I have read over 100 Star Wars books and watched all the movies dozens of times (probably well over 100 for each of the original trilogy). In other words, I’m a Star Wars fan. I absolutely loved The Force Awakens. It was fantastic. It was wonderful. It was Star Wars. I’m also a devout Christian. Here, I will evaluate the movie from a Christian perspective.
SPOILER WARNING: There will be SPOILERS in what follows. I want to make that as clear as possible. Read no further if you don’t want to read SPOILERS. I’m serious. Big ones. Are we clear? Read on if you have seen the movie, or don’t care about spoilers. I’m sure the comments will also have spoilers.
One of the most pervasive images of the Star Wars universe is that of the Force. Wait, imagery? Of the Force? Well, you can’t see the Force!
Yep, that’s right. We can see Jedi or Sith using the Force. We can see the effects it has on people, and its power. But we cannot see the Force. One might say it’s just a bunch of hokey religions (thanks, Han). But in The Force Awakens, Han Solo admits what he has known for a while: the Force is real.
What is interesting about this admission is how much people of all varieties have been attracted to the notion of the Force and the Star Wars universe in general. In reality, the Force is a metaphysical concept. It goes beyond the mundane, physical universe and reaches for something more. The drive for that “something more” is pervasive in humanity, I think. Inwardly, we know that the world is not limited to those things we can see through direct observation. Thus, we are drawn to even fictional portrayals of a deeper reality such as the Force. Like Han, we may talk the talk, but when push comes to shove, there is more to our world than meets the eye.
Family, Darkness, and Natural Consequences
Exodus 34:7 reads, in part, “[God] does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (NIV).
Many see this as a kind of vindictive verse. In fact, it is an example of human choices bringing about consequences. One of the things I have learned since becoming a parent (and I’m still learning) is that natural consequences are the most effective way to teach my son. If he stands on a chair, he gets removed from the chair until he is willing to sit instead of stand. The verse above shows how our actions and choices have natural consequences.
Anakin Skywalker’s choices have impacted his family in profound, terrible ways. Sure, he saved Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi, and he was reunited with the Force. But think about what his choices visited upon his children: they had to be separated at birth and whisked into hiding. Vader even cut off his son’s hand!
In The Force Awakens, we see those consequences being visited upon the next generation as well. Kylo Ren, Han and Leia’s son, appears to be trying to follow his grandfather’s footsteps. But instead of trying to follow them back towards the Light side of the Force, he is attempting to complete the Dark work of his grandfather’s alter ego, Darth Vader. Can a more poignant reminder of the punishment that can be carried on from generation to generation be given?
In the world we live in, we can see these same systems of injustice bringing punishment on one generation after another. World War II was, in part, brought about by crippling economic hardships imposed after World War I. Systemic racism continues in the United States, demeaning not just those against whom racism is directed, but also bringing darkness onto those who engage in it.
The passage from Exodus above can be read simplistically, but when taken in perspective like this, it is immensely profound. The poignancy of that statement: that the actions we take now can bring about punishment on our children, and their children… should lead us to consider what it is we are doing. Kylo Ren wasn’t created in a vacuum.
The Force Awakens also points ahead to a hopeful reality, one which resonates with the Christian worldview. Han and Leia each believe that there remains good in Kylo Ren–Ben–still. Han risks his life on that evaluation and even sacrifices himself for it. Though we don’t see this coming to fruition, the seeds of hope are there. Will Ren follow his grandfather’s Dark choices to a logical end, or will he be brought back to the Light?
The movie ends with Luke Skywalker and Rey on a remote planet. This guru-like setting is also reminiscent of the Desert Fathers of the ancient Christian church (though ironically in a very watery setting!). Will redemption and hope be brought forth once more through Rey? That remains to be seen, but the seeds have been planted. Han’s willingness to believe in goodness in his son is the same kind of willingness we need to have when we confront evil. Yes, we need to be prepared to stand up against evil, but we also need to realize that we were yet sinners when Christ saved us. The “other” is like we were, lost to sin and in need of redemption.
Go see The Force Awakens. Be prepared to celebrate the joys of Star Wars again, but also to think. It’s a fun, delightful movie that is overlaid with much darkness. Yet, in the midst of all that darkness there is hope.
Let me know your own thoughts on the movie in the comments. I’d love to hear what you thought of the film.
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