Cracking the Star Wars Code -- Cornerstone 2000
HELLO -- Welcomes:
THIS IS THE THIRD OF 4 LECTURES -- Episode 6
We've been talking about the STAR WARS Saga:
We've discussed its origins -- which we traced to the interior conflicts of George Lucas' own generation...
We've discussed how the explicit religious element in it is also colored by its origins in the values and mores of the Sixties...
HOW THE SIXTIES WANTED AND NEEDED A RELIGION BUT HAD BEEN INNOCULATED, SO TO SPEAK, AGAINST WHAT THEY HAD BEEN TAUGHT WAS CHRISTIANITY.
STAR WARS SPEAKS THIS LONGING INTO MYTHIC AND METAPHORICAL TERMS...
In our Tolkien series we've been discussing the "EUCHATASTROPHE" -- the deep human need for A HAPPY ENDING.
The storyteller's motivation is to provide this HAPPY ENDING... and the most satisfying one he can imagine.
Therefore, he looks into his heart to see WHAT HIS HEART NEEDS TO HEAR.
Pascal said: "In the heart of every man there is a God-shaped vacuum."
So just about every happy ending that rings true has some element of "finding God" in it.
So, I propose that Lucas' STAR WARS series tells the story that his generation most wanted to hear...
That the universe is not EMPTY and ATHEISTIC
That a world of monks, and quests, and noble knights IS truer to reality than the world of machines, and big business, and bureaucrats...
That our lives are not meaningless chance... but that God IS at work behind the scenes to forge our destinies...
And that redemption and rebirth are possible... and eternal life is the reward for allowing them to happen.
Episode 4 -- the "regular Star Wars" -- is the Act One that sets everything up.
Episode 5 -- EMPIRE -- darkens and deepens the canvas... UPS THE ANTE... moves the story into the realm of explicitly spiritual conflicts...
Episode 6 -- RETURN OF THE JEDI -- is the EUCHATASTROPHE.
And so it, naturally, tells us the most about Lucas' view of the universe.
First of all:
Is "the Force" God?
Let's hear an early answer from Lucas -- circa 1977:
"It's sort of boiling down religion into a very basic concept. The fact that there is some deity, or some power, or some... force, that sort of controls our destinies. Or works for good... and also works for evil... has always been very basic in mankind."
Did you hear how Lucas seemed compelled to pause for a moment here?
He didn't seem content to say that this "Force" works only for good... but also that it works for evil...
This is perhaps the single element in Lucas' religious notions that gives his Christian critics the most trouble.
DUALISM: The eastern idea that "God" has a good side and a dark side...
SHIVA/KALI in Hinduism. The Creator and the Destroyer are the same god.
And we do indeed seem to find this idea strongly expressed in the films:
Luke: "How did my father die?"
Ben: "A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights. He betrayed and murdered your father. Now the Jedi are all but extinct. Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force."
Yoda: "Luke! You must complete the training!"
Luke: "I can't keep the vision out of my head. They're my friends. I've got to help them!"
Yoda: "You must not go!"
Luke: "But Han and Leia will die if I don't."
Ben: "You don't know that. Even Yoda cannot see their fate."
Luke: "But I can help them! I feel the Force."
Ben: "But you cannot control it. This is a dangerous time for you, when you will be tempted by the dark side of the Force."
Yoda: "Remember. A Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware. Anger, fear, aggression... the dark side are they. When once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny... Luke... Luke... Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor, or suffer your father's fate you will... "
If "the Force" is supposed to represent God then it would seem that Lucas' is portraying God as being the source of both good and evil spiritual energy.
Responding to these concerns, who has seen the Christian T-shirt that's been out lately?: "Jesus -- the Force without a Dark Side."
AND YET... don't we pause, just as Lucas did, when we put a FULL STOP after this phrase?
Yes... Jesus is light "and in Him is no darkness at all... "
AND YET... Don't we feel the need here to say something else about Jesus?
Don't we want to express what C.S. Lewis said about Aslan -- his Christ figure in Narnia... ?
THAT ALSAN IS "NOT A TAME LION"?
I want you to listen to me very carefully here... hear me out.
Isn't it true that anyone who expects nothing but sweetness, prosperity, and success from the Christian God is likely to be in for a hard lesson or two?
Isn't this what our hearts revolt against in the Kenneth Copeland sort of God... who just gives, gives, gives all day long without ever asking for anything in return? The "How May I Serve You Today" kind of God?
Yes, Jesus gives peace... but not as the world giveth.
