Orienting Your Faith in the ‘Star Wars’ Universe
Spark conversations to explore Scripture
It didn’t take long for Star Wars to hook me after it hit theaters in 1977—even though, as a five-year-old, I hadn’t even seen it in an actual theater.
A friendly, movie-going neighborhood kid filled me in on the details.
He told me about a hero named Luke, a princess named Leia, and a menacing monster-like creature named Darth Vader. He also painted a word picture of the stuff I really cared about: the laser blasters and the space ships and the crazy-looking aliens. And it all took place in a far, far away.
For a boy who already had a fascination with rockets and planets, I was—to borrow a phrase from the saga—“destined” to become a fan.
My fandom didn’t wane much as an adult. I attended midnight showings, showed up on opening nights. I’m planning, too, on being at my local theater for the first showing of Solo: A Star Wars Story on May 25. I may even take my young sons.
An Opportunity to Explore
But despite my enjoyment of this imaginative universe, I must acknowledge that Star Wars offers a mixed bag of worldviews. Each movie offers a blend of beliefs and philosophies—some of which are biblical-sounding—that leave thoughtful fans with some deep questions to chew over in their minds, or with friends. And that can present leaders with an opportunity to introduce topics that lead to a deeper understanding about what the Bible actually says.
Here are a few topics and approaches that stand out to me. Who knows? Approached with the right touch and some covering fire, a discussion of Star Wars could lead people to a close encounter with Scripture.
The Pantheistic World of ‘Star Wars’
Consider, for example, the Force. In the first 1977 film, Obi-Wan Kenobi describes it as an “energy field created by all living things” that “surrounds us,” “penetrates us,” and “binds the galaxy together.” Similarly, Yoda, in The Empire Strikes Back, tells Luke that the Force “creates” life and “makes it grow.” In Rogue One, we hear a new character, the blind Chirrut Îmwe, chant, “I’m one with the Force, the Force is with me”—as he whips several men (who have sight!) in a fight.
Thus, the Force not only creates life but also is created by life. It surrounds everything. We can even be one with it. That sounds a lot like pantheism, which is the real-world belief that God and the universe are one and the same. In pantheism—which is found in Hinduism and Buddhism—everything is God.
This can inspire conversations about how your own tradition and the Bible understand God and creation. What does the Bible say about God’s presence in and with creation? It tells us that a personal, all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present God created the universe (Genesis 1:1). God is separate from the universe, which was created to bring God glory (Psalm 139). But God is also revealed in and through all of creation. Pantheism teaches that each of us is a god. By contrast, the Bible tells us that there is only one God (Isaiah 45:5).
The Yin Yang World of ‘Star Wars’
The Force also has elements found in Taoism, the Eastern religion that is perhaps best known for the concept of “yin and yang” and the corresponding taijitu symbol. According to Taoists, yin and yang are throughout the universe: black and white, night and day, hot and cold. Each is dependent on the other, and none can exist alone. Within this dualistic system—which can be difficult to understand—there are no absolutes.
In Star Wars, there are two sides to the Force: the light side and the dark side, with each being equally powerful. In The Phantom Menace we even learn about the “prophecy” of a “chosen one”—young Anakin Skywalker—who will “bring balance to the force.” That is, he will ensure that the good side is as powerful as the bad side.
In a biblical understanding, dualism is the true illusion, for everything is held together and made whole by God. In fact, much of our modern tendency to put things in opposing categories comes from Plato, not Scripture’s writers. God is infinitely powerful (Colossians 1:16) and created the universe. While there is evil in the world that causes real suffering, the biblical writers tell us that evil is limited (for example, 1 John 4:4, 7, 8). There is no one—and no force—equal to God.
Uncover What Can Be Helpful
We shouldn’t be surprised by the assortment of religious themes found in the Star Wars saga because George Lucas’s own goal was to write a story that borrowed from other beliefs. He famously told interviewer Bill Moyers in 1999 that he believes “all the religions are true” and that he wanted to include a “mixture of all kinds of mythology and religious beliefs” in the movies.
“I see Star Wars as taking all of the issues that religion represents and trying to distill them down into a more modern and more easily accessible construct,” he said.
With Solo just around the corner, how can we relate this to our own Christian tradition? Some Christian elements are easy to identify, like the good-vs.-evil struggle and a dramatic fall-and-redemption plot. As J. R. R. Tolkien once said:
“We have come from God ... [so] inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily toward the true harbor.”
Try discussing the role of myths and stories—both within our culture and within Scripture. How do they help communicate, or point to, bigger truths?
Talk it Out
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Timothy Paul Jones—a fan of the series and the author of Finding God in a Galaxy Far, Far Away—says Star Wars “provides an excellent opportunity to … think critically not only about the images on the screen”—that is, the make-believe violence and other stuff—but also “about the theological implications of the script.”
Try this same approach with those you lead, or even the kids in your own family. In the midst of talking about Jawas, Jedi knights, and Jango Fett, try discussing more important topics, like pantheism, dualism, and resurrection. See if any of these conversations can lead to a deeper understanding of Christ.
Of course, you can always throw in a few pretend light saber fights, too.
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