhibit the Christ's pursuit of us. The dark side is exposed for what it is by the intensity of the light of God's love.

Former  agnostic turned prolific Christian apologist, C. S. Lewis wrote, "Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about man's search for God. To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat!" Most people do not want to find God or be found by Him, since that would mean relinquishing themselves to an Entity to whom belongs all, including their egos, autonomy and plans of pursuit of self-gain and interest. The New Testament letters describe people who, found by God, resist and choose the dark side. Statistics report that eighty percent of US residents desire a relationship with God. Jesus promised that those who seek will find. Yet it is quite certain that eighty percent of the US population has not relinquished their personal autonomy and wills to that of God! This is akin to the joke that everyone wants to go to heaven but few are dying to get there. Similarly, a robber pointed a gun at his victim, who cried, "I'm not ready to meet God in heaven!" The robber's partner told him, "Put the gun down. She's not ready yet."

Regarding Christ's incredible claims, C.S. Lewis quipped, "He is either a liar, or he is a lunatic, or he is who he claimed to be - the Lord and only Son of God." The Christian tradition, with its myriad of martyrs and self-sacrificial spiritual warriors, would not have explosively promulgated on lies, deceptions or the claims of an insane person. History has recorded our encounters with those kinds of people, and they and their philosophies now lie in the dust. The third choice obligates us to go beyond admiration of Christ into worshipping Him as Lord of the Force of Spirit and Life.

In the Star Wars series, the Galactic Republic of Jedi Knights is technologically inferior to their vastly more numerous enemies, yet, through the "least of [their] brothers," Ewoks, Wookies and children, its goodness, its choice of loving others over self, its commitment to the world community over regard with personal gain and power, consistently triumphs over evil. How interesting is the wisdom of even the death star builder and leader of the dark side, Darth Vader, revealed by his admonishment to his officer, "Don't be so proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The power to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force." All the earth's nations, particularly the superpower and those striving to catch up with it in military might, best heed even Darth Vader's insight.

The Jedi Knights vowed three predominant commitments. They were called to expose, confront and counter the evil in their galactic culture. They were to be proactive in helping to create a culture of life and good. They were to be models in teaching their culture, through action, the tenants of their noble code. Christians share in these and are called to the same, as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.

We can forbid our children to view these films and entice their curiosity of what we label as taboo. We can also enter with them into a dialectic analysis of what can be garnered from the latent wisdom and overt evil of our secular culture and learn, together, how to respond as an ambassador of a kingdom that is not of this world.

Note how when Jesus encountered a demonic entity in someone, He always asked his name. If we are to "cast out" or "rebuke" demons (of whatever form) in the name of Christ, we must also dialog with them and learn their names. Luke Skywalker was very well acquainted with Darth Vader. He had to be to execute his duties as a Jedi Knight. The sons of Sceva did not know the names of the demons they were arrogantly attempting to exorcise. The evil spirit returned the oversight, saying, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" (Acts 19:15). They got a bloody beating for it. They were ambassadors of no kingdom except that of their own illusionary making.
Darth Vader continued to establish his own kingdom and personal power. So did Satan. Luke Skywalker was not a Christ. Neither are we. We are summoned, however, to be ambassadors of a kingdom already established, the kingdom, unlike our illusionary attempts at building our own, of God that is invincible and eternal.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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