New age: sci-fi & fantasy movies



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George Lucas’s popular Star Wars films may have much to commend them as some of their supporters write, but there are a number of issues connected with these films that are morally and spiritually problematic and may make them unsuitable for some viewers, especially children. They range from the problem of where to draw the line on Star Wars tie-in products all the way to the theological problems associated with the concept of "the Force". Any of these issues may be a reason why at least some parents might wish their children not to see the films.

Star wars products

Merchandizing The Star Wars films were the center of an enormous effort. Indeed, the first Star Wars film inaugurated a new age of movie merchandizing. Each new film was the epicenter of a new explosion of associated products [toys, etc]. Some Christian parents chose to draw the line by disallowing any movie merchandise, including the movies themselves. The most elaborate costumes sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars apiece. We got an idea of this problem in the TOYS R NOT US article.
Violence and death

The Star Wars movies contain a significant degree of violence- both in the form of military battles and individual fights.

As a result of this, characters do die. There are also many situations where dramatic tension is created through menacing situations. The violence is mostly limited to the destruction of robots in The Phantom Menace, for example. Admittedly, the violence tends to be stylized - fantasy violence that cannot be realistically imitated, involving weapons that do not exist- lightsabers, laser pistols, etc., but does that change anything ?

Everybody says this is a dark film, the darkest of the Star Wars films by far. There's no question about this. It's also the most graphically disturbing film of the sequence, deserving of its PG-13 rating,” writes Mark Roberts in “Star Wars and the Bible” concerning Revenge of the Sith.

Lying and mental reservations

Good’ guys in most films regularly lie with no moral censure from the filmmakers. The Star Wars films are no exception to this. the lies tend to be "tactical" lies- that is, the kind of lies that are told in wartime tactical situations for example, to sneak into an area in order to pull of a rescue, as when Luke and Han rescue Princess Leia in A New Hope [Episode IV].

It concerns the deception of Luke by his mentors- by his uncle and aunt initially and then later by Ben Kenobi and Yoda. When Luke finally discovers that he has been deceived by those closest to him, he confronts Kenobi with the fact, and the latter is forced to acknowledge the deception, though he argues that it was a form of mental reservation - that is, what he told Luke was true "from a certain point of view."

In addition to the lie just mentioned, two specific deceptions are particular causes for concern:

In The Empire Strikes Back, when Yoda first meets Luke he pretends that he is not Yoda. In The Return of the Jedi, the main characters are in danger from a tribe, the Ewoks, that declares the droid C-3PO as "some sort of god."

C-3PO objects that "It’s against my programming to impersonate a deity" but Luke orders the droid to perpetuate this impression and augments the effect by using his Jedi powers to make it seem as if C-3PO has magical abilities.

Related to the above is the use in the film of "Jedi mind tricks"- instances where the ‘good’ Jedi knights of the film give certain characters a mental push that leads them to believe or act in a desired manner. Sometimes mind tricks are used to accomplish a deception [e.g., "These aren’t the droids you’re looking for- when in fact they are] or to get a character to do something he is otherwise disinclined to do (e.g., "Take me to your master, now”). Mind tricks don’t ‘work’ on everyone in the Star Wars universe; in fact, Ben Kenobi says that they affect only the "weak-minded," and certain races ["Toydarians" and "Hutts"] aren’t affected by them at all. What constitutes "weak-mindedness" is not clear.

Freudian and Oedipal complexes

Analyses Steven D. Greydanus "The original trilogy revolved around Jungian archetypes, the prequels are distinctly Freudian, even Oedipal; Anakin is a tragic figure destined to kill his (surrogate) father, Obi-Wan, and marry his (surrogate) mother, Amidala. Freudian symbols and patterns were not entirely absent from the original trilogy. One can easily see what Freud would make of laser swords that turn on and off, as well as tiny X-wings cruising about the enormous, egg-like Death Star trying to deposit their payloads, and of course of the father-son conflict of Luke and Vader.

