Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Faith Works 5-21-05
Jeff Gill

A New Hope Rewarded

Wait, wait, before you turn the page: yes, I’m going to talk about “Star Wars” a bit, but did you know that people regularly write in “Jedi” on faith surveys? That Lutheran pastors (Missouri Synod, at that) are preaching in Wookie suits? Is Ben Kenobi the spiritual director you’ve always wished you could find?
I was at the local theater the day before my sixteenth birthday to see the original “Star Wars,” which we now more clearly understand is “Episode IV,” the first words scrolling up across the screen. Going to see “The Empire Strikes Back” open was what we groomsmen did the night before one of my best friends got married, and my Lovely Wife and I went to see “Return of the Jedi” on a date not long before our wedding, twenty years ago.
So this movie series has woven through my life, as it has many GenX’ers; and today’s kids have inherited bins full of semi-dismembered action figures and AT-AT pieces, along with the busy, buzzing, overfrenetic Episodes I and II.
Woven for many of us has also been (can you tell I’ve been listening to Yoda lately?) “The Force.” What it is began with a vague set of references to cosmic forces believed in by some and mocked by pragmatists like Han Solo. Those who had disciplined themselves to choose the right and turn from the dark side, we learned on Degoba, could move mountains, or at least X-wings, and even resist the whispers of destiny that family and friends might use to divert us from our true path.
George Lucas does not have a coherent faith perspective, as far as all the interviews I’ve read over the years; I do read between the lines that the search for fathers and guidance is a powerful shaping force, or Force for him. The fact that he took a huge block of time off to raise his children makes me want to think well of his basic intentions.
So clergy of any faith community have an interesting challenge with “Revenge of the Sith.” The stark contrast of choosing light over darkness, muddled by those urging that great future goods can be accomplished by a little wrongness now, makes a place to stand in popular culture for traditional religion. Which way we turn, and how we speak to the “Star Wars” universe without neglecting the reality of our own cosmos, should be filtered with integrity through our own beliefs.
If we filter our beliefs through Lucas’ cosmos, we could end up with Jar-Jar Binks.
What really intrigues me is how the story now ties back to the original movie the teenager I was viewed with such rapture. We see that 1977 story anew, “A New Hope.” But the most powerful moment in memory (for me) is still that simple scene of a young man, standing near home but facing away toward the horizon, watching the setting sun as John Williams’ score swells to a haunting trajectory out, and beyond, and into possibility.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio. As Harry Potter, the Narnia Chronicles, and other stories touch our faith on screen, share your thoughts with him at