The Force Unleashed
Hold please. This review series was supposed to be about Star Wars, not me… well, it just so happened that about the time I got “thawed out” (1998) and began to retrain in the ways of our Lord—“unlearning what I had learned”, as Yoda would say—it was announced that a new Star Wars film would soon be unleashed on the world. Another seven year cycle, curiously… and now, at twenty-six, I both reconnected with my Savior and prepared to revisit my childhood love. Watching all three films with my newly-converted cadre, then attending the first midnight premiere of Episode 1: Phantom Menace (now, about to be re-released in 3D), I saw the movies with reshaped eyes.
These movies were originally a point of controversy… and are again. Is Yoda a demon? Is the Force George Lucas’ attempt to start a new religion? Is he the next L. Ron Hubbard, pulp-fiction hack turned guru? Or is the Force simply a thinly-veiled eastern philosophy? Some have blown the matter out of proportion, while others have given it too little attention.
Truth be told, “the force” is nothing more than a few proverbs, axioms, and religious ideas—plagiarized from a plethora of sources—sandwiched between battle scenes and special effects; they amount to nothing more than Zen sound bites. One could take the teaching of the Jedi Knights and extrapolate any number of philosophies, using them to reinforce existing religions or to kick-start a new cult. Star Wars philosophy is sparse, vague, and largely undefined. It is merely a powerful illustrative tool for whomever uses it. So, as a Christian—one who believes God can, and does, work in all things—I took a fresh dip into the Star Wars Universe. From a Christo-centric perspective, my findings were nothing short of astounding.
Refutation of the Jedi
Indeed, the wisdom and example of the Jedi Masters does lean heavily on Buddhist philosophy. According to an aged Obi-Wan Kenobi, “many truths depend upon your point of view”; there is no absolute truth, and worldviews are subjective. (Never mind that the Jedi claim a moral standard-—an absolute—when they condemn the actions of the Sith… whoops). We are all part of the same “energy”, which has a good side and a dark side. The way to rise above one’s baser instincts is essentially to rise above emotion. “Anger, fear—the dark side are they”.
The Jedi are also alledgedly divorced not only from hate, but also love and compassion; according to the expanded mythos, Jedi candidates are taken from their families before six months of age. As a Padawan—Jedi apprentice—Obi-Wan barely knew his parents, raised within the confines of the Jedi Academy with only Qui-Gon Jinn as a father figure. In The Phantom Menace, Yoda complains that young Anakin has too much emotional attachment to his mother; in The Empire Strikes Back, the little elf also advises Luke to finish his training, rather than follow his heart and rush to save his friends on Cloud City.
At first glance, this doesn’t jive well with Christianity. The God of the Bible embodies strong emotions—love, mercy, jealousy, and righteous wrath– and a Lord who commands us to fear him and to hate sin, receive his love and love others passionately. The ascetic lifestyle of the Jedi suggests that one be divest of fear, hate and eventually all emotion… whereas Christianity teaches that each emotion is designed by God for a specific, useful purpose; fear and hatred are not “evil’—they have their proper place. Yet, the Jedi are denied family relationships, marriage, and basic community, intimate contact severed in favor of detachment; Christianity, by contrast, depicts one as part of a family… an adopted son of God, married to Christ, and a member of a believing community that works together to spread His gospel.
So how does this film lend itself to Christianity, if the Jedi teachings are largely eastern in thought? Easy… because despite the occasional Jedi proverb, as we’ll see in the next post: the heroes in the films counter and disprove them, in favor of more Christian sensibilities.