Star Wars™ Jesus
By Caleb Grimes
CBN.com 2007 is the 30th Anniversary of the first Star Wars™ film. For many of us, watching Star Wars™ is like attending Sunday school. George Lucas is often quoted as saying that he wants Star Wars™ to give a moral grounding to those of us who grow up without a strong family bond and in front of the television, an influence that Lucas sees as amoral.
Star Wars™ does inform our morality—our perspective on life—and, for many of us, these movies contain the images and metaphors that we look to as we go through tough times. For example, when those of us who enjoy Star Wars™ become angry, we often remember the scene in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back when Yoda says, “Anger, fear, aggression—these are paths to the dark side.”
We think of this scene before we ever think of Jesus saying, “My peace I give to you,” or “Love your enemies.” Then, in our heads, we hear Luke Skywalker respond, “But how will I know the dark side from the light?” We find ourselves asking the question with him because anger and vengeance seem perfectly justified when these emotions strike us. Once again, we hear Yoda’s answer, “When you are calm, at peace.” As a result, we actually decide not to do certain things until we are calm or at peace.
Therefore, Star Wars™ is a mythical fairy tale that teaches many of us right from wrong, good from evil, just like Sunday school.
Of course, we love all the exciting adventures, the new worlds, and the fantastic gadgets with which these films entertain us. However, the core reason why many of us keep watching Star Wars™ so many times over has to do with the power of myth. The films teach us how to live and act, especially if we grew up in a broken home and outside the influence of a church.
A myth story is typically a fantastical story about a hero who learns about and uses supernatural power to conquer problems. Through this vehicle, myths often teach natural and social truths. In this sense, religions—or systems of belief—are also myths. They also deal with the supernatural in a fantastical way to tell us how to live in the natural and social world. In addition, there is often a hero in our religions.
Even George Lucas might have underestimated how necessary is his myth. Star Wars™ has become so popular in the last 30 years that many have taken the philosophy behind Star Wars™ much more seriously than Lucas ever intended, to a point that some even call the Jedi religion their own.
This does not prevent us, however, from looking for those places where the Force might be real in our lives. For this reason, it is my purpose here to show where Jesus is already present in the Star Wars™ films. As such, this book seeks to say yes to everything in Star Wars™ that resonates with the person of Jesus, before it clarifies where the two diverge and points out the gaps that remain in our interpretation of the Force as it applies to our own world.
I would like to also be clear on another point. It is not my goal to convert to Christianity those who love Star Wars™.
What is so much like Jesus about the Force, “an energy field that surrounds us and penetrates us and binds the galaxy together”? How can good and evil both be part of the same Force if it is supposed to be like Jesus? You may ask, “If the Force is real, why can’t I levitate that orange on the table and make it float over to me on the couch? I’ve been trying all day long.” Can Jesus help me sense a disturbance in the Force? Does Jesus show up in Star Wars™ somewhere?
Read on and find out.
Luke on the mound – Sehnsucht
Perhaps the most indelible scene in all of cinematic history is seeing Luke Skywalker climb onto the dirt mound to watch the setting of Tatooine’s twin suns. We hear the longing melody of the French horn. Luke is frustrated that his uncle is not allowing him to submit an application to the academy. Before he goes back to cleaning the droids his uncle just purchased from the Jawas (C-3PO and R2-D2), Luke puts one foot up on the berm of their sunken home and looks out at the desert horizon and the double sunset. From this context, we know Luke is dreaming of a better life. Is this scene only about teenage angst?
Not even remotely! Whenever it was that we first saw this scene, not knowing what was to come, we grieve that Luke is held back from his dreams. Seeing the end of the movie, however, then experiencing the remaining films of the original trilogy causes us to understand that this one quiet moment has taken on much more significance. The work of Joseph Campbell, the pre-eminent scholar of mythology of our time, heavily influenced George Lucas, especially during the making of Star Wars™. He said,
“ … mythology is the penultimate truth—penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words … It is important to live life with the experience—and therefore the knowledge—of its mystery and of your own mystery. This gives life a new radiance, a new harmony, a new splendor.” (The Power of Myth, pg. 206)
Luke is sensing the mystery of his future, wanting there to be something more. This scene contains that feeling that C.S. Lewis refers to as the German word Sehnsucht, which Lewis identifies as part of Joy.
“… our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honor beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.” (The Weight of Glory, pg. 15)
“Joy is distinct not only from pleasure in general but even from aesthetic pleasure. It must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing.” (Surprised by Joy, pg. 78)
Luke Skywalker aches for more. He feels a tug towards something about which he knows nothing. At the same time, there is an attachment to the nature of his home planet as seen in his gazing at the double sunset of Tatooine. He did not know what to make of all the feelings, all the longing. Is this a sub-conscious hunger to know the Force, which is similar to our desire to know a personal God? Perhaps it even represents to us a quiet need for worship—a yearning for our home with God. Our soul, as with Luke’s, is responding to our Creator’s call to us.
