Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
All religions are myths that support belief systems. Running through these religions, including Christianity, is a somewhat common set of values that we attempt to adhere to; and we are encouraged by mythic stories that exemplify our religion.

Star Wars: Episode II
Attack of the Clones


This page was created on May 15, 2002
This page was last updated on May 19, 2005

Robert Banta is a consultant, a short story writer and a seeker of Christ in pop culture. He lives with his wife, Leslie and their very-soon-to-be-born son, Sam (hopefully not opening night of Star Wars!). They reside in Northern Virginia.

"The Clones Attack" has been released. One of the most anticipated films ever.

What is the attraction?

Why do we love these movies?

The Star Wars movies are full of robots and spaceships, and odd, scary and funny looking creatures that are both good and bad guys. These movies have introduced us to the genre we now know of as science fiction, and most Americans can't get enough of it.

What about you?

Do you think of Jar Jar Binks with disgust?

How about Luke Skywalker? He was such a whiney boy with dreams too big for himself; but he turned into this Jedi Knight - calm under stress, able to harness supernatural powers and accomplished at fighting with his light-saber.

But these things alone do not seem to be enough to account for the devotion of even mild Star Wars fans. Is the core attraction for Star Wars the fact that it is a gripping tale of the battle between good and evil, told in epic, larger-than-life proportions? Perhaps. But maybe there is more.

What about the Force, the mysterious power connected to the ancient Jedi religion? Sure, this is just a story, but you may be asking, "How can this be good? They don't seem to be talking about Christianity. Truthfully, it seems more like Eastern Mysticism or the new age movement." In analyzing these movies, I think this is a valid concern. But first, instead of immediately looking at what concerns us in the movie, and pointing out what is wrong or what we would take out, let us ask the opposite questions. The first is, "Where do I see Christ present in Star Wars?" And second, "Even if the George Lucas does not purpose to show Christian ideals, do they exist in these movies?"

Many articles have been written about Star Wars, and in Christian circles there is often stated that Christianity and Star Wars are both myth, and we relate to the movie on that level. Though quite true, this analysis often seems left at that, without delving into the details any further. Actually, it is also important to see that this connection is also the reason why many other religions identify with Star Wars. All religions are myths that support belief systems. Running through these religions, including Christianity, is a somewhat common set of values that we attempt to adhere to; and we are encouraged by mythic stories that exemplify our religion. And the fact that our Christian faith takes the form of myth is more of a likeness from which a dialogue may begin with members of other religions than a point of contention that splits us from them. The use of myth is a universal metaphor for seeing real life, and this ties us to other religions.

As humans, we delight in the common basis of myth, and love almost any myth precisely because it deals with the meaningful themes and ideals of our own daily struggle within the context of a glorified, fantasy story. The monsters in myths are not a part of our real-life experiences, but they are a metaphor for very real things in our life. Darth Vader is not real, but maybe your own dad or father figure is very mean, and you imagine that dealing with him to be similar to dealing with Darth Vader.

Maybe you want be a hero like Luke Skywalker, but find you are dreaming about it so much, you never really get anywhere. And this is just like Luke's experience on Tatooine, his home planet. We understand what the characters are going through because the experiences of the characters are many times echoed in our own experiences. And when we see a story of a far away place and time, where the worlds are complete imagination, we are not only enjoying a good escape; but in all myths, especially in Star Wars, we can see many encouraging ideals and morals. Imagining how to deal with evil influences in our lives is just a part. Isn't it a difficult, but good, example to see Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, sensing the good in his evil father, even knowing his father will kill him if Luke does not embrace his evil way of thinking? Every person has good in them, as they are made in the image of God, yet through sin it is sometimes very difficult to see goodness. It takes a person who is calm and confident in the knowledge of God's image in us to handle such an evil person and be loving and honest at the same time.

Osama bin Laden is a current Darth Vader. America once thought he was good, and the CIA even trained him. Did he then betray us and turn evil, or are we now forced to see him for what he truly is? Do we now see what he truly is? Did we not know who he was, and who he could be, then, and did we substitute one evil to get rid of another? This leads to other questions; do we kill Bin Laden, or show love to him? Or is killing him giving him the dignity of an accountable life, and strangely showing him love? Regardless of the answer, Star Wars activates our imagination, and with it we can, and need to, examine our own motives when we think and when we act. When Luke fought Darth Vader in Return, he was working out the difference between anger, and "righteous anger." They often look similar, and feel similar, but in the last scene when the Emperor was goading Luke to join him and the dark side of the force, we get a perfect picture of the difference.

Luke's training, to understand the evil power from the good begins in The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke learns many of the principles of a Jedi Knight in his training with the old Jedi Master, Yoda. Among these principles he is taught that anger, fear and aggression are feelings that "lead to the dark side of the Force." As long as we have been counting time, even down to our daily lives, history echoes this truth: the darkest ages in the history of the world have been hallmarked by anger, fear and aggression. How do you counter these feelings when they arise? What do you do, for example, when your girlfriend/boyfriend does not drive the way you think he/she should, or when you are a diplomat and the country you are meant to be helping does not respect you or your country?

The power of myth is real; maybe we can handle those questions better by learning inside a story. Yoda explains to Luke in the swamps of Degobah that he will know the Dark Side of the Force from the Light, and thus be able to see clearly, when he is calm, at peace. This is not only a Hindu concept, or a New Age one, but a Christian concept as well. The lesson of maintaining self-control under stress is not taught here in a boring, forced manner, "Oh I have to act right, because the law or authority says I have to." Instead, it looks like Luke Skywalker becoming a better Jedi Knight. The story is teaching us to imagine how it is to live by the spirit of the law, instead of the letter of the law. Jedi Knights are cool because they are calm under pressure, they do not over react, they know when to fight, when to run, and they are incredibly disciplined. Like a Navy Seal, or an Army Special Forces Commando, a Jedi fights, but they also meditate, train, and study. We see this and we want to be a Jedi, like Luke Skywalker; but the first lesson is to learn the practice of remaining calm under intense personal or spiritual pressure. Christians must learn how to do this through Christ.

Other values that really shine in Star Wars and which Christians share as common ties with other religions, (disagreements over important details aside) are meditation, inner peace, physical training, faith in a powerful Spirit, wisdom and dedication to good works. It is not a crime to learn about Christianity from strengths that other religions have, or even ideas or concepts or values that we see in stories. Do we fear that we ourselves will loose Jesus in admiring the Force that connects and flows through all living things in the world of Star Wars? Can I visualize love in this way? In fact, I am certain that I have learned more about how to treat my neighbor through Star Wars than in any Sunday School. Perhaps you or your children are the same. But can we see anything that is explicitly Christian in the Star Wars movies? I mean right out in the open, like, "Look at that! A Christian thought is actually coming out in a popular and 'secular' film!" Absolutely. In fact, it seems as if by watching Star Wars I am seeing values so familiar that they give me the impression that I am seeing a relative on the silver screen, acting a major part in the biggest, most exciting movies ever. This relative I see in Star Wars is my brother. And that brother is Christ. I want to shout out in the theater, "Hey, that is just like Christ! Wow!"

It is hardly a shock in cinema to see Christ-like figures; tons of movies and books, and the whole art world, actually, use metaphors for the work of Christ on the cross by showing characters that are heros because of their sacrifice for a person or people much less deserving. This is a classic theme. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope the character Obi-wan Kenobi sacrifices himself willingly for the lives of the others, even though they were much less skilled and wise and effective than he, in order that this small group could escape from the Death Star. Even closer to the story of Christ, Obi-wan knew he would have to sacrifice himself before the battle with Darth Vader occurred. And though Obi-wan does not rise from the dead, neither is he portrayed as a deity, he does prophesy correctly to Darth Vader that he, Obi-wan, will become in death more powerful than Darth Vader could possibly imagine. The parallels to Jesus and His resurrection are obvious. Then we find out in Episode One: The Phantom Menace, that Obi-wan's teacher, Qui-gon-jin also sacrificed himself for a young Obi-wan in training during a battle with Darth Maul. Here is an example that Obi-wan had in his past to look to, learn from, and imitate. This is true discipleship, another very explicitly Christian concept.

Sacrificing oneself for the greater good of your friends and others is a strong theme in Star Wars, and is seen in more places than just the martyr and savior of the Christ figure. In the first film, little Ani gives everything he has, even his cherished pod-racer, to virtual strangers. He realizes that time has come to fullness for this event to happen, for this gift to be given, and this is something he must do. It is as if this little boy understands predestination. Then, he risks his own life in racing this pod for a cause he knows nothing about, and which will not benefit him at all. Christianity is the religion that is traditionally known for its sacrificial nature, even and especially through hard times. And I remember reading somewhere about "this is how we know what love is?"

Another way that Star Wars may not have purposed to, but still does exhibit parallels to Christianity, is the comparison of the early Christian church to the small band of Rebels who seek to conquer the evil Empire that is worlds larger than they are. The rest of the universe appears to have succumbed to the safe, easy reign of the evil Empire, rather than fight back against tyranny. But one small band of Rebels, like the early church, believes that good still exists and that it is worth attacking the darkness to defend. The early church believed in the love of Christ, and persevered despite the intolerance of the Roman world. Death, for the Rebels, was to be expected. This is a very close similarity to the persecution of the early church. And the chances of success to the early church and to the Rebels were probably about the same. Translation: Would you be willing to be shot at point-blank range so that someone could meet Jesus?

Finally, there is the Force. Star Wars dwells on the idea of The Force, a power, an energy that runs through, between and surrounding all living things. Although much more could be said, and many more parallels drawn, the Force in one sense is very much like the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in us is manifested through the fruits of the Spirit. A few of these fruits are also especially clear marks of the Force. A clear sign that Luke is maturing as a Jedi Knight and "growing strong in the Force" is that he increasingly shows self-control and patience in tough circumstances. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke was always "looking to the stars" and as Yoda in the next episode said, "never his mind on where he was, what he was doing." By learning to use the force, and letting it flow through him he became a Jedi who was patient in planning an attack, even when things went wrong (Return). And he showed self-control in the face of the Emperor, and certain death, by still seeking to find the good in his father.

To say George Lucas meant to make these connections to Christianity is doubtful. That does not really matter here. The most important thing to realize is the simplest. All I am really doing is asking, "Have we not seen those things we love in Star Wars before in the stories of Christianity, and can we not celebrate that?" The application is that I can begin to imagine what the Christian life looks like by seeing Luke go through the training, the trials, the failures and the successes. I can start to visualize the Holy Spirit moving in me, and it is very much a "reaching out with my feelings" (as the movies describe a connection with the Force), balanced by intense intellectual training.

Think about worship. After a good sermon, our training of the mind and heart, we want to express ourselves through reaching out in worship, joining our voices with angels and archangels who are forever singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!" Then, out in the world, I am encouraged by this imagination to feel secure enough in Him that harsh, hateful and ignorant words and actions do not cause me to stop showing love to the person they are coming from. The values promoted in movies and religions that I disagree with do not stop me from gleaning the good from the story, the religious practice, or the myth. In fact, even analyzing Star Wars in this manner causes me to get closer to an interesting Christian presupposition: If all truth is God's truth, then can I applaud what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, worthy of praise, and can I dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8)? The answer is yes, yes and yes (even though I do really dislike Jar Jar Binks).


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