"I am not come to bring peace, but a sword... "
"Depart from me, into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels... "
"Whoever will not take up his cross and follow me, is not worthy of me... "
LION OF JUDAH -- Destroyer with Fire in his Eyes, coming with his saints to Execute judgment on the ungodly... WHICH IS US, FOR THE MOST PART.
STORY OF JOB --
Could we really blame Job for saying "With friends like this who needs enemies?"
God speaks out of the whirlwind... "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth... ?"
The idea that FROM MAN'S SINFUL, FINITE point of view, good can sometimes be just as terrible as evil...
... in fact, CAN LOOK EXACTLY LIKE EVIL...
Holiest day on the Christian Calendar: "GOOD FRIDAY"
NOW, DON'T PANIC
I said at the beginning that I am an orthodox Christian, and I mean it.
God is PURE GOOD without any admixture of evil...
But our religion is not a religion of pure sweetness and light. Sometimes God works out his purposes in ways that might seem terrible or fearful:
... and even in the SINS of people like Pharaoh, King David, or Judas Iscariot.
This is not to say that He ever positively wills anyone to do what is wrong...
But only to say that Jesus is Lord EVEN OVER THE EVILS IN OUR WORLD.
NOW OBVIOUSLY... this is a DEEP SUBJECT
In fact, it's nothing less than a re-statement of the age old problem of evil... that is, how can a God how is both GOOD and OMNIPOTENT allow so much suffering in the world... ?
It's SO DEEP, in fact...
that I'm going to ask you to cut Mr. Lucas a little slack for getting a somewhat inadequate explanation of it...
CUT HIM A BREAK UNTIL TOMORROW'S SESSION... WHEN WE'LL TAKE THIS MATTER OF "DUALISM" UP AGAIN...
We NEED to consider EPISODE I... and even speculate on EPISODES II & III...
... BEFORE WE CAN ADDRESS THIS ISSUE FULLY.
Right now, let's ask a more basic question:
Is the Force REALLY INTENDED TO BE GOD?
This is an ASSUMPTION made without hesitation by the Conspiracy Theorists...
But recall yesterday, when we heard Lucas say "I would hesitate to call the Force God... "
Let's look carefully at what we can learn from the films themselves:
We've heard the Force called:
An energy field created by living things...
A power source that can be tapped into AND CONTROLLED by the Jedi
These terms make it seem like a mere synonym for what atheists call ESP or what religious people call "spiritual power"...
Watchman Nee spoke of "the Latent Power of the Soul."
Yet we also learn that it:
Determines our destinies...
Here it sounds like what the Greeks called "Fate"...
Muslims speak of Allah in this way...
and even Christians talk this way of the mysterious thing called "Providence."
Yet in the new Episode I we learn something else:
... that there is such a thing as "The Will of the Force":
Only a person can have a Will...
IT SEEMS CLEAR TO ME THAT LUCAS -- TRUE TO HIS WORD -- HAS LUMPED EVERY KNOWN CONCEPT OF GOD INTO THAT CUISINARD OF HIS TO COME UP WITH "THE FORCE"
And that to say even that his GOD IS DUALISTIC is too doctrinaire.
AS PAUL SAID OF THE PHILOSOPHERS ON MARS HILL, LUCAS IS VERY CAREFUL TO COVER ALL HIS RELIGIOUS BASES... AND HE HAS EVEN ERECTED A SHRINE TO THE "UNKNOWN GOD."
I PROPOSE THEN, THAT WE SHOULD LOOK NOW TO SEE IF THERE ARE ANY SIGNS THAT THE "UNKNOWN GOD" HAS RESPONDED TO THIS INVITATION...
... IF HE HAS EXPRESSED HIMSELF AT ALL ON THIS ALTAR PREPARED FOR HIM...
First of all, let's look past all the explicit religious talk to examine
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN THE STORY:
What I find most interesting about RETURN OF THE JEDI is how quickly all the Eastern vagueness vanishes when the grand climax arrives!
In Return of the Jedi we find that a number of Lucas' characters are going to lose their lives in the climactic throes of good vs. evil.
And what I want you to watch today is the change in emphasis...
How that when the issues are life and death, heaven and hell, time and eternity, Lucas and company start to show their true colors...
As you remember, Luke Skywalker has been told that his father was a great and heroic Jedi knight.
That's true of course... but the complete truth is, shall we say... a bit more complex... as is often the case in the Christian universe...
Vader: "You are beaten. It is useless to resist. Don't let yourself be destroyed as Obi-Wan did."
Vader: "There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you. Luke... you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy."
