Star Wars and the Christian Worldview

The Star Wars saga is a gripping story, but only because it has to borrow capital from Christianity. Allow me to explain.

It’s obvious that George Lucas created a very different world from the real world in his galaxy far, far away. Lucas’s world has no personal God, but rather an impersonal Force that permeates the universe. But because it is impersonal and all-encompassing, the Force must contain within itself both what we consider “good” and what we consider “evil.” It is, therefore, divided into two sides: the Light and the Dark Side. In the Star Wars world, one Force encompasses a duality of ultimate principles that stand against one another and yet hold all things in balance.

The worldview behind Star Wars, in other words, is pantheistic and eastern rather than theistic and western. But I believe the story itself is only compelling to the degree that it denies the very worldview it claims and inconsistently borrows from Christianity. Think about it this way: if Light and Dark are equally ultimate principles of the Force, then there is absolutely no basis for us to identify one as good and the other as evil. The choice to follow the Dark Side cannot really be portrayed as a morally deficient choice unless we have some transcendent principle above both Light and Dark that tells us that Light is good and Dark is evil. But that is the very thing the Star Wars universe does not have.

And yet, as we watch Anakin Skywalker seduced by the Dark Side, as we watch his son Luke resist its pull, as we watch Kylo Ren feeling the pull of the Light, we instinctively root for each character to choose what is right. We see the choice before them, not merely as an expression of personal preference, but as a moral reality. The Light really is good, and the Dark really is evil. Therefore, we hate the Empire, and we hate the First Order. We root for the Rebellion and for the Resistance. The story only works if we can rally behind good and stand opposed to evil.

The original saga, whose story ended with Episode 6, The Return of the Jedi, left us with the triumph of the Light over the Darkness. Darth Vader returned to his former self, overthrew his Sith master, and thus played a key role in toppling the whole Empire. I am absolutely certain that the additions to the saga (episodes 7, 8, and 9) will end with a similar victory. Clearly, the makers of these films know what their audiences will want and expect, because the ultimate triumph of good over evil is so ingrained into our thinking that we can’t envision of the possibility of loving a story that ends otherwise.

The good/evil dynamic only works in a world where a transcendent God sets the standard for all that is good, defining it over against all that is evil. Star Wars has no such God, at least not in the structure of its world. But the fingerprints of such a God are all over the story itself, because those who wrote (and are still writing) the story are image bearers of the triune God of the Bible, and thus cannot help but give glory to him, even when they don’t realize that that is what they are doing.

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