Apparently Disney has bought the Lucasfilm franchise, the company behind George Lucas’ Star Wars, for a cost of around 4 billion dollars. They anticipate releasing a further Star Wars film in 2015. For someone who was still young enough to be captivated by the Star Wars universe way back in the early days this should perhaps be a good thing. In many ways it is. These space tales from a galaxy far away are fairly innocuous. Good and evil are fairly clearly delineated and there is little that is harmful morally. In fact, Star Wars is pretty much a space-age version of Roy Rogers (the arch-villains are generally in black and the heroes in white). It is, of course, at the philosophical level that Star Wars is a problem.
Star Wars presents, pretty explicitly, a worldview, a religion. In fact, when asked their religion on State forms some write ‘Jedi’. For most this is no more than a protest at the intrusive faith question, however, for some it probably is an honest answer; there is a religious group that find their origins in the Star Wars films. Jediism, believe it or not, is a formal faith-group. Its practitioners refer to themselves as Jedi Knights. They consider themselves to be a UFO religion or spirituality. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised since the Star Wars franchise has unabashedly created a universe impulsed by a new-age form of Buddhism, that is, by a philosophy of life that is fundamentally Eastern pantheism with a smattering of the Christian story thrown in; it is in its syncretism utterly modern.
The pantheistic Buddhism is clear in the idea of the Force, with its light and darkness and suspicion of all emotion. In Star Wars ‘The Revenge of the Sith’, Yoda, the arch-Jedi, counsels the young Anakin Skywalker who is fearful of a dream in which he foresees the death of Padme, the girl he loves. Yoda counsels:
Careful you must be when sensing the future Anakin, the fear of loss is a path to the dark side. Death is a natural part of life, rejoice for those around you who transform into the force, mourn them do not, miss them do not, attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed that is… train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose….’
From a Christian perspective this counsel is wrong on so many levels. God is no impersonal Force, he is a Person. Furthermore, he is a person who is light and in whom is no darkness at all. There is no contradiction in God., no light and darkness or shades thereof, only light. Because he is personal he has emotions. He loves and hates (my previous post was about this very reality in God). He is jealous for his own glory and mourns sin in humanity. Emotions, in the Christian faith are not in some sense dishonouring and weak; they are not the source of sin and so to be stifled. Emotions are God-given and indeed good; they are found in the Creator. Despite some versions of impassibility in Christianity, it is clear that the God of the Bible has emotions. These emotions are always consistent with who he is and thus glorify him. Thus Christians (unlike the Jedi) are not told to kill emotion but to put to death sin. This will mean controlling emotions as we must control every part of our being. It will mean examining whether the emotion springs from a worthy place or not but it will emphatically not mean denying emotion itself, for that is to deny our humanity as a people made in the image of God. And death is not a natural part of life but is rather an enemy that is opposed to life and will one day be completely swallowed up in life for the believer and God’s final creation.
Lucas is a high priest of pantheism. He purveys a Buddhist worldview where the impersonal emotional detachment of the Buddha is the acme of human existence (a million miles from a crucified Christ involved in suffering and sinbearing). He is no friend of Christianity; it is of one of the principal Dark Lord’s of the Force that it was said, ‘he could save others from death but not himself’ – a clear allusion to Christ. In his Buddhist vision of existence Lucas employs Christian language (and imagery) while subverting and perverting it. Christianity (unlike pantheism) accepts absolutes but Lucas has the Jedi Knight exclaim, ‘Only a Sith deals in absolutes.’ Siths are of course the arch-villains controlled by the Dark Side. Lucas fits well into a postmodern world of relativism that dismisses absolute truth.
So yes, another Star Wars film may be worth anticipating but we must remember as believers that even the most apparently wholesome fruit of the tree that is this world has something essentially rotten and poisonous at its core.