With the release of Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi in December, it brought back to mind the Star Wars saga and the storyline behind the movies: light vs. darkness and the Force. What is the Force? Dick Staub in Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters writes: One of Star Wars’ great contributions is the reinforcement of the centuries-old teaching that something spiritual is at work in the universe. Star Wars creator George Lucas named this phenomenon “the Force.”
The Jedi seeks to master the use of the Force, to be suffused with and fueled by this potent energy that “surrounds us and penetrates us… and binds the galaxy together,” according to Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Yoda expands on this, describing the Force as a strong ally and source of power for the Jedi, but warning Luke Skywalker that this power exists in a delicate balance. Under pressure or in dire circumstances, strong emotions can surge: “Anger… fear… aggression. The dark side of the Force are they.
The light-versus-dark dualism of Jedi lore parallels teachings found in the Bible. As early as the first century A.D. the Apostle John talked about “walking in the light” as Jesus is the light and warned against having anything to do with the works of “darkness.” The Judeo-Christian tradition tells stories of miracle workers such as Moses, Samson, David, and Elijah, who were so empowered by God that they worked miracles, parting the waters of the Red Sea and defeating a heavily armed giant with a slingshot and five smooth stones (in Star Wars terminology, they would be called “strong in the Force.”
As Christians, we believe that over and above the opposing forces of light and darkness there is a Lord over all, including the Force. We call this Lord of the Force: God. The first sentence of the Bible (Genesis) reveals that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and awesome proclamation of a God who holds the entire universe (cosmos) together. We can compare this, along with the Apostle Paul’s teaching that “in Jesus all things hold together,” to the Jedi idea of an energy field binding the galaxy together, but only if we recognize an important distinction. “In Jedi mythology the highest good is achieved by balancing light and dark, whereas Christians believe the highest good is achieved when darkness is defeated (Staub).”
We have also seen this idea of a Lord presiding over light versus darkness in the movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, where there are many rings, but “one Ring to rule them all.” “Sauron and Gandalf represent the dark and light sides, but Tolkien’s title reveals his Christian belief that above all the rings and all manner of powerful wizardry there is a Lord of the Rings who rules over all, and who will bring history to a just and good conclusion (Staub).” Tolkien said of his work, “The Lord of the Rings is a fundamentally religious and Christian work…. It is about God, and his sole right to divine honor.”
The early church father Augustine said that although God is a mystery to us, he reinforces the Christian belief that the purpose of our being is wrapped up in seeking, knowing, and serving the Lord of the Force. Those who succeed in that quest will be exceptional, like the Yoda and Obi-Wan of Star Wars lore, strong in the Lord of the Force and equipped to do God’s work in the world.