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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Star Wars: Christian or not?

A Christian doesn't have to see only movies, or read only books, that have a Christian world-view. Christians should be careful what they put in their minds. Being careful may mean that we don't intentionally watch, listen to, or read, some material with a Christian world-view which is of poor quality. We should also avoid material with a Christian world-view which is false. (Is that an oxymoron? Lying for Christ . . .) I may have done myself, or the series, a disservice, but I have not read any of the Left Behind books. I understand that the material is of poor quality, and pushes a particular view of eschatology as if it were certain. (I also understand that some people I love and admire have read and enjoyed the series, and I am not qualified to make a first-hand evaluation of them. I'm just trying to illustrate a point.) I try to watch what I watch on TV.

Here's what Paul said about this subject:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8, ASV)

He didn't say, but implied, that things which are dishonorable, unjust, impure, unlovely and bad report are to be avoided.

I have not yet seen Revenge of the Sith. We may or may not see it. I did see episodes 1 and 2, and wished that I had spent my time and money in other ways--they were not well done. Episodes 4, 5, and 6 of Star Wars were, in my opinion, worth seeing, and I may see them again.

Clearly, there are some differences of opinion about the world view of the series. (See here and here for articles on the concept of world view--both written from a Christian world view!)

Marla Swoffer has lived near George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, and has thoughts on him and his company based on that experience. Steven J. Rosen, apparently a Hindu himself, finds themes from Hindu literature in the Star Wars movies. Christianity Today Online just published a four part series which finds Christian themes there. (This is the fourth) Peter Chattaway and Jeffrey Overstreet, Christian film critics, speculate that the current crop of such were inspired by George Lucas. Here's one of (probably many) posts claiming that Lucas just wanted to raise questions about spirituality. Who is right?

I'm guessing that there are also Buddhist and Taoist themes in Star Wars. If there are, it wouldn't have surprised C. S. Lewis:
If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic--there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: What One Must Believe to Be a Christian. New York: Macmillan, 1952. p. 43.
I suppose that the Star Wars movies do contain some part of the truth. There are honorable acts and noble sacrifices portrayed. There is beauty in the scenery. There is good music in the score. Are they "Christian"? I'm not sure.

Thanks for reading.


cwv warrior said...

Hi Martin,
I haven't seen the movie either, but the guys in my family have...I'm sure George Lucas has a worldview all his own, which is bound to come through. The review in World Magazine points out a contradiction as to whether the Jedi are absolutists or is it "only a Sith [who] deals in absolutes"? If nothing else, the movie sounds thought provoking. Or like sheer confusion! Certainly, blending of worldviews will give you plenty of that.

Jeremy Pierce said...

CWV, you must be thinking of the supposed contradiction along these lines. To say only the Sith believe in absolutes is to make an absolute claim, so he's just denied his own statement. That's a misunderstanding of what an absolute is. It's not about whether there are statements that are simply true. Those who deny moral absolutes certainly think there are such statements. One such truth is that there are no moral absolutes. Another would be facts about who believes what, including facts about what things the Sith but no one else believe. There's nothing contradictory here.

Wayne M said...

Hi guys,
I will jump in here. I have seen the movie, and I have thought all along that Star Wars in general has a Hindu or Buddhist worldview, but there is still an interesting battle between good and evil. My oldest son is 16 and he as been a huge Star Wars fan for years but after seeing this last one now he hates both Star Wars and Vader. He had a visceral reaction to the good and gifted Anakin Skywalker becoming evil. This is why I would argue for even movies without a Christian worldview can be a great teaching tool.

Rupert Denis said...

Not assured.

Anonymous said...

People, when Obi Wan said that "only the Sith deal with absolutes" he was NOT talking about right or wrong, he was talking about loyalty to people. People are complex and not all good or bad, and with the possibility of repentance it is hard for the most part to say I am for or against someone else completely on everything they stand for. But the Sith, being evil, if you disagree with them on any point, then they consider you an enemy. This IS an evil attitude.

Later in the duel Anakin tells Obi Wan that the Jedi are evil from "his point of view" and Obi Wan tells him, "well then you are lost." That exchange WAS dealing with moral absolutes.

I think some took offense at possible parallels with certain leaders that might claim to be conservative Christians, but get wisdom and pray. Not all people are who or what they claim to be. If the shoe fits.....we should be honest with ourselves.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous, whoever you are. I had forgotten this post!

Anyway, I'm not really qualified to comment further on the points that you (and those your are responding to) raise, as I have not yet seen the movie, and likely never will.

Rev. Dave said...

Definitely not Christian films, however, I believe there are things Christians can learn from them and can open to dialogue with others.

Check this out:

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Rev. Dave.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big star wars fan and christian. I have 7 replica lightsabers (FX-Sabers) and I pray/read the bible regularly.

