Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Force AwakensYes, I just saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yes, there WILL be some spoilers in this post. But opening weekend is now over, so I’ll risk it. I’m not posting them to ruin your movie, but this movie is absolutely worth talking about. I’ll even go so far as to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens could be the best movie of the generation.

Of course the score itself is iconic (who doesn’t love a John Williams score?). The acting is superb. Not only do the old actors bring back their characters with perfect delivery, the new additions to the story are well-written and well-performed. I understand there was some hullabaloo from racist fans about having a black Storm Trooper, but that’s ridiculous nonsense.

The story was perfect. J.J. Abrams has outdone himself. The story is a perfect blend of homage to the original trilogy while moving the story-line forward in a new direction. As a fan of the original three (but not so much Episodes I-III), I thought this new episode honored the original spirit and character of the first films and passed the torch to the new generation (an amazing feat J.J. Abrams also did with his Star Trek reboot).

But the biggest take-away I had from Star Wars: The Force Awakens went far beyond the story, acting, or special effects (which were pretty sick). For me the biggest take-away was the issue of identity.

Identity is a theme that plays from the beginning to the end of the film. Every character wrestles with the question: Who am I? This theme is even jokingly referenced when Han Solo comes face-to-face with C3P0. Han is speechless and C3P0 says, star_wars_vii_force_awakens_c3po“You probably didn’t recognize me because of the red arm.” We never know why the droid has a red arm, but it’s a humorous way of pointing out the theme that will weave in and out of every character’s plot.

Let’s look at how identity plays out:

kylo-renKylo Ren – he’s the new villain, the new Darth Vader. But he’s never talked about as a Sith Lord. Instead he’s the leader of the Knights of Ren. But the audience is never clued in to who these mysterious knights are. Ren himself wrestles with the question of identity during a moment of prayer/introspection where he is talking out loud to the damaged helmet of Darth Vader. Ren confesses that he can feel the light Vader Helmetcalling out to him.

At the beginning of the film, Ren is talking to the leader of the Resistance who says that, even though The First Order (The Empire 2.0) comes from the Dark Side, Ren does not. Still, Kylo Ren wants to continue in the tradition of Vader, his grandfather, and asks Vader for the strength to continue in the power of the Dark Side of the Force.

RaeRey – The new heroine in the Star Wars saga. She’s a mystery. All we know is that she’s been abandoned without parents on a planet made up of a lot of sand (hmmm…kind of like a young Skywalker we knew in Episode IV). The Force is strong with her, and when she touches Luke Skywalker’s old lightsaber she has some stranger vision/revelation.

At the end of the film, Rey is left standing face-to-face with Luke Skywalker and holds out his lightsaber to him. Aaaaaand that’s when the credits roll. What?!? Wait, who is she? Is she Luke’s long-lost daughter? Is she some other connection? The “Who am I?” question fills Rey’s story is one that will continue through the next movie(s).

Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-John-BoyegaFinn – I like Finn a lot because he has a very real struggle with his “Who am I? question. He starts out the film as a Storm Trooper. When Kylo Ren orders his Troopers to kill an entire village, Finn freezes. He knows that the order is immoral, and he cannot carry it out. He then helps a Resistance pilot escape from The First Order because “it’s the right thing to do.”

This is one of the strongest identity stories in the film because Finn does a complete about face: he moves from being a foot soldier for the First Order to openly defying an evil organization and fighting to bring about its downfall.

Han and ChewieHan Solo & General Leia – The first identity issue is clearly seen with Leia. Those who grew up with the original trilogy know that “Princess Leia” just seems like the right title. Now we can’t call her that – she’s a general in the Resistance. There are a few references to the “Princess” throughout the new movie, like when Han and Leia get into a fight and C3P0 looks at Han and declares, “Princesses!”General Organa

But the biggest element of their identity story comes out as they work through some of the issues of a relationship that is strained after dealing with the loss of their son, Ben Solo.

The loss of a child is a huge strain on marriages, and, unfortunately, many relationships are unable to cope with the loss and the couple ends up splitting. Such is the case with Han and Leia. Finally reuniting after a long separation, Han tells Leia that they all had to deal with it in their own way – so he went back to doing what he does best. Leia replies, “We both did.” Smuggler, rebellion leader, husband, father, back to smuggler. Princess, rebellion leader, wife, mother, back to noble leader fighting an evil regime. Their identities are in flux as their lives go through chaos (which is actually normal and very human). In a heart-wrenching scene when Han comes face-to-face with the lost son that tore his marriage apart, Han tells Ben, “Come home. We miss you!” His identity as father overrides all other identities and concerns.

The father/son identity has always been a strong motif in the Star Wars saga, and is in The Force Awakens just as much as it was in any of the others. It’s also one of the strongest motifs in the Bible.

In fact, the issue of identity is seen from the beginning to the end of the Bible. Identity is one of the eternal human quests. “Who am I?” is a deeply profound question every human wrestles with at some point.