Luke: "I'll never join you!"
Vader: "If you only knew the power of the dark side! Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father... "
Luke: "He told me enough. He told me you killed him!"
Vader: "No. I am your father."
Luke: "No. No. That's not true. That's impossible!"
Vader: "Search your feelings. You know it to be true."
Luke: "No! No!"
Vader: "Luke. You can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son."
This is Luke's Temptation in the Wilderness, of course... Vader takes him up to a pinnacle and offers him the Kingdoms of the World.
Every religion -- whether East or West -- has SOME IDEA that our choices matter...
BRAHAMISM has KARMA --
Brahmanism is the old religion of the East whose two major offspring are today's HINDUISM and BUDDHISM...
KARMA is "the Law of the Deed"... so that how one behaves in life determines how much more suffering one must go through before reaching complete purification.
But only CHRISTIANITY... and offshoots of it like ISLAM... has the concept of FINAL DAMNATION.
The Spiritual ASH HEAP... where even the good, beautiful creation of God called THE SOUL can send itself by the continuous action OF ITS OWN GOD-LIKE FREE WILL.
ALL EASTERN RELIGION IS UNIVERSALIST...
AND THUS DETERMINISTIC... "NO ONE CAN THWART GOD."
Real TEMPTATION... such as we see Luke undergo in the scene we just heard... and throughout the JEDI... ISN'T REALLY POSSIBLE.
Yet STAR WARS makes temptation CENTRAL to the entire plot:
Anakin's failure to overcome it (in the as yet unseen Episodes II & III)... has enormous consequences for ILL...
And the ultimate EUCHATASTROPHE of Episode 6... is made possible because of Luke's victory OVER it.
Emperor: "Welcome, young Skywalker. I have been expecting you. You no longer need those. Guards... leave us. I'm looking forward to completing your training. In time you will learn to call me master."
Luke: "You're gravely mistaken. You won't convert me as you did my father."
Emperor: "Oh, no, my young Jedi. You will find that it is you that is mistaken... about a great many things."
Vader: "His lightsaber."
Emperor: "Ah yes... a Jedi's weapon. Much like your father's. By now you must know that your father can never be turned from the dark side. So will it be with you."
Luke: "You're wrong. Soon I'll be dead. And you with me."
Emperor: (laughs) Perhaps you refer to the imminent attack of your rebel fleet. Yes, I assure you we are quite safe from your friends here."
Luke: "Your overconfidence is your weakness."
Emperor: "Your faith in your friends is yours."
Vader: "It is pointless to resist, my son."
But, of course, by the end we see that it ISN'T pointless to resist temptation in the STAR WARS universe...
... and that to a certain extent the entire NINE HOUR STORY SO FAR is precisely about the necessity OF resisting temptation.
And the fact that our CHOICES have been permitted by God to have eternal significance.
Did you notice the explicit use of the Christian term CONVERSION?
A concept alien to Eastern religion.
In the East every man is like Popeye: "I YAM WHAT I YAM -- AND THAT'S ALL WHAT I YAM."
But in the Christian Universe -- and in the STAR WARS universe --
what we ARE is, by God's grace, largely up to us...
... and it's never too late to change.
This brings us to flip side of temptation... that is, the reality of REDEMPTION
One of the key facts that proves JUST HOW WESTERN A STORY STAR WARS CAN BE is that the plot of Return of the Jedi turns on a MISSIONARY JOURNEY.
Luke, who was at first so horrified at his father's identity, has now begun to take a different view...
Leia: "What's wrong?"
Luke: "Leia. Do you remember your mother... your real mother?"
Leia: "Just a little bit. She died when I was very young."
Luke: "What do you remember?"
Leia: "Just images really... feelings. She was very beautiful, kind... but sad. Why are you asking me this?"
Luke: "I have no memory of my mother. I never knew her."
Leia: "Luke, tell me. What's troubling you?"
Luke: "Vader's here. Now, on this moon."
Leia: "How do you know?"
Luke: "I've felt his presence. He's come for me. He can feel when I'm near. That's why I have to go. As long as I stay I'm endangering the group and our mission. I have to face him."
Luke: "... He's my father."
Leia: "... your father?"
Luke: "There's more. It won't be easy for you to hear, but you must. If I don't make it back you're the only hope for the Alliance."
Leia: "Luke, don't talk that way. You have a power that I don't understand and could never have."
Luke: "You're wrong Leia. You have that power, too. In time, you'll learn to use it as I have. The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it... and my sister has it. Yes. It's you, Leia."
