Is There Still a God in a Galaxy Far, Far Away?
Religion, though many there are, has an importance to humanity. It asks us to quantify our beliefs and seek a better state through those beliefs. This being said, it is nonetheless strange and perhaps enlightening to find it present in science fiction, including that of the seminal body of films known as the Star Wars Saga. We have already seen throughout this class that religion maintains a presence in literature concerned with the future: Earthseed in The Parable of the Sower, the Masons in “Mozart in Mirror-shades” and the references made to reincarnation in “The Garden of Forking Paths”. However, to find a religion present in a setting as that of Star Wars (A galaxy far, far away….) where there is no visible or even locatable connection to our own reality’s history or cultures is a challenge. Furthermore, religion seems like it would be first thing to go in any science fiction tale, especially one where technology has advanced to such a point that many of the physical mysteries of our world would henceforth become debunked or discarded, for religions, in the most suspended sense, represent ‘old’ and ‘outdated’ ways of explaining nature. Yet, they persist in their existence, even in tales such as The Parable of the Sower, where religion in fact motivates Lauren the protagonist. Same can be said of Star War, for its own world revolves around the use of religion to motivate the history and the major powers within it, and thus proves why religion of any form can in truth never be separated from science fiction if it is to remain a tale about humanity.
The first aspect of the world of Star Wars in which religion can be found to have a strong and pivotal presence lies within the history of the world explored through the films. As Ben Kenobi relates to Luke Skywalker in A New Hope: “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire” With this one line, Kenobi affirms as he relates to Skywalker that the Jedi were imperative to the preservation of justice and peace within the Republic. Without them, the world of Star Wars has fallen into “dark times” as Kenobi puts it. Already there is a sense of Creation/Apocalypse evident in just this one line. Kenobi’s statement that the Jedi protected the peace for “over a thousand generations” is redolent with an Edenic society, echoing Genesis in the sense everything was good in the beginning. Corruption of course enters the world in the form of the Empire. It can be concluded then that the Jedi, who utilized their own branch of the Force, were the forces of good, and their aspect of the Force was what embodied the galaxy’s concept of good, just like Faith in God is the true faith in Christianity. And as Christianity has left its mark on the history of our world, so has the battle between the Light and the Dark in Star Wars. Now, the origins of this notion have been debated and analyzed.
Yet, at the same time, this struggle and the onset of corruption in the form of a fallen hero (Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader) also holds characteristics in common with Christian concepts. and the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader (thus the Light to the Dark) is critical to understanding the world of Star Wars. As Duncan states: “perhaps the most distressing aspect of Vader’s character is that he used to be good.” Indeed this is true: Darth Vader at one point stood as the pinnacle of the Jedi, and yet he fell to the Dark Side. And it was this fall that ultimately led to the destruction of the Jedi, along with the dissolution of the Old Republic. The Jedi have been engaged in conflict with their enemy, the Sith, for centuries. This conflict exemplified by Vader and his fall centers around the dogma that life and existence are to be ruled by either the Light Side of the Force, or the Dark Side. And so, the galaxy’s history has been crucially shaped by this belief that it must either be one or the other, for now, as the setting of A New Hope introduced audiences to the galaxy of Star Wars some forty years ago, there are no Jedi who championed the Light Side, and instead in their place the evil Emperor Palpatine and his servant, Darth Vader, dominate and tyrannize.
Furthermore, this idea of the Force does not exist to simply explain who is evil and who is not. Indeed, it also impacts the characters to achieve higher potential and indeed examine themselves. Similar to how a faith such as Christianity emphasized its adherents to reflect upon themselves, so does the Force motivate characters such as Luke Skywalker to better their internal selves. As Pessin quotes: “the Skywalker stories offer a model for how to find strength in God or internal balance.” So even the principles of motivation on which the Force’s teachings operate are comparable to that of Christianity. Faith, and the perseverance and sacrifice it nourishes, are present therefore in the Force, and serve to motivate the characters. As Pessin quotes Staub, saying of Luke Skywalker: “[Luke] doesn't even know the Force exists, and it becomes the absolute passion and focus of his life.” As Luke develops throughout the course of the original trilogy, this statement certainly becomes true. In the final film of the original trilogy, Luke proclaims “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” Here, Luke has reached the ultimate goal of training in the Force, and has managed to defeat the Emperor, liberating the galaxy from the oppressive rule of the Empire. If it were not for his dedication to discovering the power and mysteries of the Force to use it for the Light, he would not have done so. This dedication mirrors the Christian maxims of perseverance and faith: both the Force user and the Christian follower strive to achieve perfection in their beliefs. Though the teachings of the Force are stark in their contrasts to that of the Bible, nonetheless the Jedi take these teachings to heart, and then better themselves through their application. Luke Skywalker does so, and ultimately, he succeeds.
So far, it has been established that religion in the form of the Force stands as a major power and shaper of the world of Star Wars. It has affected the history of the Star Wars world with immeasurable consequences and events, such as the destruction of the Jedi and the rise of the Empire. It also serves as a guiding force for the characters, evidenced by Luke Skywalker’s dedication to learning its mysteries so that he may use it for good and triumph over the evils of the Empire. Thus, religion does have a relevance to tales that take place in timelines centuries ahead of our own, or even in galaxies far, far away. And with religion’s relevance established in the world of Star Wars, thus its relevance can be established throughout the science fiction genre as a whole.
Duncan, Ryan. “5 Christian Messages Found in Star Wars.” crosswalk.com, 14 Dec. 2015, https://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/christian-movie-reviews/5-christian-messages-found-in-i-star-wars-i.html. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.
Pessin, Jaime Levy. “‘Star Wars’ Parallels Found with World’s Major Religions”. Chicago Tribune, 27 May, 2005, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2005-05-27/news/0505270034_1_star-wars-jedi-masters-beliefs. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.
Lucas, George, director. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Twentieth Century Fox, 1977.
Lucas, George, director. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Twentieth Century Fox, 1983.