Yet the original trilogy subverted Freudian theory too. Return of the Jedi is fundamentally the story of a son who refuses to fight and destroy his father- in fact, who sacrifices himself and suffers in order to save his father. Also, the hero Luke has no mother-figure and no marriage - despite a low-level flirtation with the maiden Leia before she is revealed to be his sister. In the prequels, by contrast, the Freudian and Oedipal patterns are clear and overt. There are obvious psychoanalytic overtones in the way people are always bringing up Anakin’s mother. ‘Your feelings dwell on your mother,’ says a Jedi Council member in The Phantom Menace who actually looks like an alien Freud, with a white beard and a curiously wrought head that seems at once philosophical and phallic. Certainly the meaningful inflection on ‘mother’, with an upward lilt on the first syllable, is no accident.

Nor is it inadvertent that Amidala is markedly older than Anakin, or that he loses his mother as a child shortly after meeting her. Nor that he repeatedly says in Attack of the Clones that Obi-Wan is ‘like a father to me’ or ‘the closest thing I have to a father’ - a father that he resents with all the violence of adolescence."

Religious influences and mythic symbolism

Like the subsequent Matrix* trilogy [which fused Zen and Christian themes], the Star Wars films include both Eastern and Western influences, and have been expounded and explored from a wide variety of perspectives, including Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, New Age, and many more. * see pages 33, 42

George Lucas is a fan of the writings of mythology scholar Joseph Campbell. As a result, ideas from world mythology are woven through the series. Episode IV itself is a reproduction of the archetypal story of Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Says Greydanus, “Lucas, by contrast, is a filmmaker of decidedly uneven talent and some passing familiarity with mythic archetypes absorbed from Joseph Campbell, a religious indifferentist who has always viewed the Star Wars films as popcorn movies for children… The mythology of Star Wars has many elements: the Jedi knights, with their preternatural powers in the tradition of the high-flying wuxia warriors of Chinese fiction and cinema; their evil counterparts, the Sith lords or ‘Darths’, who always come in twos; recurring motifs such as the climactic duel over a bottomless pit into which the vanquished combatant usually falls.”


Another point in connection with this issue is the humanistic approach- not turning to a personal God, but relying on one’s own inherent [divine?] powers to help or save oneself and the world. The humanistic angle even contradicts the Star Wars series’ Eastern and Christian images. In all of science fiction displayed on theater and television screens, none are more popular or mainstream than Star Wars and Star Trek. Created by the late [died 1991] Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek, which first debuted in the mid 1960’s, embodied the values of secular humanism. Other writers and directors took over his legacy.

Star Trek encompasses five live-action television shows: the first known as “The Original Series,” [1966-1969] followed by “The Next Generation” [1987-1993], “Deep Space Nine” [1992-1999], “Voyager” [1995-2001], “Enterprise” [2001-2003]; and ten theatrical films: Star Trek: The Motion Picture [1979], Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan [1982], Star Trek III: The Search for Spock [1984], Star Trek IV: The Voyager Home [1986], Star Trek V: The Final Frontier [1989], Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country [1991], Star Trek Generations [1994], Star Trek First Contact [1996], Star Trek Insurrection [1998], and Star Trek Nemesis [2002]. The Star Trek television shows form the basis for the films.

The tales of the “Original Series” featuring Captain Kirk, Mister Spock, and Doctor McCoy with supporting characters Chekov, Sulu, Uhura, and Scotty are continued in the first six films, followed by a “passing of the torch” story to the new crew of the “Next Generation” in the seventh film.

The Next Generation series tells the story of a new cast of Federation explorers, with the focus on Captain Picard and Lt. Commander Data, with supporting characters Commander Riker, Doctor Crusher, Counselor Troi, Worf, and Geordi LaForge.