Leia: "I know... somehow... I've always known."
Luke: "Then you know why I have to face him."
Leia: "No! Luke, run away! Far away! If he can feel your presence then leave this place. I wish I could go with you."
Luke: "No you don't. You've always been strong."
Leia: "But why must you confront him."
Luke: "Because... there is good in him. I've felt it. He won't turn me over to the Emperor. I can save him... I can turn him back... to the good side. I have to try."
AGAIN, the use of explicitly Christian language... Anakin's SALVATION depends on his TURNING... on REPENTANCE.
And Luke has voluntarily endangered himself to try and make this SALVATION happen...
As Leia points out, Luke could easily keep safe himself by running far away... and abandoning Darth Vader to his JUST DESERTS...
... just as a Missionary today could stay safe in America and abandon the Arabs and the Chinese to theirs...
... just as Christ Himself could have stayed safely in heaven and abandoned us all.
And -- just as he did with Christ -- the devil sees an opportunity here:
Emperor: "You must go to the Centauri moon and wait for him."
Vader: "He will come to me?"
Emperor: "I have foreseen it. His compassion for you will be his undoing. He will come to you and then you will bring him before me."
Vader: "As you wish."
"His compassion will be his undoing"
Surely Satan himself must have said the very same thing as he looked down at the manger of Bethlehem...
... and saw the Almighty and Unassailable Jehovah now come down out of his heavenly fortress to robe himself in pink, vulnerable flesh!
Listen now, as Luke presents this mission to Anakin himself:
Commander: "This is a rebel who surrendered to us. Although he denies it, I believe there are more of them and I request permission to conduct a further search of the area. He was armed only with this."
Vader: "Good work, commander. Leave us. Conduct your search and bring his companions to me."
Commander: "Yes, my lord."
Vader: "The Emperor has been expecting you."
Luke: "I know father."
Vader: "So... you have accepted the truth."
Luke: "I have accepted the truth that you were once Anakin Skywalker, my father."
Vader: "That name no longer has any meaning for me."
Luke: "It is the name of your true self. You've only forgotten. I know there is good in you. The Emperor hasn't driven it from you fully. That was why you couldn't destroy me. That's why you won't turn me over to your Emperor now."
Vader: "I see you have constructed a new lightsaber. Your skills are complete. Indeed, you are powerful, as the Emperor has foreseen."
Luke: "Come with me."
Vader: "Obi-Wan once thought as you do. You don't know the power of the dark side. I must obey my master."
Luke: "I will not turn... and you'll be forced to kill me."
Vader: "If that is your destiny."
Luke: "Search your feelings father. You can't do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate!"
Vader: "It is... too late for me, son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now."
I'll never forget how this moment impacted me when I first saw the film...
TELL STORY OF WINO & "It's too late for me, son."
These are pretty heavy Christian emotions to find in a movie about "Eastern Religion"...
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT IS THAT RETURN OF THE JEDI IS A MOVIE ABOUT A SON WHO VOLUNTARILY UNTAKES SUFFERING HIMSELF IN ORDER TO PREVENT HIS FATHER FROM DYING IN THE STATE OF FINAL IMPENTIENCE...
AND THAT'S ABOUT AS CHRISTIAN A STORY AS YOU CAN TELL WITHOUT BREAKING OUT THE FOUR SPIRITUAL LAWS AT THE END... LIKE AN OLD-FASHIONED BILLY GRAHAM MOVIE.
We spoke of the EUCHATASTROPHE... the happiest happy ending that Lucas could speak to his generation...
And I think this is part of the reason that STAR WARS speaks so strongly to TODAY'S kids as well...
Think of it... thanks to the Sexual Revolution we now have A WHOLE GENERATION OF LUKE SKYWALKERS OUT THERE.
Latch-key kids... single-mom households... orphans in foster homes.
They all know... because mom has told them so...
... that Dad is a dirty rotten skunk...
... That he used to be part of our family, but was seduced by the dark side... and ran off with a Hooters girl or something.
... At any rate, HE DOESN'T WANT TO BE WITH US ANYMORE.
Yet when this generation lies awake in their beds at night... consoling themselves with their most satisfying fantasies...
DON'T THEY DREAM OF SETTING OUT TO FIND DAD OUT THERE SOMEWHERE...
... OF PRESENTING THEMSELVES TO HIS FACE... AND OF FINDING THAT THERE IS STILL GOOD IN HIM AFTER ALL...
... THAT DEEP DOWN INSIDE HE DOES STILL LOVE ME IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING... ?
