It’s no surprise that “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is dominating the box office. Movie and “Star Wars” fans alike are praising the film, and it is likely to be a topic of conversation for months to come. Whether you’re a “Star Wars” fan or not, keeping your kids from the franchise is nearly impossible, which means a conversation about the saga’s overt spiritual themes is more than warranted.
The debate within the Christian community over how to handle “Star Wars’” complicated handling of religion and spirituality is not new. Some have condemned the series, others have gone so far as to blatantly incorporate it into church services or use it as a tool for Evangelism.
“The Last Jedi” highlights the spirituality of the Jedi more than previous films. Jedi “scriptures” get screen time, light and dark are handled in an almost yin-yang fashion, and the “Jedi religion” is discussed multiple times. Focus on the Family’s Plugged In review explains:
The Force takes perhaps an even more prominent role in The Last Jedi than we've seen in a while: Luke refers to it explicitly as a "religion," and we see a few ancient, "sacred" texts associated with the belief system. Luke painstakingly explains the workings of the Force to Rey, as well, much like Yoda did to him ever so long ago. People use the Force to communicate over long distances, lift rocks and dive into curious dreamlike states in the quest for answers.
Whether you and your family will see “The Last Jedi” or not, you’ll want to consider a few points before talking with your kids about this decades-long cultural phenomenon.
Yes, There is Truth in “Star Wars”
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is easy to find redemptive themes in the “Star Wars” universe. The focus on good over evil, the ability for evil to be redeemed, heroism, sacrifice, and more. One church points out that the very story arc of the “Star Wars” saga mimics that of the Bible:
The story arc of the Star Wars movies moves the galaxy from a broken, corrupt existence (episodes I through III) to a time of darkness and struggle (episodes IV through VI) to a hopeful rebirth into a more idealistic existence (the new trilogy).
If that story arc sounds familiar, it might just be because it is the narrative arc of the Christian Bible, which tells the story of the fall of creation (Genesis), creation’s dark struggle (contained in much of the Old Testament), and the beginning of its rebirth through Jesus Christ. Remember this the next time you settle in for a Star Wars movie marathon.
Even if you’ve decided “Star Wars” isn’t right for your family, acknowledging that it gets some things right is an important way to teach your kids how to bridge the gap between what their friends are watching and truth.
Worldview Confusion in “Star Wars”
Now for the part that concerns many Christian parents. In “May the Force Bewitch You: Evaluating the Star Wars Worldview,” Robert Velarde from the Christian Research Journal points out that the worldview inherent to our favorite fictional universe is a jumbled mix of errant worldviews present in our own:
There are elements that bind the Star Wars philosophy together—the Force and desire to bring balance to it, for instance—but as a whole, the Star Wars worldview is a blending of ideas, religions, and philosophies.
Velarde notes elements of Gnosticism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other worldviews and philosophies. To say that “Star Wars” is “Christian” because of the truths present in the story (as some have suggested), seems flawed.
Acknowledge the good, but remember that two thumbs up and no further discussion could leave your kids with a muddled understanding of what is truth and what is fiction.
Teach How Paul Used Culture to Explain Truth
When Paul visits the Greeks in Acts 17, he delivers a powerful sermon on Mars Hill that should serve as a model for how to use culture to explain deeper truths. He notes that the men of Athens erected an altar with the inscription “To an Unknown God.”
Paul says in verse 23 (NASB), “Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you…” and goes on to explain how this mysterious god they could not name is actually the creator of the universe and the very One they were missing.
This model for engaging culture (using themes, stories, and traditions from it) to teach truth is a great model for handling the “Star Wars” saga. These movies are not just movies, but a deeply ingrained part of the larger culture. The characters and even some plot twists (“No, I am your father”) are nearly universal. If they get a conversation started about the nature of the REAL force behind the universe, so be it.
Faith and Doubt
In “The Last Jedi,” the original hero of the story arc, Luke Skywalker, faces doubt about the core beliefs that had once saved the galaxy. His personal torment between belief and doubt is a great springboard for a discussion about how doubt is handled in Scripture.
1 Thessalonians 5 tells us to “test all things,” and this verse is a great way to start a conversation about what is true and what is fiction in “Star Wars.” Resources like “The Case for Christ” documentaries can help you teach your children how to evaluate ideas when they find themselves doubting.
Without Evil, There is No Story
Years in Sunday School and church can desensitize us to the powerful storytelling nature of Scripture. Jesus spoke in parables for a reason, and the complexity of those narratives suggest that we were never meant to have a black-and-white view of the world. Authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are both known for creating evil characters and obstacles that bring out the good and the redemptive in their heroes.
“Star Wars,” in a similar fashion, shows that evil can be redeemed (a theme from the original trilogy that comes back around in “The Last Jedi”) and that good always wins. If you’re concerned about violence, scary bad guys, or other tense themes or images, you may want to keep younger eyes away from the “Star Wars” universe for awhile (they are, after all, about war). But for older kids, these frightening elements are a reminder that evil will be conquered.
For kids that already love the “Star Wars” universe and can’t wait to see “The Last Jedi,” don’t forget to remind them that brave heroes are central to the narrative arcs throughout the Bible. Quench their thirst for adventure with films like The Thorn, The Book of Daniel, The Book of Ruth, and Daughters of Eve.