Roddenberry was greatly inspired by his father, who urged him to be skeptical of everything, including preachers. As a teenager Roddenberry came to realize he thought that religion, especially Christianity, was superstition and nonsense. He also continued to observe in life that religion itself seemed to cause divisions and problems for mankind, reinforcing his rejection of it. This rejection seems to have led him to substitute a humanist philosophy, one that inspired people to bond together and to improve themselves through their own efforts putting aside dangerous or limiting beliefs.

In the world of Star Trek, religion in the human realm has largely faded away, as more enlightened secular humanist principles have taken over. Even the miracles of religious faith have been achieved through technological progress. Answers once sought from heaven are now available from more mundane sources. Several religious traditions look forward to a millennial kingdom of peace on earth, or of the gods or a Messiah returning to make things right. The New Age Movement itself takes its name from an expected coming Age of spiritual enlightenment.

Star Trek however, tells us that this new age will be heralded by the invention of ‘warp drive’, the ability to make a space ship travel many times faster than the speed of light, enabling interstellar travel and communication. The Messiah will not be Jesus, Buddha, or any divine person or prophet, but rather a race of enlightened aliens, the Vulcans. Impressed by our achievements and by our potential to better ourselves, they will share vast scientific knowledge with us. Together the human and Vulcan races forge a united ‘Federation’ of planets that seeks to bring peace and harmony to the galaxy. Starfleet replaces the priestly castes of old, as the new ambassadors of their philosophical enlightenment. Representing the proverbial cream of the crop, they are the defenders of the humanist faith to the galaxy.

In the Original Series, the principle ship, Enterprise had a Chapel. This was seen twice on the show.

The first time was in the episode “Balance of Terror” in which Captain Kirk was about to perform a wedding ceremony for two of his crew members. This chapel was unadorned with familiar religious icons. It featured a podium rather than an altar, decorative yet strange “glyph” designs [not recognizable from any modern day tradition] and an “infinity” symbol on the door as one entered. The service was attended by all the crew in their standard uniforms, but not their dress uniforms [seen later in the show at formal hearings and on diplomatic galas]. It was of note that no clergy persons were present, but Captain Kirk himself was the celebrant, evoking popular maritime tradition. Before the ceremony is interrupted by an emergency, he mentions “our many beliefs” evoking an ecumenical flavour to the proceedings. Indeed the future bride is seen kneeling [we assume in silent prayer] while the groom is not.

The second time we see the Enterprise chapel occurs in an episode where Kirk is thought to have died, and Spock and the others are gathered for a memorial for him there. Again, the chapel is an inclusive symbol of non-denominational ecumenism. However rather than express any common beliefs, we assume the crew is allowed to express themselves silently to themselves, while sharing the common bond of being human beings [with the exception of Spock of course].

The ship’s chapel would not return in future series, leading us to speculate that religion itself has been largely phased out from human society in the next century [the later shows take place in the 24th century]. In The Next Generation we have Counselor Troi, who is not a clergy person but an empath (one who can read a person’s emotions) and a psychologist/ psychoanalyst. Clergy persons have apparently been replaced by secular, humanistic self-help guru’s in the 24th century.

In the second Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan, the eccentric southern physician Doctor McCoy says “According to myth, the world was created in six days, now watch out! Here comes ‘Genesis!’ We’ll do it for you in six minutes!” Indeed the ‘Genesis Device,’ created by a team of human scientists, is capable of turning a barren planet into an Earth-like paradise, through the use of technology, wholly apart from divine intervention. However, despite science’s triumph over God, the technology has a flaw. Kirk’s son points out that in their rush to complete the project, they used an unstable proto-matter as a shortcut. This makes any planet created with the Genesis Device dangerously unstable. Early on the potential use of the Genesis Device as a weapon of mass destruction is realized. In the film’s climactic battle, the villain Khan tries to use the Genesis Device to kill Kirk and his crew but ends up terraforming a nebula instead.

