The Force Awakens
There has been much discussion about the use of the Force in the Star Wars saga. Throughout the film series, a group of people use this Force. These Force-sensitive people have special powers that help them do good or bad.
The question has been raised: “What is this Force, and how does it relate to faith?” Many people have mentioned comparisons to Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and even Islam. George Lucas spoke about why he put the Force as a plot device in the Star Wars saga.
According to John C McDowell, the Force has a spiritual meaning that seems familiar for those who see the movie(s):
“Instead of God, George Lucas’ Star Wars saga speaks of ‘The Force’. Taken from Carlos Castaneda’s Tales of Power, the term nevertheless carries clear connections with more recognisable theology. For instance, the blessing ‘May the Force be with you’ echoes an old Christian one of ‘May God be with you’. In addition, the voice of the spectral Jedi Master Obi-Wan proclaims to young Luke Skywalker ‘Remember, the Force will be with you always’, reflecting Jesus’ comforting of his disciples: ‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’, (Matthew 28:20).”
The reason that the Force sounds and feels familiar is because the Star Wars saga uses spiritual language. Lee Woofenden gives an interesting explanation about what the Force means. The Star Wars films do not talk about God specifically. Instead, they refer to a spiritual reality.
“Rather, in the Star Wars universe the Force is the equivalent of spiritual reality. To see this distinctly, consider the idea that there are three general levels of reality:
Divine reality (God)
Spiritual reality (the spiritual world and the human mind)
Physical reality (the physical universe)
Star Wars only deals with the second and third levels of reality in this schema.”
The Force awakens the audience to a spiritual reality. This is one of the reasons why the Star Wars film series have been so successful. The series uses the idea of the mono-myth, also known as the hero’s journey. George Lucas admitted that he was heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero With A Thousand Faces.
What is so amazing about the Star Wars saga is that Lucas has effectively used a spiritual idea and combined it with a common form of ritual to capture the audience’s imagination. The Force awakens the viewer to the hero’s journey that drives the story. This hero’s journey is combined with a spiritual reality to bring about a powerful cinematic experience. This is why the film feels familiar to many people. The pattern is closely followed in many of the world’s spiritual narratives, in shamanism, initiation rites, mystery religions (descent to the underworld), and in the mythologies of the world’s major religious or spiritual systems, including the stories of Gautama Buddha, Moses or Jesus Christ.
This spiritual narrative is the reason for the international appeal of Star Wars. The same spiritual narrative can be found in many other films as well. As one commentator mentioned:
“Lucas admits he never intended the films to replace worship or be worshiped. But he certainly injected religion into his films. And since he believes that all religions have some aspect of truth, he copied ideas from many different sources. He wanted to distill and modernize current religious issues in the films to make them more accessible and appealing. In the Star Wars epic, Lucas captured and made vivid what he thought were the common threads in all religions.”
The Force awakens the spiritual seeking audience to a spiritual reality. This makes the Star Wars films, as well as other poignant films, effective tools for Bible study. One can view the film and compare the film’s ideas and truths to the Biblical narrative. In that sense, a Christian can use the films as a way to speak to people about a spiritual reality. For the spiritual seeker, the physical and spiritual barriers have been broken. One can now investigate the idea of God. When a Christian takes these films and points the spiritual seeker to the Bible, the spiritual seeker can be more open to the claims of Christianity.