I’m writing this on Thursday—the day millions of people have been waiting for. This is the advent season of Star Wars; I wouldn’t be surprised if someone somewhere has been lighting candles in preparation. There have already been pilgrimages, people lining up for over a week outside theaters to get the best seats. Star Wars evokes a variety of responses: many people are excited, some are sick of the whole thing, and then there are those who don’t care at all. (I’m in the first group—I grew up wishing I could be Han Solo, although lately I look more like Chewbacca.) Regardless of how one feels the new film has awakened something…but what?
I’ve been fascinated by the news that a professor from Wheaton College was suspended for her recent comments about Islam. Dr. Larycia Hawkins decided to wear the hijab as a way to show solidarity with Muslims during the advent season, saying that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God”. The response has gained national attention—prompting both debate and protest. This past year has seen many significant social issues bubble to the surface: racial injustice, LGBTQ issues, the right for homosexuals to marry, and debates about health care, just to name a few. These are the issues facing our society, which means these are the issues facing the Christian community. How do we live out the gospel in the face of racial and religious discrimination? How do we live out the gospel in the face of terrorism, ISIS, and unfathomable violence?
This is where the Star Wars saga might be able to help. The power of film—really, the power of stories—is that they act like a mirror. Like Nathan’s parable convicting David of his wrongdoing, stories help us look at the world from a different perspective. All of the rhetoric about security, protection, and fear, both in the political sphere and in the social and religious spheres, sound eerily like the justification for the dissolution of the senate, the dismantling of the Republic, and the establishment of the Empire. Fear always gives way to control and unchecked power; fear always justifies violence and oppression for the sake of maintaining order. Fear always leads to the dark side. The force, on the other hand is grounded in life, it is the affirmation of courage and love. The force is not something to be manipulated or used for gain—it is a presence at work in the world maintaining and affirming life.
My point is not to make theological connections between Star Wars and faith; my point is to say that Stars Wars is an important story reminding us to be careful. How easy it is to use Christianity to cultivate fear; how easy it is to use Christianity as a way to ensure security by building up metaphorical (and real) walls. But this is not the gospel, and it is not the message of the Christmas season. Instead, this Christmas season we receive these words of peace proclaimed to the shepherds:
“Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody worldwide. A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger…Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”
Amen… and May the Force be With You