Another important encounter with religion occurs in the Original Series episode “Bread and Circuses,” where Kirk, Spock, and McCoy discuss the Prime Directive of non-interference in primitive cultures and encounter a group of proto-Christians. In dialogue with them, one of the Christians states that “all men are brothers,” to which Kirk agrees “yes, all men are brothers.” This seems to be Roddenberry’s way of saying that he agrees with certain aspects of religious belief, when they affirm human dignity. Of course, theology is not examined too deeply, and in fact by episodes end, Kirk and company are still confused as to why the group worships “the Sun” (as the Christians refer to themselves). Lt. Uhura informs Kirk that she has been listening to further broadcasts from the planet and believes that they are actually followers of “the Son of God.” One could interpret this to mean that Christianity does not exist in the 23rd century leading to their confusion. However, Kirk expresses the sentimental wish to be there to “see how it all began.” In its primitive, non-threatening (and in this case persecuted and underground) state, Christianity has some sentiments and aspects that Roddenberry agrees with.

In “Search for Spock” a man-made miracle occurs. In the previous film, Spock had died saving his friends, echoing Vulcan philosophy with his statement that “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” Kirk says in his departed friend’s eulogy “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels… his was the most human.” Yet when Spock’s coffin is shot into space, it is not the end of him. Kirk returns home to find Spock’s father reprimanding him for leaving Spock’s “soul” behind. As it turns out, Spock had done a telepathic mind-meld with Dr. McCoy before his death, allowing Spock’s spirit or essence to reside in the mind of the good doctor. On the surface of the newly born “Genesis planet,” Spock’s coffin has landed and been affected by the technology. His body is “reborn” as a small child, who matures to adulthood at a vastly accelerated rate. Having finally mind-melded (sharing his thoughts) with McCoy, Spock regains his sense of self.

Though his personality seems slightly altered, his friends accept him as the real Spock. The Genesis planet destroys itself, but Spock emerges whole, like a chick hatching from an egg. This evokes a metaphor of the individual being worth more than an entire world. Indeed Spock’s statement is reversed, in this case, “The needs of the few or the one outweigh the needs of the many.” The individual’s importance is affirmed alongside the Star Trek philosophy of collectivist harmony.

Through these and other examples, Star Trek shows that what we once considered miracles may one day be duplicated by science and the immortality we seek in religious belief perhaps does not reside in the hands of a deity or some supernatural force, but rather through natural or technological means that are in our hands. The true gods may simply be ourselves.

A more important and recurring theme in the Star Trek shows is that of the False God or the Strongman. The crew encounters a being that at first appears to have incredible powers, perhaps even god-like abilities, but end up being exposed as a fraud. While the being may dazzle even some of the crew with showy tricks and apparent miracles, one person (usually the Captain) will see through the illusion and expose flaws in the society this “god” has setup or the plan they have in mind. In the fifth Star Trek movie “The Final Frontier”, Spock, Kirk, Sybok and McCoy encounter a being identifying himself as God. This being appears in the stereotypical Westernized figure of the “Father God” as depicted in art. He has a giant head, disembodied, depicting an older man with a kind face, flowing white hair and booming voice.

This “God” claims to be all of the gods that mankind has believed in and is the one that Sybok seeks. God wishes to carry his glory to the universe in the Starship Enterprise. Kirk is punished when he asks, “What does God need with a starship?” This shocks the others out of their delusion and they see “God’s” true colors. Sybok is the last to catch on when he sees his God appear with a face identical to his own. God is merely an alien who has been imprisoned in this far-away place and used the ruse to get himself out. Vengeful and angry, God tries to destroy our heroes, but is gunned down by a Klingon warship, with Spock at the controls.

The idea of the Strongman ties in with the idea of the False God as a recurring theme in Star Trek. The Strongman is a being that is not a god per se but highly advanced and self important, who, despite his power, is flawed and a menace to be defeated or outwitted by his supposed inferiors. The character of “Q” in The Next Generation is such a character, although he overlaps into both categories.

