A Force To Reckon With

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....” Those words sent shivers up the spines of teenagers when Star Wars burst onto the silver screen 20 years ago. Today Star Wars is back in the theaters, and yesterday’s teens are now taking their own kids to see the movie—all about a daydreaming farm boy, a swashbuckling smuggler, and a lovely princess who band together to take on a black-garbed villain named Darth Vader. And today’s kids seem to like the space-age fantasy as much as their parents did. At its re-release, Star Wars opened as number one at the box office and earned an astounding $100 million in the first three weeks alone. Why are Americans lining up to see a familiar fantasy film—some of them for the third, fourth, or fifth time? After all, the modern age was supposed to get rid of myths and teach us to live by the bare truths of science. Neil Postman, a professor of communications at New York University, says we all need a transcendent narrative: a story that tells us where we came from, where we’re going, and how to live. The scientific age didn’t wipe out the deep human need for a narrative. All it did was undercut the traditional story embodied in Christian teaching—the drama of sin and redemption. Deprived of the true story—the Gospel—people desperately search for any story to make sense out of life. And that’s what Star Wars’ appeal is. When you strip away Star Wars’ science-fiction trappings, you’re left with a simple morality tale. The plot revolves around the fall from grace of the central character, Darth Vader, and his subsequent redemption. Luke Skywalker withstands tremendous temptation to join the forces of evil. And we see characters willing to sacrifice their lives to protect others from Darth Vader and his evil minions. These concepts—redemption, overcoming temptation, and self-sacrifice—all have their origins from the Christian vision of reality. Of course, this morality tale is played out against a spiritual backdrop, an eclectic mix of both Eastern and Western religious ideas. For example, “the Force” is portrayed as a mystical energy field that the film’s characters can tap into—a concept straight out of Eastern mysticism. If you decide to take your kids to the rerelease of Star Wars, teach them how to discern both the good and the bad aspects of the film. The backbone of the Star Wars plot is solidly Christian—good overcoming evil, right winning out against mere might. This is what gives Star Wars its dramatic impact. Real art captures our hearts because it taps into deep moral truths. But filmmakers whose cultural roots are within the Christian heritage sometimes mix Christian truth with whatever religious views are currently the rage, and we have to help our kids recognize the difference. So after you’ve left Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader behind in the darkened theater, help your kids to discern both the true and false spiritual elements of the films they see—whether those films involve plots about modern-day America, or stories set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.


Chuck Colson


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