Theology of Star Wars
“I find your lack of faith disturbing.” – Darth Vader
Did you know that orignially the big-eared, green-skinned little mystic named Yoda from the Star Wars sagas was originally called "Buffy"? Neither did we - and with the release of the latest installation in the Star Wars series, there are a whole batch of new recruits who want to get immersed in the massive, fascinating Star Wars universe.
There have been highs and lows through the last 12 movies (yes 12 - Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, anyone?) - but we are prepared to extend a little grace to even the most inhospitable plots and species.
The clever clogs over at Think Christian have come up with this amazing resource called A Theology of Star Wars. This is a short 7 piece devotional from a few different Christian authors covering the main Star Wars releases, with great reflections of the stories told with faith in Christ as the linchpin. Read our brief outline and summary of the devotion below:
STAR WARS: EPISODE IV | A NEW HOPE | THE SCALE OF HOPE by JOSH LARSEN
From the gargantuan Imperial Star Destroyer to Princess Leia’s tiny holographic distress signal, Josh writes that every part of this movie is dominated by attention to scale. With even Leia saying to Luke “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?” – the hope we are looking to always seems a little small in comparison to the looming evil overhead.
“Hope is almost always placed in direct contrast to overwhelming objects of oppression... As the rebel leaders lay out the attack strategy, a pilot scoffs, “What good is a small stunt fighter against that?”. Indeed, when Luke and the others approach the Death Star, their X-wing fighters look like tiny mosquitoes in comparison. In Romans, Paul speaks of hope not as something massive and assured, but as something barely glimpsed: “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."'
Josh's reflection is a timely reminder that though the odds seem never in our favour - we are victorious. Small and indefensible though our hope may seem – behold, He is enough to overcome the world.
“This is the scale of hope: a flicker in the universe, yet one that nonetheless turns the universe on its head.”
STAR WARS: EPISODE V | THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK | BEGINNING IN THE MIDDLE OF THINGS by ROSLYN HERNANDEZ
Being unceremoniously plonked in the middle of something that requires a complete rebirth to face down - these are the themes Roslyn weaves through Luke's story in The Empire Strikes Back. We are cast immediately into the middle of the Rebels' new story and base with only a few words in the opening scrolling text sequence. Things look dire as Luke is suspended in a wampa’s cave - but in overcoming imminent death and "violently emerging" from the cave leave him better equipped than ever before to fight against the Dark Side.
Walter Brueggemann says “I speak to you about being born, first birthed, and then birthed peculiarly, publicly.”. Many can find parallels in this in our accepting Christ as Lord, personally - and then following with a public baptism – the death of the old man and woman, and the birth of the new.
“[It] is a time for the church, the people of God, to go public with its peculiar identity. I say this to you because of the urgency of this epiphany caught, as we are, between secular self-indulgence and frightened moralism, either of which is safe, but both of which miss the point, not visible, not at risk, not mattering. But of course the world waits for the birth.”
Requiring a peculiar and unrelenting endurance, this new birth seperates us from the anxieties, failures and shortcomings that dog our heels from our inception. And just as Luke was a gift - foisted into an inhospitable landscape of destructio and betrayal - yet destined for great hope, we too are expected to weather the environs and emerge victorious because of the new birth we have in Christ. Now is the time. Are you reborn?
“Luke is eagerly and courageously reborn into a time when the galaxy desperately needs the possibility of what he can become.”
STAR WARS: EPISODE VI | RETURN OF THE JEDI | CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME FROM ENDOR? by DAVID ZAHL
It must be something to do with defending the defenseless that compels his love of Return of the Jedi, writes David. The only thing more routinely undervalued and disliked than the movie as a whole are the Ewoks who live within this setting (but aren’t they the cutest?); with many seeing them simply as fluffy blobs of cynical revenue-ensuring future-licensing devices. And yet these half-high, bumbling teddy bears might just be the heralds of humility and grace we need.
“In fact, the Bible sets a powerful precedent for good things – the best things even – coming from unlikely places. Out of trouble and wounds, disappointments and closed doors, the actual breakthroughs of life often arrive.”
Despised and small though they may be, the Ewoks were integral in saving the day. They extended friendship to the much derided C3-PO – even elevating him to a god (smiting to come). And as C3-PO wraps up the battle story with his robotic oration skills (Siri, can you tell me the plot to Star Wars…), the Ewoks listen in wide-eyed absorption, overwhelmed that they – the littlest and least, could be included in such a fantastic, universe-righting tale. While we often look to the dashing lone-ranger, the blue-eyed hero or even the massive bear-like side-kick - but why not the Ewok? Why not you and I? In their universe - and ours - we get to be part of a victory that otherwise is far beyond our tiny hands.
"Their part in the story may be small – it may even seem to detract from the greater glory – but perhaps that is what makes it so precious."
STAR WARS: EPISODE I | THE PHANTOM MENACE | MAKING SENSE OF MIDI-CHLORIANS by DONNA BOWMAN
“If there was a Spectrum of Awesomeness for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, it would run from Darth Maul on one end (awesome) to Jar Jar Binks on the other (crime against humanity). Most fans would put midi-chlorians – the blood-borne symbiotes that mediate the Force in all living creatures – somewhere on the Jar Jar end of things.”
