After first witnessing Star Wars Episode V in 1979 at the drive in theater with my mom in our 1974 Ford Pinto at the age of 3 1/2, one might conclude I was molded and destined to be a fan from a very young age. I recall seeing R2-D2 tweak the hyperdrive at the end of Empire, sending the Millennium Falcon into light speed for their “lucky” escape from the Bespin system. Star Wars to me, and many like me, is more than a mere movie or cool “franchise”, it is in many respects a life metaphor and appeals to the inner need of every heart to find meaning in this life.
The toys themselves were enough to capture a young child’s attention, but now, in adulthood, it’s the narrative that keeps me grasped. A few disclaimers:
First, I do not believe in an impersonal, etherial “Force”, which holds good and evil in balance. I believe in the supernatural reality of God and how He obliterates evil from existence in any and every galaxy, namely through the Person of Jesus Christ!
Second, Star Wars may very well be a “godless myth” that the Apostle Paul warns us about in 1 Timothy 4:7. Then again, it also could be an “altar to the Unknown God” that Acts 17:23 speaks of. Those who believe in THE Force, that is the sovereign WILL of GOD, being of spiritual mind, have an opportunity to redefine whatever spiritual components Star Wars attempts to communicate by pointing out TRUE power, found only in and through the authority of Christ.
Third, while Star Wars is most certainly a cultural phenomenon and life metaphor for those who see the parallels within the narrative, it should NOT take the place of scriptural truth found only within God’s Word, the Bible…the true Force as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
And now, having been dubbed a Jedi Knight (No, seriously. I have the certificate of authenticity with my name on it), and having witnessed Star Wars since I was 2 (1977 Episode IV), and having owned, created, and imagined scenarios of epic space battles and lightsaber duels most of my life, I present to you, this Christmas 2015, my Top 10 Reasons Star Wars is so Compelling to all Human Beings, even to “non-fans”
1) Hope of Redemption. Our souls CRAVE forgiveness and reconciliation. With a divorce rate over 50% in the United States, it’s no wonder almost every child wants to see their most important relationships, those of our parents in relation to ourselves, restored and made whole. This is the chief motive of Luke Skywalker, even before he realizes Darth Vader is his father. Once he learns of this truth, he stops at nothing to reach his dad, even his willingness to sacrifice himself so his dad could be saved. We also see this played out in the opposite direction between Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi as their friendship goes south on Mustafar, the volcanic planet where Anakin is transformed into Darth Vader during his duel with Obi Wan. Sacrifice is made in the presence of hope. Hope that good will result in a desperate act of love for others, even when others may not yet see it. We crave this hope of redemption.
2) Guidance and Discipleship. Every place I’ve ministered at, both my wife and I have always been asked by numerous young people: “will you mentor me?” There is something innate in most every young person who wants to grow emotionally and spiritually to SEEK OUT discipleship. To be a “padawan” learner if you will. We see this in Luke’s pursuit of Yoda at Obi Wan’s direction. We see it in Obi Wan’s training under Quigon Jin; Anakin Skywalker under Obi Wan; Luke Skywalker to Kylo Ren; Even Han Solo acts as mentor to Fin and Rey in Episode VII.
3) Cute Creatures and Droids (not Gungans). Admit it, you LOVE R2-D2! Who doesn’t? He practically singlehandedly saves the galaxy in EVERY Star Wars Episode. BB-8? If you haven’t seen Episode VII yet, this little guy alone is worth the watch! Not to mention both R2-D2 and BB-8 are pretty effective when it comes to engaging the enemy. I even like the Ewoks. Wicket is a savvy, Stormtrooper stopper, and pretty adorable. These droids and creatures tickle the fun and unpredictable childlike side in all of us. Jesus Himself said unless we become like little children, we will in no way enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3). No Force. No works. Just childlike faith.
4) Love Story. Both Romantic and Friendship. Never has the big screen seen such an epic romance story in outer space as Han Solo and Princess Leia. From “A New Hope” to “Return of the Jedi” (minus that unfortunate kiss in Empire between Luke and Leia), we all anticipated the unity of hearts between two passionate, and totally competent leaders such as Han and Leia. We also see that age old friendship love displayed as Luke leaves his training early to save his friends at Cloud City on Bespin. And again, as Han risks his safety to lower the shields from Endor. Or how about the new characters Fin and Rey, and how they sacrifice for each other throughout Episode VII. Han and Chewbacca? Han and Luke? C-3PO and R2-D2? Po and Fin? Obi Wan and Anakin? The list goes on. Love is friendship and friendship is love. They make the galaxy go round!
5) Intrigue of Space, Cool Ships and Hope in the Future. The X-Wing Fighter has to be the most popular spaceship in all of science fiction, aside from the Millennium Falcon! These ships alone are worth being intrigued over! In his book “The Failure of Nerve”, Dr. Edwin Friedman basically rebukes American society for getting too comfortable in our “safety” and unwillingness to risk life and comfort for the sake of pioneering new frontiers and making new discoveries. Star Wars compels us to get outside of ourselves and ponder life beyond Earth. It pushes our imaginations to believe and invent the “impossible.” We NEED this kind of creative platform to think outside the box with the hope of something more. With God’s permission, we will go beyond the limits of the moon, and perhaps even our solar system and explore our galaxy and all the beauty within it!
