(this review only speaks to the old films and the trailer for The Force Awakens: no spoilers.)
I’ve written quite a bit about Star Wars… on this site, and in my book. I’ve made many a comment about how I identified with Han Solo…but when I’ve talked about the spiritual parallels in the films, I’ve stuck close to Luke, and Darth, and the themes of the narrative center. Here, standing in front of me with blaster and swagger, was a side track I never quite pieced together. Now, just from the trailer of The Force Awakens, it slammed into me with the crushing inevitability of a trash compactor.
“Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. ‘Cause no mystical energy field controls my destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.”
A repercussion of the Christian narrative is that you are NOT the center of the story…and in the original Star Wars trilogy, it’s clearly labeled “the adventures of Luke Skywalker”. It now becomes clearer to me why so many people identify – even unknowingly – with Han Solo. In a recent interview, Harrison Ford even explained why he’s the prominent POV (point-of-view) character in the original trilogy:
“He offers you the easy way in to the story because he opens the door of irony,” Ford explained. “So you don’t have to be a true believer to get into the story. There’s somebody there representing you saying, ‘What, really? Are you sure? I’m not so sure.’ And that’s what gives you the liberty of being in the church before you really are asked to believe.”
Han Solo is the Star Wars world’s equivalent of an atheist, or at least an agnostic. In fact, he doesn’t even bother putting on a lot of pretense about who he is or what he lives for. He’s pretty consistent with his worldview:
Han: “Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution, and I’m not in it for you, Princess. I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money.”
Luke: “Take care of yourself Han. I guess that’s what you’re best at isn’t it?”
However, despite the self-serving rogue’s quest in life for self-service and satisfaction, he ends up like every other sinner: he’s up to his eyeballs in a debt he can never seem to repay. Sound familiar? Han Solo is intrigued by Luke: this stunning, gifted “son of Skywalker” sent into the Star Wars narrative is obviously at the center of a dramatic event at the core of this galaxy’s story. But then…what happens to Han? He helps here and there, halfheartedly, but still is trying to figure out how to deal with his own debt. He not only can’t repay his every-increasing debt, he’s taken for it, frozen, and hung up in an evil tyrant’s den.
Except for the intervention of Luke Skywalker (and friends) he’s doomed to be a wall decoration for all eternity. Also note: this isn’t even the main story that Luke is about! And yet, the main story of the Empire and Vader’s redemption is put on hold so that the son can seek and save the one who has been lost. It’s my favorite part of Return of the Jedi, honestly, and even as he’s being saved Han still doesn’t believe Luke is what he says he is:
“A Jedi Knight? I’m out of it for a little while, and everybody gets delusions of grandeur.”
Luke doesn’t just ransom Solo’s life, he utterly crushes the one who holds his debt sets him free of Jabba forever.Then, and only then, is Han able to come fully on board with Luke’s team, committed as a General to the cause. He becomes a productive part of the Skywalker narrative and finds a family, a home, and more. The good news of Christ is that while we don’t believe, and have a debt hanging over our head we can never repay, Christ pays the debt and crushes the head of our enemies (Satan, sin and death). He comes into our story and frees us from that which enslaves us, setting us free to be participants in His greater story… the greatest story ever told. And now, finally, as just the trailer from The Force Awakens tells us, Han Solo has become a believer.
“I used to wonder about that — thought it was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo: a magical power in the battle between good and evil, the Dark side — the crazy thing is — it’s true. The Force, the Jedi. All of it. It’s all true.”
Han Solo is not just our skeptical way into a fantastical story where we participate but remain unchanged. Part of the story is that – as supporting characters – those the saving Son seeks and saves are inevitably changed from unbelief to full belief. And not only that…whether he does it begrudgingly or not, he’s also become and evangelist of that truth.
Thank the Maker(s) of this new chapter for punctuating what turns out to be a fantastic parallel of conversion; it’s probably the best Christmas present this former Star Wars junkie could have asked for.
May God be with you, always.