Just like Luke, this generation cherishes its own impossible dream: "I've got to go to him. I can save him... I can turn him back... to the good side."
This generation's ultimate "EUCHATASTROPHE" then, is the spiritual climax of RETURN OF THE JEDI:
Vader: "Luke, help me take this mask off."
Luke: "But you'll die."
Vader: "Nothing can stop that now. Just for once, let me look on you with my own eyes."
Anakin: "Now... go, my son. Leave me."
Luke: "No. You're coming with me. I'll not leave you here... I've got to save you."
Anakin: "You already have, Luke. You were right. You were right about me. Tell your sister... you were right."
Luke: "Father! I won't leave you!"
NOW, I MUST SAY, THAT IN THE FACE OF SUCH AN ASTONISHING AMOUNT OF CHRISTIAN CONTENT, I PERSONALLY, FIND THE QUIBBLES ABOUT "EASTERN RELIGION" A LITTLE MYOPIC...
AND IT TROUBLES ME THAT SOME OF MY FELLOW CHRISTIAN COMMENTATORS DON'T SEE IT...
I remember hearing one Christian teacher say in a speech once that STAR WARS is actually EVIL because it showed Darth Vader CONVERTED.
This was supposed to have "PROVED" that George Lucas holds that "the Devil will eventually be saved... "
Well, OBVIOUSLY, if anyone in STAR WARS represents the Devil it's the EMPEROR...
And what happens to him at the end?
CAST INTO A BOTTOMLESS PIT.
To me, it's very SAD (and worrisome) that any Christian should NOT RESPOND to the theme of REPENTANCE AND REDEMPTION in a movie when he sees it.
Do we think that Vader was TOO BAD to save? Whereas, WE OURSELVES were saved because we WEREN'T REALLY SO BAD?
There's always been a Pharisaical itch to deny the "Deathbed Conversion."
SIMILARLY, I'm troubled by the people who said they didn't like EPISODE ONE because they "couldn't believe that this normal looking little boy could become Darth Vader."
DID THEY WANT TO SEE ANAKIN TORTURING KITTENS OR PULLING THE WINGS OFF A BUTTERFLY?
The ESSENCE of Christianity is that REAL INNOCENCE can become REAL EVIL.
EVIL is not something that HAPPENS TO US... OR WORSE, to "evil" people...
EVIL IS SOMETHING WE ALL CAN CHOOSE... .WE ALL CAN BECOME.
What then, causes some to choose evil while others choose good?
Here's a time when I think Jesus Himself would say to us, with Yoda:
"NO, No, there is no why... No more questions will I answer today...
... what is that to you? Follow thou me."
FOR ME, the FINAL PROOF that STAR WARS has as much of Western Religion in it as Eastern is in the final shot of the Original Trilogy:
Recall, if you will, that Jedi's happy ending includes a shot of our departed heroes:
Ben Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker
... looking on as those left behind celebrate their triumph...
... looking on, mind you, in recognizable bodily form, a concept anathema to all true Eastern religion.
In all Eastern Religion the ultimate victory is the loss of individuality, and death is described as
"the slipping of a drop of water back into an endless ocean."
But Lucas doesn't want those he loves slipping into any endless oceans.
When facing the Dark Destroyer, George Lucas, like most Westerners who play at what Chesterton called "the exalted apathy of the East," retreats back into the comfort of Christian thought forms --
Suddenly, he's a Lutheran again, acting out the ancient creed he learned at church:
"I believe in...
the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen."
Until tomorrow, let's allow George himself describe his motivations when he wrote the plot for RETURN OF THE JEDI:
"I'm sometimes asked why we decided to rehabilitate Darth Vader. Well, that was from the original story all along. It's really what the story was all about. The struggle between good and evil within us has been around since the beginning of time. All mythology and all religions address it, and it's the most intimate struggle that we cope with -- trying to do the right thing and what's expected of us by society, by our peers, and in our hearts. The issues of falling from grace and being redeemed, and the strength of family and love -- they're all very primary issues. And these things, ultimately, are what STAR WARS was all about from the beginning."
I HOPE YOU ARE ALL COMING BACK FOR EPISODE ONE...
EPISODE ONE IS VITAL... the last piece of our puzzle...
And I think that when you've gone carefully over it with me... and also speculated a bit with me on EPISODES 2 & 3...
I think I will have made the rest of my case pretty convincingly.
I'll see you tomorrow.
END CREDITS MUSIC.
On to Episode I...
Rod Bennett, Editor
Jim Henry, Webmaster