Truer words regarding the Star Wars series have never been spoken. Uncomfortable, unnecessary and a little Aryan-race, Donna writes that this nonetheless treads the path many bystanders to the heroes of literature and movies have walked before – “We are not the one we are all waiting for, and the proof is in our pedestrian blood.”.
In the Christian faith, how are we to understand that same blood pact of worthiness or unworthiness through lineage? “We who do not have the blood of Abraham in our veins, nevertheless through adoption become brothers and sisters of God’s only-begotten.” We respond: by the blood of Jesus, who covers all – not by our own efforts or input. And certainly not by the horrid midi-cholorians.
"Christian theology wrestles with this same irritating tension between our equality in an existential situation – standing before a just but merciful God – and the temptation to view some of us as better equipped to handle that situation than others."
STAR WARS: EPISODE II | ATTACK OF THE CLONES | HE WHO LIVES BY THE LIGHTSABER… by KEVIN McLENITHAN
Here, Kevin writes - George Lucas delves deeper into the ethos and lineage of the Jedi and we are somewhat startled to find two ideals colliding; the Jedi have long been touted as “benevolent peacekeepers” in the series so far and yet much of their enforcing in this series is wrought through relentless (and eager!) “negotiations with the lightsaber.”. Eek.
Indeed, this venerated weapon takes centre stage as Obi-Wan Kenobi tells his pupil Anakin “This weapon is your life!”. The heady allure of violence and power; the zing of a lightsaber all rest uneasily alongside the Jedi’s supposedly peaceful principals. Attack of the Clones sees Anakin admitting to Padme he slayed an entire village - and her response being only “To be angry is to be human, Anakin.”
Is it, though, Pads? Perhaps Attack of the Clones was an examination of how the Jedi tried to exact justice in a certain manner and the toll was too great. Perhaps this is a great backdrop for who they were to become, out of the ashes of blood and slaughter. Maybe their early enchantment with their method of “peacekeeping” in Attack of the Clones extinguished itself so as to make way for a truer, deeper peace for all – even for those who couldn't live by the saber, let alone die by it.
“Perhaps the Jedi we first loved learned to rue violence and war only once they discovered what it was like to be on the losing end of the saber.”
STAR WARS: EPISODE III | REVENGE OF THE SITH | FALSE FAMILY TIES by ELIJAH DAVIDSON
Emperor Palpatine is a man who gets his way – manipulating everyone anyway he likes. Weirdly, the supposedly intuitive Jedi Council is myopic to his evil schemes - even allowing an impressionable young Anakin to stumble into his grasp. Anakin is grieving his mother, yearning for his lover and seeking his future – and none of these emotions will find equal restitution if he confers with the Jedi or Emperor Palpatine. Both sides offer only half a heart for him.
“If the galaxy can’t find space for both calling and companionship, of what use is it?”
Many feel this to be true even in their current settings. Think of the women! Those who know that they have gifted to prophesy, preach and herald the new age of the kingdom - and yet are forced to choose 'silence' for the sake of religion and belonging. No more!
Elijah writes that “Jesus was able to redefine both calling and community in a way that allows each to include the other.”
No longer do we have to choose half a heart or half a future – but at the hands of Christ, both halves are made whole.
"Christ crushes the serpent’s head and turns the Emperor’s lies [about transcending death and saving lives] into truths. If only the Force was as powerful, then perhaps Anakin could have found peace after all."
STAR WARS: EPISODE VII | THE FORCE AWAKENS | MYTHS & MASKS by JOSH LARSEN
Masks have always been an essential part of dramatic productions – and one of the most iconic in film perhaps being Darth Vader’s creepy visage. Josh writes that Star Wars makes maximum effect of masks throughout its legacy – and almost exclusively reserves them for villains.
In The Force Awakens - when our soon-to-be-good protagonist Stormtrooper FN-2187 sheds his ubiquitous white helmet in a frenzied fear - Josh writes that the commander's expostulation “Who gave you permission to remove that helmet?” was really a “Who said you could be human?”. Kylo Ren’s worshipping of Vader’s own mask and his subsequent sheathing in his terrifying helmet all mark an impersonal front that belies a small heart bent on bigger, badder, worser things.
Masks, facades, fronts, fig leaves. All things sought out to veil the humanness – the innate worth and frailty and beauty and design – of Christ in us. The image of God imprinted on our very skin, which can so often be dressed up, or hidden away, or masked over - but never extinguished completely.
What an exciting time to be born in a galaxy just like ours, just now. You don’t need a scroll of yellow text overwritten on an endless background of stars to tell your history and launch you into a future unknown – just a heart that dares to be bare before God, the one who created you. He is here, now, to tell you that He is the force behind all things, He is the one who is strong – and even better – he will always be with you. Let’s get human together.
“You may be more vulnerable when you take your mask off and stand, just as you are, before God. But that’s also the best way to feel the light of grace on your face.”
"With sadness, exhaustion and a sideways grin of grace, Ren’s father tells him, “Take off that mask. You don’t need it.""
Find the Think Christian's A Theology of Star Wars resource here - completely free!
Review by Rosy Keane | Women's Ministries | The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga