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Star Wars and Christian Truth — A Collision of Worldviews

George Lucas’ Star Wars saga is now complete, or so we are told. With the cinematic release of Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, the story is fully developed and the massive film project is certain to be a commercial success.

The Revenge of the Sith is a
gripping story, and the movie is propelled by generally strong acting
performances. This episode’s central story line is the tranformation of
Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader — a Sith warrior. This moral
transformation turns Anakin into a dark lord — an unmistakable
representation of evil. By the movie’s end, the Sith rule the galaxy
and the stage is set for the good guys — the Jedi warriors –
eventually to return and defeat the evil Empire.

As in the other Star Wars
films, the movie is a mechanism for introducing Lucas’ own blend of
Eastern mysticism and New Age concepts. The films focus on “The Force,”
a vaguely supernatural power that blends pantheism and metaphysics. It
is decidedly not the personal and transcendent God of the Bible.

In my extended commentary, The Faith v. The Force: The Mythology of Star Wars,
I traced the influence of New Age and Eastern ideas on George Lucas,
and pointed to the influence of the late Joseph Campbell as something
Lucas has acknowledged.

Here are the most relevant sections: Conspicuously absent from
Lucas’s cosmology is anything connected to biblical Christianity.
Though oblique references to faith abound in the film, the central
religious motif is “the Force,” explained by the Smithsonian guide as a
combination of “the basic principles of several different major
religions.” Further, “it most embodies what all of them have in common:
an unerring faith in a spiritual power.” Lucas explained “the Force” as
“a nothingness that can accomplish miracles.” This is, the
Smithsonian’s Henderson asserts, “reminiscent of Zen Buddhism.”

“The Force” is not analogous to Christian faith, but is a form
of personal enlightenment and empowerment. Faith in “the Force” is
simply faith in mystery and some higher power–mostly within. As Lucas
instructs: “Ultimately the Force is the larger mystery of the universe.
And to trust your feelings is your way into that.” The last thing
Americans need to be told is to trust their own feelings.

The mythology of Star Wars is perfectly adapted to the spiritual
confusion of postmodern America. “Go with the Force” is about all many
citizens can muster as spirituality. When Christianity ceases to be the
dominant worldview of a culture, paganism is quick to fill the void.

Some see a very different picture, with Lucas and his Star Wars series presenting a religious allegory that is compatible with Christianity, at least in part. In Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters, film critic Dick Staub makes some truly incredible claims for the series. “One of Star Wars’
great contributions to contemporary belief is the reinforcement of the
centuries-old teaching, advanced by all religions, that something
mysteriously spiritual is at work in the universe,” he asserts.  “Star Wars creator George Lucas named this phenomenon ‘the Force.’”

This one of the movie’s “great contributions to contemporary
belief?” Can this be a serious statement? The Force is a blend of light
and darkeness, good and evil. It is impersonal and seductive. Such a
concept is not compatible with Christian truth, and it hardly ranks as
a great contribution to anything. It is merely a vehicle for the
telling of George Lucas’ story — and for the promotion of his New Age
ideas.

Staub also relates that the concept of God “is not foreign to George
Lucas, who in an interview with Bill Moyers embraces mysticism over
certitude in his understanding of God.” [See my article
on this interview.] Staub then turns to application: “Likewise, the
Jedi type of Christian embraces divine mystery humbly, professing a
similar modesty about our knowledge of God, who though personal and
accessible is also aurrounded by what one mystic called ‘the cloud of
unknowing.’”

This is profoundly, dangerously, tragically wrong. A Christian
cannot embrace anything like Lucas’ brand of mysticism and agnosticism
about the nature and character of God. We are completely dependent upon
God’s self-revelation [that's the true basis for humility] and we are
fully accountable to that revelation. We are to know and to embrace
everything that God reveals about Himself — and this is nothing akin
to George Lucas’ brand of mysticism. Of course, there remains much
about the infinite reality and glory of God that we do not know, but we
are commanded to know all that He has revealed about Himself. The
living God of the Bible has revealed Himself in the Son, Jesus Christ,
not in an impersonal force.

The turning point in The Revenge of the Sith
comes when the sage-like Obi-Wan Kenobi tries to convince Anakin to
resist the dark side of the Force. “If you’re not with me, you’re my
enemy,” Anakin says. Obi-Wan’s reply: “Only a Sith thinks in
absolutes.” So, only the dark lords believe in absolute truth. The
enlightened Jedi know better, of course, and Lucas wants his viewers to
embrace Obi-Wan’s counsel.

Here we face the reality of the New Age vision — no absolutes. At
the same time, this is also evidence of the inconsistency at the heart
of any denial of absolute truth. For Lucas does present the dark side
as truly evil. That’s an absolute, of course, but it is precisely the
kind of politically-correct absolute promoted by those who deny
absolute truth. Listen as your friends and neighbors talk about this
film. The conversation will reveal more than they intend. This is a
film about worldviews, and Christians should know how to point directly
to what matters.

REVENGE OF THE LINKS:  Mark Pinsky, Many Faiths See Religious Allegory in Star Wars, The Houston Chronicle.  See also reviews by Jeffrey Overstreet in Christianity Today and Gene Edward Veith in World.