Parry and Lunge: An Encounter with ‘Light-Saber Theology’

“How about we just watch the rest of the movie, OK? We can talk about that other stuff while you get ready for bed.”

It’s not often that my son makes a sincere inquiry and I decline to answer him, especially when 1) it’s actually a valid theological question (though he wouldn’t know that), and 2) it’s clearly “a teachable moment.” The truth is that I simply had a less-than-exemplary parenting moment. Selfish and tired, I just wanted to watch the rest of the movie; I very nearly missed the opportunity to instruct (Deuteronomy 6:7).

“Your pop-culture theology has made you weak, old man!”


In all fairness, though, Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith had reached the climactic light-saber duel between Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) and Obi-Wan Kenobi as they jumped around on makeshift platforms in the middle of a sea of boiling-hot lava. Even as the segment at hand clearly demonstrated the limitations of digital effects, I was anxious to find out just how, exactly, the current feature would square with the previous Star Wars episodes that I had already seen.

Most of my son’s questions zeroed in on the consistent references to “The Force” that show up in every episode and seem to suggest that everything around us is part of one supreme being, if only we had the wisdom and training to harness its power. While my son is not yet at the point where he can identify key differences between what he learns on Sunday mornings as part of Crossing Kids and the mysticism/pantheism of Star Wars creator George Lucas, he has nonetheless begun sensing an alternative worldview at work. His questions regularly point to this disconnect. For example:

“Can people really learn to make light sabers and blasters jump into their hands?”

“Well, no. The Force is a silly little fiction that helps move the story along. It is not in any way to be taken seriously.”

In fact, we can even see how absurd the Jedi philosophy really is when we consider the following exchange:

Anakin: “If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy!”

Obi-Wan: “Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.”

Full Stop: Didn’t Obi-Wan just make an absolute statement?

“Fortunately, son, evil is pretty easy to spot. It typically involves a lot of over-acting, plot holes big enough to drive a truck through and scary-sounding music.”

Despite the absurd fact that Anakin and Ob-Wan’s deep discussion of theological truth and the proper use of political and military power should never have been held in the middle of a sea of red molten rock while trying to kill each other, we still need to pay attention to the worldview their verbal sparring pushes, especially if our kids are listening. As Christians who affirm the absoluteness of God, we should be taking every opportunity to both ask and answer questions as our kids soak in worldviews clearly contrary to our faith.

Perhaps, like me, we all need to be just a bit more willing to hit the PAUSE button, even when we are tired and it’s getting late.

For my money, Al Mohler offers a great overview to the issues at hand with his blog from June of 2005, Star Wars and Christian Truth – A Collision of Worldviews. The key (for me and my son, anyway) lies in debunking the idea that we should “trust our feelings” (Jeremiah 17:9). A relevant passage from an earlier work by Mohler gets right to the heart of the matter:

“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.

Amen. I personally know of many marriages that have died because one of the spouses listened to some sort of pseudo-Christian/mystical nonsense and agreed that they should trust their feelings or (perhaps more accurately) “Trust the lust.” I can also think of several people who have stumbled and fallen badly simply because they wanted to believe what their heart was telling them about sex, drugs, alcohol or what-have-you; I am among that number. As Mohler suggests – and I agree 100% – the dead-last thing I want my kid walking away with from Star Wars is the voice of the late Alec Guinness in the back of his head: “Trust your feelings, Luke!”

Fallen human beings should never trust their own fallen hearts.

By all means, get caught up in the excitement of a great science fiction film series! Sure, go see Episode VII when it arrives at the local multiplex in 2015. Enjoy the great space adventure, but be sure to look for – and lose – the squishy theology along the way.

Or at least be willing to point it out when asked.

Jeremiah 17:5-10

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man

and makes flesh his strength,

whose heart turns away from the Lord.

He is like a shrub in the desert,

and shall not see any good come.

He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,

in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose trust is the Lord.

He is like a tree planted by water,

that sends out its roots by the stream,

and does not fear when heat comes,

for its leaves remain green,

and is not anxious in the year of drought,

for it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things,

and desperately sick;

who can understand it?

I the Lord search the heart

and test the mind,

to give every man according to his ways,

according to the fruit of his deeds.”

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