Q” is a super-being encountered by the new Enterprise crew in the pilot episode of The Next Generation “Encounter at Farpoint.” Humanoid in appearance, Q can snap his fingers and do all sorts of incredible things like change his shape, create illusions, transport the ship halfway across the galaxy and time travel. He is part of a “Continuum” of super beings that act like Cosmic Tricksters. Q expresses his contempt for humanity and its failings, to which Captain Picard protests that “rapid progress” is being made. It is later revealed that Q secretly envies humanity, having grown bored with his own omnipotence. The Q Continuum as a society is in decline and values human beings and their adaptability, individuality and creativity. Though Q constantly threatens and provokes human beings, he also seeks to protect them and challenge them to be better. In a way Q is more like Satan in the Biblical Book of Job… an agent of God that provokes people to face their personal problems head on and test their faith. In Star Trek, the faith being tested is in the goodness of human beings and their potential to overcome problems. Q himself is flawed, and despite his claims to the contrary, not nearly omnipotent.

In Deep Space Nine, the third television series of Star Trek, produced after Roddenberry’s death, more Strongmen and False Gods appear. A race of aliens known as “The Founders” who rule a portion of space called “the Dominion” is encountered by Captain Sisko and the crew of the Federation Space station Deep Space Nine. The Founders are shape shifting aliens (whose ability to change form at will could be viewed as truly godlike if it weren’t such a common thing in the Star Trek galaxy) who rule their sector of space with an iron fist. They hold other alien species, the Vorta and the Jem-Hadar as their slaves. These two slave races worship the Founders as gods. Both races are genetically bred for servitude. The Jem-Hadar are ruthless soldiers kept under control through the use of drugs (‘Ketracel White’) that they are addicted to from birth. Both the Vorta and the Jem-Hadar are genetically programmed to lay down their lives for their gods. The Founders are obviously not gods in the true sense, but they, the leaders of their society, use religion as a means to control their subjects and act much like the Strongmen seen elsewhere in Star Trek with their megalomania and racism.

Another issue brought up by Deep Space Nine is its treatment of clergy. In the Bajoran religion they have a leader called “the Kai:” essentially the Bajoran equivalent of a Pope. This religious leader is always shown as female (although a man runs for the office, he loses).

Another religious concept, the idea of a paradise, or heaven, has played out countless times in the shows and films. Usually the paradise is an illusion or trap, one in which a culture is stagnated.

In the Star Wars science fiction universe of George Lucas, we see a different picture painted of the world and the role of religion in it. Star Wars does not take place in our future, but rather in a “galaxy far far away,” a long time ago. Technology is seen less as a shiny new cure for all things, but as an old and familiar part of everyday life that doesn’t always work like it’s supposed to. Technology has the potential for both good and bad, but it is not a panacea. Traveling about the galaxy is as common a thing for people in Star Wars as driving the family car across the country for modern people.

Unlike Star Trek, with its many authors and contributors who have modified the story and characters after Roddenberry’s death, Star Wars continues to be a franchise controlled ultimately by one man.

In the original trilogy, we see the story of a rag-tag band of idealistic Rebels fighting against an oppressive totalitarian government known as the Galactic Empire and their ultimate triumph over that evil. In the prequel trilogy, we see the events in the twilight decades of the Old Republic, a democratic but corrupt government that ruled before the Empire.

The prequels tie both trilogies together by weaving a common thread, the story of the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. In the first film [story order speaking] The Phantom Menace, a small political incident [a dissident trading faction starting a war with another planet] occurs and some Jedi Knights are sent to resolve the issue. In the Old Republic, the Jedi Knights are a religious order of warriors. They have the innate ability [apart from technology] which lets them tap into a mysterious cosmic “Force” that grants them superhuman abilities such as telekinesis, mind control, increased stamina in battle, levitation, and other incredible skills. They wield glowing energy swords known as Lightsabers with amazing skill. While the Jedi are certainly powerful, they are not invincible, and they do not seek power for themselves. The Jedi Order is located in a Temple on Coruscant, the capital city of the Galactic Republic and is under the authority of the Supreme Chancellor of the Senate. The Jedi Order adheres to strict rules in a “Jedi Code” [which is not fully expounded on screen].