  • In the Garden of Eden, the serpent convinces Adam and Eve that they shouldn’t let God hold them back – that their identities could be more powerful if they chose their own path, if they were their own god.
  • On the mountaintop, Moses asks the God in the burning bush, “Who should I tell the Israelites who sent me?” God’s answer, “Tell them, ‘I AM’ sent you.”
  • When Jesus is baptized the heavens open up and God declares, “This is my son.”
  • In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus characterizes God as a father who is distraught at losing a son and is willing to go to extreme measures to celebrate the lost son’s return.

See? Identity. It’s the question we all want answered. This is the reason why Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a tremendous story. It’s not about the effects or the acting or any of the other stuff (that DO, indeed, contribute to making it a terrific film).

This is a great film because it asks the question we all ask. Who am I? And how we answer that question determines our path – in this life AND the next.

Is Star Wars Racist?

No. It is not.

Perhaps you saw it, too. An African American commentator on MSNBC made the audacious claim that Star Wars is racist. After all, Darth Vader wears a black outfit, “he was terrible and bad and awful and used to cut off white men’s hands, and didn’t, you know, actually claim his son.”

As a Star Wars fan I find this conspiracy theory to be ludicrous and absurd. She has no idea what she’s talking about. The dichotomy of black/white or darkness/light is not about race. It’s a concept about good and evil that transcends race (not to mention that Storm Troopers, the classic evil henchmen, wear white). lego-631850_1920

It’s a strong biblical theme, and the Bible is a book written BY non-whites (sorry, white people, if you didn’t know that by now). The Bible is written by Middle Eastern men – brown dudes (and possible a dudette, depending on your view of the authorship of Hebrews – but that’s a debate for another time and place).

Darkness has long been associated with what is less-than-goodarth-vader-147014_1280d. Bad guys do their work under cover of night. Night conceals and hides the truth. Job talks about God as one who “reveals mysteries from the darkness and brings the deepest darkness into the light.” The Psalmist declares: Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”

The Gospel of John says about Jesus:

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5)

Indeed, even Jesus says of himself:

“I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)

See – even brown-skinned people use the dark/light and black/white dichotomy to talk about good vs. evil. Star Wars isn’t racist – it’s a representation of the classic struggle all of humanity faces.
But here’s the kicker – in Star Wars, the struggle between the good side and the dark side of the Force is a Yin/Yang balancing act. Good and Evil are equal opposites.

This is not the biblical perspective.

In the Bible there is no evil that equals God’s goodness. There is no darkness that is comparable to God’s light. Every power is subservient to the Almighty. There is no balance to the Force – there is only Jesus, the light that cannot be comprehended or overcome by the darkness.

So every time you watch Star Wars, do so with a racially guilt-free conscience. And as we wrestle with our own good side and dark side, remember that we know the ultimate outcome.

Jesus wins.

(and just for fun, here’s one of my favorite Benny Hinn videos!)

How Christians Should Respond to the Pending Alien Invasion

Alien

On the MSN homepage today the scrolling headline banner had a piece called, “Is there any proof that aliens exist?”

Now, if you didn’t know, I’m a Sci-Fi nut.

I have seen all of the Star Wars and Star Trek movies. At one time in my life I even had a replica of the NCC-1701D. If you don’t know immediately what that is, shame on you…but it looked like this:

NCC 1701D

I also owned the Star Trek trivia board games (TOS & TNG).

I have on DVD the every season of The X-Files.

I’m a nerd. I can embrace it. There are many like me. Needless to say, I was intrigued by the headline I saw on MSN. So I clicked the link and was taken to this video:

I was disappointed. Shame on you, MSN, for your cheap stunt. There was no real news there!

But it got me thinking about aliens and humanity and faith. Could there be alien life “out there”? Sure, why not?

I don’t see it as an issue that conflicts with faith.

The Bible talks about God creating humanity. It never rules out that God could have created other forms of life. The point of the biblical story is for us to know that we have purpose – we are not randomly occurring life forms. The highest being designed and created us to be in relationship with Him and to be in relationship with each other. That’s a pretty cool reason for existing.

One of my favorite Ray Bradbury short stories is called “The Man.” It’s from a collection of stories called “The Illustrated Man.” Seriously, download it now (and read it later).

Anyway, this rocketship lands on an alien world and the Captain expects people to come rushing out. He’s angered when the people just don’t care. You see, the ship landed at an inopportune time. The alien town has been visited by a nameless man who heals the sick, comforts the poor, and fights hypocrisy and corruption.

Personally, I don’t think that there is any intelligent life “out there” (go ahead and insert your jokes about intelligent life on earth)…. But IF there were, God would still be God – the creator of all things, the designer of worlds. Our purpose for existing would not change.

So relax. Have some fun. Enjoy Sci-Fi.

He’s got the whole world in His hands – even the aliens. 🙂

My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:12-13)