6) Eternal life/The Force. It seems people are seeking somebody with the power to save and sovereignly provide for them. People want to see GOOD prevail. Because most do not know from whence, or rather from WHOM, good comes, they settle for an impersonal, but hopefully powerful, but ineffective idea of “the Force”. The problem with “the Force” is it’s a farce! The Force seeks “balance” between good & evil, while in contrast, Jesus DELIVERS us FROM evil (The Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9-13). We are not left to a weak, impotent, impersonal drifting ideal for “balance”, but provided TOTAL freedom in a sovereign personality, who has many names because one name is not enough to contain His dynamic nature and cosmically creative ability and power! It is not wrong for people to HOPE in the Force, or something like it to save them. It is wrong if The Church doesn’t point those vainly hoping in “godless myth” to the Person of Jesus, the only One Who can save. We all are looking for salvation, the question is, will we choose to believe the story of Jesus, even as we celebrate Him today, December 25th, and say with confidence as Han did in the Millennium Falcon, “It’s true. All of it.”
7) Clear Distinction Between Good & Evil. Light is light and darkness is darkness. It’s that simple. Bad guys dress in scary costumes with masks, and good guys wear organic, almost hipster, clothing (no doubt “fair trade”). The Dark Side has red lightsabers, and the Light Side has blue, green, purple, and yellow so we know who is who. The Dark Side pursues power, domination, and strength over mercy; while the Light Side is about sacrifice, peace, redemption and self-control. Even Google has a campaign to “Awaken the Force Within”. You get to CHOOSE which side you want to be on and then that “path” you have “chosen” will interact with all of your Google powered apps on your devices. In short, there is no question what or who is evil, vs. who is good. This clear distinction provides meaning and comfort. Truth is however, we are all born into the Dark Side, that is our sinful nature (Romans 3:23 & 6:23). We need somebody to BREAK the power of darkness over our hearts and minds and show us the way to the light, as we are told from John 1:4-5, “4The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.5The light shines in the darkness,and the darkness can never extinguish it.” Jesus is the light and He has made all of His followers “the light of the world.” So really, this idea of the “Dark Side” and “Light Side” is not a George Lucas thing, or even the origination in a false religion. This comes from God Himself, the Light for all.
8) The Search for Meaning in Relationship & Religion. Without going much in depth here, characters in all Episodes I-VII, are all seeking meaning in who they are and what cause they’re a part of. Anakin wanted off Tatooine. Obi Wan sought redemption in training Anakin. Anakin looked for meaning in the Dark Side (whoops). Luke sought to know the Force from Obi Wan and become a Jedi, like his father before him. Han Solo sought redemption by helping the Rebel Alliance…and loving Leia. Even Darth Vader found his meaning in saving his son from the power of the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. Powerful displays of meaning and relationship. We all NEED meaning in life, and Star Wars helps define that.
9) We have a Love/Hate Relationship with History. Like in Episodes I-III, too often we don’t appreciate our history, which leads to our present, and thereby defines our future. Though our history may not be all we wish it were, it’s still part of the story. Episodes IV-VI were the fulfillment of hopes lost (not to mention better acting and set designs, etc…). Darth Vader was redeemed, the Emperor’s sinister plot unmasked, and the Dark Side put at bay. Good won the day! Yet, if we don’t pay attention to HOW the Dark Side even arose from “Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” then we’re destined to repeat the mistakes of the past and such things as the “First Order” arise and create even more wicked and dark mechanisms, as we see in Episode VII. Study history, even the “boring stuff.” You just might learn something and avoid a lot of hurt and pain for all! Side note, the United States is NOT the evil Empire (yet). Despite our imperfections, we are still a Republic, of the people, for the people, and by the people. And as such, we have a noble duty to lead well, vote with conviction of conscience in true life and liberty, and honor those gone before us while seeking to ensure good to prevail for now and our posterity!
10) Lightsabers. Let’s be honest these fictional (for now) devices are a “more civilized weapon, from a more civilized time.” The duels and the sounds of the lightsaber alone make Star Wars the most unique movie franchise in history! We all want a REAL lightsaber, and we all want the noble Jedi Knight who wield it to protect the innocent and instill justice throughout the galaxy!
In conclusion, Star Wars is not the answer to life, but the narrative certainly appeals to our desire to FIND the answer to life. My desire is to utilize Star Wars’ “Unknown” qualities and utilize those inherent, human desires to somehow lead people to the true Person who can fulfill all of our hearts and minds: Jesus. May we not “awaken” to some impersonal “force”, but be taken and AWAKEN to the POWER of the Spirit of Jesus Christ!