First scenes of Star Wars
Droids in the desert.
Coincidence as an agent of the Force to bring about
what is possible versus what is probable.
Stepping back in time from this book’s first entry to the very first minutes ever seen of Star Wars™, there is a space battle going on and two droids are caught in the middle of it. The Rebel’s blockade runner, Tantive IV, is pulled in by the Star Destroyer's powerful tractor beam. Princess Leia Organa makes one final and desperate attempt to deliver the Death Star's blueprints to the Rebel Forces by sending R2-D2 to Tatooine to find Obi-Wan Kenobi and enlist his help.
Out of the coincidental happenings of the adventures of the small droid R2-D2 and his tag-along partner C-3PO, the virtually impossible destruction of an evil, oppressive, tyrannical Empire by a tiny band of bold souls is set into motion.
Star Wars™ begins with the barely possible story of the droids on their quest. It keeps adding and adding to the seemingly insurmountable tasks of those who serve the good side of the Force. Without intervention by the Force, R2-D2 and C-3PO probably would never have reached Obi-Wan Kenobi; Luke Skywalker would probably still be stuck on his Uncle Owen’s moisture farm indefinitely; and Han Solo most likely would be captured or killed by Jabba the Hutt’s henchmen.
Flannery O’Connor writes about what is possible in terms of the writer and the writing process that he goes through.
"… if the writer believes that our life is and will remain essentially mysterious … Such a writer will be interested in what we don't understand rather than in what we do. He will be interested in possibility rather than probability.”
(Mystery and Manners, pg. 42)
We watch the Star Wars™ movies and we love the Star Wars™ movies because there is something in us that says, "No, they are going to make it. There is an outside chance that good will win."
The improbable happening is part of the very magic of Star Wars™ – and it is a major reason why audiences love Star Wars™. There is much more to this cinematic series than a cool new world with aliens, spaceships, gadgets, a princess, and a darkly evil bad guy. We are suckers for the story of an underdog. Indeed, what could be more underdoggy than two feeble droids versus an evil Empire of unsurpassed power, overwhelming technology, and unchecked authority?
Yet, the intrigue of Star Wars™ is also personal to who we are. Most of us are underdogs too, so we see ourselves and think, “If the Force can direct the path of the droids, couldn’t the Force also direct our paths to make good things happen?” This possibility mysteriously rings true to us, and here is why … the possible happening in spite of the probable is what God does when he uses the smallest, the least among us, to confound the greatest. Coincidences, as we perceive them, are often the way God brings about the possible.
Was it a coincidence that Moses was found, taken, and reared by a member of the Egyptian court? Was it a coincidence that the walls of Jericho fell down? Was the life of Jesus simply a historical coincidence with the Old Testament’s prophesies? Was the tearing of the curtain between the holy of holies and the congregation in the temple, at the moment of Christ’s death, merely another such coincidence?
Humanity's witness of these personal and corporate phenomena throughout history has created archetypal patterns that exist inside of us to the point where we see these mysterious and supernatural kinds of stories as organic to our own beings. In fact, they are so ingrained in us that we often mistake them as originating from inside ourselves instead of from God’s work in us. This perspective is the main difference that a believer in Christianity would have with Joseph Campbell, who was the leading authority on myth in our time, and one of the main influences on George Lucas. Campbell would say that God is a construction of the myths of the world.
Through the image of the droids in the desert, we understand the crazy impossibility of the Rebel Alliance even making a dent in the Galactic Empire. Through the seeming coincidences of the droid’s adventures, like seeing the wind blow through the leaves on a tree, we understand the working of the Force.
Order your copy of Star Wars™ Jesus, A Spiritual Commentary on the Reality of the Force
Check out www.starwarsjesus.com for more information.
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This article was taken from Caleb Grimes’ new book, Star Wars™ Jesus, A Spiritual Commentary on the Reality of the Force (WinePress, December 2006, ISBN: 1579218849).
Check out www.starwarsjesus.com for more information.
The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, pg. 206, Anchor Books, 1991
The Quotable Lewis, # 868/The Weight of Glory (chap. 1, para. 11-12, pp. 15-16), C.S. Lewis, Tyndale, 1989
The Quotable Lewis, # 875/Surprised by Joy (chap. 5, para 10, p. 78), C.S. Lewis, Tyndale, 1989
Mystery and Manners, “The Grotesque in Southern Fiction,” Flannery O’Connor, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969
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