What I Learned from Star Wars

The Star Wars franchise has generated several billion dollars in revenue – from the movies, DVDs, toys, and merchandising. It has spun off multiple parodies and satires, such as Spaceballs being the most famous. Oh, and yes, and conventions: lots of them where the die-hard fans dress up as their favorite characters. Some costumes are tasteful, others a little sketchy, and others downright disturbing. (You know who you are!)

I was too young to watch the original trilogy when it came out in the theaters: Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi. Empire Strikes Back was released the year I was born, and I was three when Return of the Jedi came out. (My parents were not SW fans so they probably didn’t see it.)

The prequels – The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith came out when I was in college, working, and just graduated from law school. They were controversial when they came out – not because they were “bad” movies” – but because the characters were so polarization that even today, nearly 20 years later, people are still divided on Jar-Jar Binks, Anakin’s fall from grace, and chemistry (or possibly lack of) between the actors.

What did I learn?

The story is about fathers and sons.

Yes, fathers and sons. Even in the 21st century, fathers. Anakin and Luke were very much defined by their relationship with their fathers. It was established that Anakin in The Phantom Menace was raised by his mother for the first nine years by his mother; nothing wrong with that. However, Anakin began to gravitate towards male figures, first Qui-gon Jinn and then later Obi-wan Kenobi. They provided guidance for him as he stepped out into the wider world. Later, Anakin fell under the seductive sway of Dark Side of the Force – by another male: Emperor Palpatine.

It is obvious to me just how influential or destructive father-figures play in a man’s growth – either nurturing and mentoring, or pulling him down.

The cycle plays out different in Anakin’s son, Luke. Luke grew up with his Uncle Owen Lars. Again, nothing wrong with uncles and if you were raised by loving uncles and aunts, nothing wrong with that. I have a pretty close relationship with my uncle Geoff (my mom’s brother). However, Owen wants Luke to play it safe; to stay at the farm, instead of going off.

Sometimes you have to play it safe; but there are times, when you have to go for broke – to rise above and fulfill your calling. In his book Wild at Heart, author John Eldridge talks about the man’s innate need to claim something of his own: his name. Luke is not a Lars; he is a Skywalker and the story’s hero. Luke’s other father figure – Obi-wan, gives him that push to claim his calling – to go redeem his real father Anakin.

God the Father

The Holy Trinity in Christianity seems to have gotten a bad reputation because two of the three members of the Godhead are male. I can see why; there are plenty of stories of absentee fathers, or worse, abusive fathers. There are some fathers who were physically there, but emotionally distant. No wonder we project those heartaches when we are told there is a good Heavenly Father.

If we read certain passages in the Bible on judgment and discipline, we become uncomfortable because of our experience; maybe we had a father who was constantly harsh, always demanding and never satisfied. As Christians, we may see God the same way. I know; this is a struggle for me to accept God’s grace even as I accept his correction.

Whether in the fictional Star Wars universe or real life, the problems men have with their own fathers often cause major problems in their own life. John Eldridge in Wild at Heart calls this “a father wound.” Eldridge also noted that a woman’s relationship with her father too will cause major problems in her own life, so neither gender is off the hook.

So why do we still have God the Father? Why not be so post-modern and reject patriarchy? For one, that’s what the Bible reveals about God and I have no right to edit it. For another, from personal experience, God is the only who can balance both discipline and grace equally; our own earthly fathers tend to alternate being too harsh or too lenient. Lastly, God is the only father who can equally make demands of me and forgives me for my shortcomings at the same time.

Even as I enjoy all the Star Wars movies (except for the latest three) and the latest offering – The Mandalorian, there are plenty of nuggets of truths to reflect on. I hope you enjoy this post even as I had fun writing it.

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