A Master chooses a “Padawan” [apprentice] to train as a Jedi and they are all celibate. In fact, all Force sensitivity seems to be selected by nature, and Jedi are recruited soon after birth. Jedi are very rare in the galaxy, numbering about ten thousand out of hundreds of thousands of star systems. One Jedi is discovered on a backwater desert planet quite by accident. The role of religion in Star Wars is established as one of service, but viewed negatively; it is the tool of the state.

The Empire Strikes Back is said to be the most overtly religious of the films. While the prophecy of the Chosen One in the prequels, and statements about “the Will of the Force” conjured up images of monotheistic and Judeo-Christian overtones, now the Force is described more nebulously. It has been compared to Buddhism, Taoism, or other eastern religious beliefs.

In CHRISTIAN SYMBOLISM IN STAR WARS? Reggie Kidd’s Blog says, "Of all the Bible’s stories, however, Anakin’s story reminds me of Samson’s as much as of anybody’s. In the enemy’s house only because of his own sins (all for the love of a woman!), Samson stretches out his arms to destroy both God’s enemies and himself. That’s a lot like where Episode 6 is finally going to take us: with (a repentant?) Anakin taking out the Death Star, Darth Sidious, and himself all at once. As Rod Bennett has observed

[], Christians have always seen anticipations of their perfect Messiah in flawed figures like Samson, Moses (his sins keep him out of the Promised Land), David (he commits adultery with Bathsheba and murders her husband Uriah), and Solomon (his myriad foreign wives are the conduit for idolatry among God’s people). As a redeemer as much in need of redemption himself, maybe Anakin is as much like Christ as any of these is. The twist in Star Wars is that here a Prodigal Father is ‘saved’ by the son who still sees the good in him.

In the Star Wars corpus there’s a strong sense of karma or justice that can’t be evaded — things have to be balanced out. The Greek tragedians’ sense that the higher the perch and the greater the fall, the more satisfying the story- that sense does indeed seem to peek out at us. But there’s nothing distinctly biblical about this balancing act. In fact, the case could be made that in this regard Star Wars owes more to Taoism or Buddhism than to the Western sense of tragedy or the biblical story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation."
Star Wars enthusiasts and many Christians have gone to great lengths to draw comparisons between scenes in the series and narratives in the Bible. While a few are scattered across this article, some are listed here.

The "belly of the beast" motif - when the heroes are "swallowed" up by the fearsome Death Star space station – is likened by Star Wars aficionados to some kind of important transition or transformation, a death-and-rebirth experience, like Jonah in the belly of the whale, or Jesus in the tomb.

The Star Wars epic begins “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…,” in which there is an ongoing battle between the forces of good (the Jedi knights) and evil (the Sith warriors). In real history, a titanic cosmic battle was also fought – between the angels who rebelled against God and those that remained loyal to Him.

Revenge of the Sith opens with an extended action sequence climaxing with Anakin piloting a spaceship out of orbit for a crash-landing to the planet below, like Lucifer falling from the heavens. By the finale, Anakin’s descent into perdition is complete as he falls in battle with his mentor Obi-Wan on a volcano planet amid raging rivers of lava, a veritable lake of fire [shades of the Book of Revelation] casting a hellish glow over the combatants. The betrayal command “Execute Order Sixty-Six,” is seen as an echo of the number of the beast [666, Revelation 13:18], and the redemptive suffering of the son, Luke Skywalker, at the climax of Return of the Jedi. The camel at the end of Revenge of the Sith -when Anakin is secretly delivered to his adoptive parents in a desert setting- evokes the image of the exile of baby Jesus into Egypt. Anakin’s killing of the young Jedi-in-training could perhaps be likened to Herod the Great’s slaughter of Bethlehem’s innocents. And, the set of Darth Vader’s burning could have come straight from Dante’s Inferno minus the punishing demons.

