True confession: I am a Star Wars geek. My mom took me to see the original Star Wars film in 1977 when I was eight-years old. In the Star Wars culture that emerged, I became an eager citizen. I played with the toys. I read the comic books. I passed the rumors. Many years later, as a dad, I couldn’t wait to share Star Wars with my own children. Interestingly, they didn’t need to see the movies to get sucked into the galactic vortex of Star Wars; they were born into it. They recognized R2-D2 before they knew what a movie was. (My three-year old’s favorite “stuffy” is a 12 inch hard plastic “Dark Vader” doll.) Why is Star Wars so compelling across generations? I think it's because we see in the narrative reflections of God's own story, the ultimate saga.
Scott McClellan writes in Tell Me a Story: Finding God (and Ourselves) Through Narrative, that story gives us framework for understanding life and faith. "Story is the structure through which God gives us His gospel and sends us out into the world." This is why your kids love it when you to read to them. Well, Star Wars is not the Gospel, nor is it an obvious biblical allegory like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Yet it’s power as a story comes from how it evokes God’s story. With the advent of a new Star Wars film, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, you can have fun exploring with your kids how they might see themselves in God’s story in everyday life through three not-so-subtle themes in Star Wars.
One glance at the headlines will prove that evil is rampant in the world. Real evil seems more chaotic than the centralized menace of some vast Galactic Empire, because the “dark side” exists in every person, not as some malevolent aspect of “The Force,” but in human nature corrupted by sin. Paul wrote, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). Just as the Jedi Knights in Star Wars have to resist the temptation of the dark side of the Force, so too must we resist the urges of our earthly nature. This struggle is the driving theme in Star Wars. In Episodes I, II, and III, we see Anakin Skywalker—a kind of “Adam” (Romans 5)—give in to the fear and anger lurking in his heart, and succumb to the dark side. Then in Episodes IV, V, and VI, his son Luke—in turn a kind of messianic figure—sorely tempted, resists the dark side, and in the final confrontation redeems his father from the Emperor. Just like in Star Wars, there is an implacable enemy behind the evil in our world, who like Emperor Palpatine, taunts and accuses us, appealing to our “dark sides” to turn our backs on God (Gen. 3; Matt. 4).
In everyday life, we overcome the dark side not by using the Force but by hope in Christ, who gives us power to literally put on a new self (Col. 3). Hope is a major theme in Star Wars. In his article on the scale of hope, Think Christian editor, Josh Larsen, remarks that the hope in Episode IV: A New Hope, is in fact quite small and “considerably outgunned.” You can point out even to the youngest viewers, that hope in Star Wars appears in fleeting moments against immense odds: huge Star Destroyers, the glowering form of Darth Vader, and the inconceivably massive Death Star—against which Luke aims for a weakness inversely small. These trials might stand as metaphors for death—overawing, unbeatable, and inevitable. Hope is mere chance: one small opening for victory, one means of escape. By contrast, in God’s story, we have true hope, a guaranteed assurance through Jesus Christ that death has been defeated forever. Clothed in humility, this hope may appear slight, but this hope does not leave us exposed, “because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-6).
When we meet Luke Skywalker, he’s ready to hop the first transport off his homeworld, the planet farthest from the “bright center of the universe.” Yet, when Obi-Wan Kenobi invites him to do just that, Luke has second thoughts. Luke is the archetypal “reluctant hero.” In most stories, the protagonist seldom wants to take up “the quest,” at least initially. Usually, a crisis compels the hero to step into the story. As disciples of Christ in day-to-day life, we are often reluctant to take action in the story in which we play a part. Fear of embarrassment, discomfort, and persecution causes believers to hesitate, to have second thoughts, like Luke. But God wants willing heroes. Jesus says to his disciples, “take up your cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23b). And he gave us a mission, to make disciples of all the nations. And just as Star Wars creator George Lucas confronted Luke with a crisis to move him off of Tatooine, so too does the Creator of our souls often use crises to move his people off their backsides. We should count these trials as joy, because the testing of faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2-3).
As the release of Episode VII approaches, I’m wide open to the new Star Wars experience. Similarly, I’m wide open to new conversations with my kids about Star Wars. One thing is clear: Star Wars will continue to be a cultural icon. I’m determined to guide my family in the process of thinking about Star Wars through our Christian worldview. And that means helping them see their roles in God’s grand saga each day of their lives.
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