Why Star Wars Shouldn’t Work But Does (No Spoilers)
MERICA had recently pulled out of Vietnam. The hippy movement was in full swing. A lot of people were sick of the kind of “progress” that led to the prolonged conflict. A whole lot of influences converged to make people look to the East, and away from the West, for a better way. And Star Wars was born.
It was 1977, the year of my birth. Star Wars incorporated eastern philosophy into its plot. There must be a perfect balance in the force in order for there to be peace. There must be equal yin and yang, if you will. It played to the intellectual and emotional angst. In many ways, it was a product of the spirit of the age. But it didn’t go far enough.
I saw the second Star Wars movie as a young child sitting on a sleeping bag on top of the family Chevette with my brother and sister at a Drive In Theater. One of the issues that pops up in every Star Wars film, inlcuding the release of the Saga finale released today, is its irreconcilable notion of balance in the force. This makes no real sense in contrast to the moral quest of the rebellion. There goal really isn’t about balance. It’s about the defeat of darkness.
The notion of the force is reflective of eastern religious concepts that all is essentially one and that any distinction between one thing or another, good or evil, is only superficial. But, while Jedis might talk about seeking balance in the force, they, along with the rebellion, are really fighting for goodness to prevail. This concept fits with a Christian worldview, not an eastern religious perspective.
If the eastern religious notion of oneness was consistently applied in the Star Wars narrative then there would really be no difference between good or evil, light or darkness. But what motivates fans in the millions, the eastern worldview is not. Forgive the Yoda speak.
While moviegoers might prefer some bad guys’ weaponry over that of the good guys (think Kylo Ren’s wicked saber verse the simple Skywalker type), deep down we all want the light to win out in the end. We want goodness to triumph. For making sense of that basic human desire, and the backbone of the Star Wars saga, we cannot look to Buddhism or Hinduism but to a Christian perspective of reality.
That light has come into a dark world, a world that was once good and has turned bad, is a theme Christians celebrate every December on the twenty-fifth. The good news of Christmas is not that an impersonal force can be with us, but that God himself has come to be with us. Two-thousand years ago a bright star shone over a small village in the Middle East that marked the beginning of the end of the dark side.
Light has come into the world, a light that the Apostle John says gives light to every man (John 1:9). This is a message that reverberates throughout all of our best stories and resonates within every human heart because it explains our deepest longing for light to reign. It makes sense of the moral trajectory of the Star Wars saga. We don’t want darkness to have the final word (John 1:5).
Star Wars shouldn’t work. But it does. And it works because it is borrowing capital from the Christian worldview. It is based on a simple truth that we will celebrate in a few days, that the darkness cannot overcome the light. Merry Christmas.