In The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul looks an awful lot like a stereotypical depiction of the devil, a horned, red-skinned destroyer in black. In fact, in one interview Lucas responded to the question of what he learned in making the film by saying that he learned how many evil characters in world mythology have horns.

Another major example of Lucas’ dependence on Christian imagery is when Anakin Skywalker is described in a way that suggests that he had no physical father: that he was the product of a virgin birth, the ‘chosen one’ of prophecy, destined to destroy evil. Though the film provides a possible alternative scientific explanation for this fact, many notice the similarity to Jesus. Fans argue that it might be pointed out that it symbolizes the idea that in order to fall to the lowest depths- like Darth Vader- one must fall from the highest heights- like Anakin Skywalker.

Needless to say, Star Wars is very far from Christian allegory; and, elements of Eastern religion are very much in evidence. In The Empire Strikes Back Yoda famously endorses gnostic* contempt for physicality and the body- "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter,"- and in Revenge of the Sith Yoda articulates the Jedi ethic of detachment in a way that goes beyond Christian freedom from excessive attachment into Buddhist impassiveness: according to Yoda, our acceptance of death should be so complete that we shouldn’t even mourn the dead. *see pages 32-35
Writes Charles E. Herzog in STAR WARS: THE TRUTH BEHIND THE FICTION July-August 2005 issue :

The Star Wars series, which has captivated millions of moviegoers, is possibly the most popular Hollywood production in history. Yet, few realize that the series is full of not-so-subtle inferences from the world’s best-selling book—the Bible.

Similar to the recent Matrix* movies, Star Wars contains elements of biblical truth mixed with much fiction. Such films are extremely popular, as they produce a fictional world that appears to address the mysteries of life—appealing to everyone’s desire to understand the unknown. The saga portrays a war of good versus evil, and contains many themes similar to those found in the Bible. Some have a hint of truth to them. Others have come from manmade “traditional” Christian beliefs- counterfeits to biblical truths… [Many] elements of the Star Wars series are counterfeits of the world’s brand of Christianity- which is a counterfeit of true Christianity! The world’s Christianity, like Star Wars, mixes truth and error.” *see pp. 33, 42
Whether George Lucas was conscious of using biblical themes in Star Wars one cannot be sure. But, in the last British census, 400,000 people listed JEDI as their personal religion!

Through all the episodes there is the subject of the Force. Though in the fourth film, Episode I, a semi-scientific explanation is added to it, the Force remains a spiritually problematic element. Among Christians’ problems with the Star Wars series, this is the big one. In A New Hope "the Force" is described as an energy field generated by all living beings, and "binds the galaxy together," which partially "controls your actions" but also "obeys your commands". In Episode I- The Phantom Menace, on the other hand, the Force seems to have a more personal quality: Jedi knight Qui-Gon speaks repeatedly of "the living Force and even of "the will of the Force", which resonates more with theism. For at least some gifted individuals, the Force is a source of both power and guidance, by which properly trained adepts can achieve startling effects: objects can be made to levitate or fly through the air, and distant locations or the future can be seen.

Microscopic life forms that reside in the cells of a body known as “Midichlorians” are said to be an indicator of Force sensitivity. Qui Gon Jinn, the elder Jedi sent to negotiate the dispute says that without Midichlorians life could not exist “and we would have no knowledge of the Force.” 