I'm 14 and have been an SW fan for years, a couple years ago I thought to myself "Would this be Okay with God?" and came to a realization. I think most movie writers try to stray away from traditional religions because they would always get some opposition and a lessened audience.

I think the SW universe would have just as many religions, if not countless more because of all the discovered planets. What if you added a christian theme to it?

The Force is not a religion, its just a tool. But with this tool it can get corrupted. Just as god made us, we are corruptible. If you put God and Satan in the SW universe. God represents the light side, while Satan represents the dark side. They force is corruptible, just like us. The dark side tempts with the thought of power and lust. While the light side is defensive the dark is offensive.

Plus, SW is just fantasy, unless you take it as fact then you might need help.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous.

Yes, Star Wars (etc.) is fantasy, and I think it's OK to get interested in it as long as we don't get overboard.

Some movie makers (of all kinds of movies) steer clear of Christianity because they don't have a Christian world-view.

Anonymous said...

I would still say that Christians try too hard to find "good" stuff in movies so they have an excuse to watch movies that they know they should not be watching.
The "force" in SW is the power used by both Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. DV uses the "evil" part of the force and LS uses the "good" part of the same force or power. There is no resemblance to God in the force, as God does not have any evil in Him.
There is nothing in the SW movies that builds us up as Christians, or that glorifies God. They are just fantastical stories that entertain us, and have definite Hindu teachings in them. Should Christians watch them?

Martin LaBar said...

That's an interesting first sentence, Anonymous, and I think it's true, for some Christians, anyway.

As I said, Christians should be careful of what we watch. However, we probably we are more influenced by the prevailing world-views on sex and "success" than we are by fantastic films.

Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

Well i just was wondering because in star wars the empire strikes back Han solo says " then I'll see you in hell" implying Christianity from my point of view unless the movies are put before god it completely fine. Also I don't know how Hindu teachings are involved but whatever. Also if pay attention you' ll realize the similarities to American government and situations as such. I also think that all the movies are great have them all on DVD and just watched one today. I also feel that you "wise", "smart" religious scholars overlook key facts that I a bright 13 year old boy would notice. I would like to hear your opinion on what I wrote. Also you mention anikin being evil he did turn to the dark side but eventually fulfilled the proficy and brought balance to the force and wether you considered it
Present when he was conceived by mediclorians it represented jesus being conceived by the holy spirit so there are Christian topics in the move regardless of it's presence in the galaxy itself.

Anonymous said...

And this is I the 13 year old again just saying that you shouldn't mind the type-os I'm typing this on an iPod very quickly and quite frankly don't care. I have nothing to prove. I'm reserved at times most actually and just observe so when I amount so much knowledge and make key inferences or realizations I rant on and on because I feel as if I need to communicate them as I've done here. And don't get me wrong I am quite religious for some one my age and have seen the work of god first hand.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, anonymous, whoever you are.

You said "you mention anikin being evil." Actually, I didn't mention Anakin (sp?) at all. Two commenters did, and, as much as I would like to think that they would come back to read other comments, such as yours, and respond, I'm afraid that isn't going to happen, after all these years. Sorry.

Yes, there are some similarities to current political situations. As to hell being mentioned, although hell is a Christian concept, I don't believe that it's an exclusively Christian one -- other religions had, or have, such a concept, too.

I read all you said with interest, and don't mind typos.

For me, the main question in life is the sin problem -- how can I atone for the wrongs I have done? I can't, but Jesus Christ, God's perfect dead and risen sacrifice, did, and I accept that sacrifice for me.

God bless you.

Anonymous said...

I was kind of moshing together all of my replies into one post and neglected to use periods in the beginning. I only know the basics of other religions that were taught in social studies so from my knowledge and point of view it was a Christian subject but wether or not the movie was unChristian and if so do to producers and such beliefs I won't judge. Even those who believe in other religions shouldn't be judged for their beliefs for Jesus will come in the future to judge the living and the dead so that is his job and not mine. This leads back to my previous posts so if I judged you in any way although generalized I'm sorry.
It's nice when people check for later posts but I also neglected to look at the dates past the earliest posts.

Anonymous said...

Also what part of the movies has to do with Hindu teachings. I am thoroughly confused on that subject as I said I only have basic knowledge and have forgotten most of it from 2 years ago.

Martin LaBar said...

You are right. Judgment is up to God, not us.

I checked, and there is (of course!) a Wikipedia article on "Philosophy and religion in Star Wars." It says a little about Hinduism:

Thanks again.

tonyon said...

Humanism (wheat)...religion (darnel), the Evil Empire: religion, armies, monarchies and politicians...are the causers of all wars

Martin LaBar said...

Or, to put it more simply, sin is the cause of all wars. Thanks, tonyon.