Continues Greydanus, "Of [the mythological motifs], none is more pervasive and well-known than ‘the Force’, locus of mystery and meaning in the Jedi universe. Here, too, it is possible to discern the [Joseph] Campbell influence. Campbell himself seems to have been a sort of pantheist or monist, who believed that the ‘ultimate mystery’ was impersonal energy rather than a personal God. As appropriated by Lucas, ‘the Force’ seems to be more ambiguous than Campbell’s idea of impersonal energy as the ultimate mystery."
More problematically, the Force appears to be morally polarized, with a "light side" and a "dark side." The light side [connected with good, peace, and self-defense] is the power of the Jedi, and the dark side [connected with evil, anger, and aggression] is the power of their enemies, the Sith. On a couple of occasions, the study of the Force by both Jedis and Sith is referred to as a "religion"- though only in the first film, and only in a disparaging way, by skeptical individuals. In The Empire Strikes Back, Jedi master Yoda denies that the dark side of the Force is stronger than the light side; but he does not declare the light side stronger, leaving open the possibility that the two are of equal strength and that the Force is fundamentally dualistic- allowing for the possibility of a yin-yang balance of good and evil.

Yet a number of factors suggest that good and evil aren’t really on an equal footing after all. For example, there is the overall series’ moral outlook, including the climactic triumph of good over evil, especially in the daring redemptive twist at the end of Return of the Jedi. There’s also the way the characters use the language of "the Force" without qualification to refer specifically to the good side, whereas if you mean the dark side you have to specify.

No one says "Use the good side of the Force" or "May the good side of the Force be with you"; it’s taken for granted. In fact, the very phrase "the good side" is hardly ever used, whereas "the dark side" and "the dark side of the Force" are used all the time. "The good side" isn’t needed, because "the Force" without qualification evidently means the good side.
In interviews, George Lucas has explained that the Force is a symbol for all that is unseen in the universe. The light side is essentially a symbol for God- the unseen Power of good, while the dark side is a symbol for the forces of evil. According to Lucas, the Jedi exhortation to "Use the Force" essentially means "Make a leap of faith" [or "Trust God"]. The phrase "May the Force be with you," of course, is clearly evocative of "May God be with you."

In a 1999 interview with Bill Moyers he said, "It’s designed primarily to make young people think about the mystery. Not to say, ‘Here’s the answer.’ It’s to say, ‘Think about this for a second. Is there a God…? What does God feel like? How do we relate to God?’ Just getting young people to think at that level is what I’ve been trying to do in the films. What eventual manifestation that takes place in terms of how they describe their God, what form their faith takes, is not the point of the movie." In a nutshell, Lucas says, "Ultimately the Force is the larger mystery of the universe," and to "use the Force” is to take a “leap of faith.”

The connection between God and the Force [or its light side] was strengthened in Episode I with the introduction of the concepts of "the living Force" and even "the will of the Force.” Certain aspects of the way the Force is presented make an application to God more remote and difficult. In Episode IV, Ben Kenobi tells Luke that the Force partially "controls your actions" but also "obeys your commands" - neither of which literally applies to God’s interactions with us.

The films do not establish the light side as intrinsically stronger than [or different in origin from] the dark side, so good and evil can come across as equal in strength and origin. As a result, many people reasonably came away from the first Star Wars trilogy regarding the force as a New-Age mystical energy field balanced between good and evil, comparable to the yin-yang balance of Taoism, as mentioned above. This perception may be strengthened as a result of another development - a prophecy from Episode I, The Phantom Menace:

This prequel supposes the notion of "balance" in the Force by establishing Luke’s father Anakin Skywalker as a messianic "chosen one" of prophecy destined to "bring balance to the Force"- not, as Revenge of the Sith now makes unambiguously clear, by establishing an equality of good and evil, but by destroying the evil of the Sith, which occurs in Return of the Jedi. So "balance" in the Force is defined not as a yin-yang coexistence and interpenetration of good and evil, but as the triumph of good over evil. This suggests the primacy of good over evil, in keeping with Judeo-Christian teaching.

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