This is post 1 of 2 in the series “STAR WARS AND THE GOSPEL”
- The Force, The Phantom Menace, And Faith
- Anikan Skywalker, Darth Vader And Jesus Christ
Star Wars and the Gospel: The Force, The Phantom Menace, And Faith
I always get excited whenever some area of human thought or some aspect of human experience begins to catch up with the Bible. That’s precisely what pleases me about the latest installment in the “Star Wars” saga.
“Star Wars: Episode 1- The Phantom Menace” is shattering box office records all over this country. In its first thirteen days in theaters, it pulled in a record $205 million, playing to packed houses everywhere. It is, of course, entertaining at its core. You can’t help but be delighted with a movie which features a bright, promising child like Anakin Skywalker, a couple of strong, principled men like Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, a pure and courageous heroine like Queen Amidala, some lively androids like C-3PO, a cute little robot named R2D2, a raft of strange-looking, strange-talking inhabitants of outer space, minor league bad guys like Watto and Sabulba, and then the personification of all evil- a black-clad, red-faced, yellow-eyed multi-horned icon of evil named Darth Maul. Of course, in the end, the good guys win- and a movie with all of those ingredients couldn’t be anything other than fun.
But there are two deeper dimensions to the movie which please me. One is that while George Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars”, does not seem to be a professing Christian, and while the movie is not designed to foster the Christian faith, there are some clearly Christian illusions in the film and Lucas himself says that he hopes the movie will encourage people to think about spiritual issues. A second deeper dimension is that fact that “Star Wars” in its images and portrayals is pointing toward truths which the Bible has been declaring for thirty centuries. That’s where I would like to focus our attention today…
In the first place, “Star Wars” speaks to me of the majesty of God.
The film cost $115 million to produce; much of that money spent on spectacular special effects. A typical movie has about 2000 shots with 250 of those being special effects. “Titanic”, for example, had 500 special effects. Of the 2200 shots in “Star Wars- Episode 1” only 250 are not special effects shots. As I thought about all those special effects, it dawned on me with great power that God says “Let there be light” and there was light. No special effects required. “Stars!” and there were stars, no sound stages or actors needed. Such a tragedy that our eyes pop out at the special effects in “Star Wars” but we behold the wonders of the world and nature all around us and are so often oblivious to the miracles of what God has done.
Last summer after I finished preaching up at Chautauqua in New York state, Trisha and I went to see Niagara Falls. I tricked her into viewing the falls not from the sides or from a boat, but from a helicopter. As we hovered above the falls looking down, it was a truly incredible sight- a mass of rushing water plunging over the cliffs, creating blinding mist and blowing winds and turbulent waters. As we looked down at the base of the Falls, there was a tour boat, “The Maid of the Mist”. The boat looked so tiny against those massive panoramic falls, engines gunned to full speed just to keep the boat from being swept away by the current; the passengers washed and clothed in heavy spray, able to see only the water cascading down toward them. Yet from our vantage point in the sky above we could take in the whole astounding scene. As the helicopter moved over the site, suddenly the sun came shining through all those countless droplets of water, so that arching above the whole scene was an incandescent rainbow, containing more colors than you could imagine. Soaring above we could see what those tourists on the boat at the bottom of the falls couldn’t see- a splendid portrayal of the creative power and majesty of God. In the same way, I think it’s rather sad that we have to go to a movie like “Star Wars” to be reminded of the glory and majesty of God in this universe, when on any night, we can walk out and look up at the stars and think the same thoughts without benefit of special effects. You see, we need to be remembering that everything from comets to cobwebs speaks to us of the majesty of God.
Of course if we were God we would not be so subtle about revealing ourselves as He is. I mean, you know how we would do it, don’t you? Every time we made a tree, we would hang a sign on it which says: “This tree courtesy of God.” And when we fashioned a gloriously colorful sunset, we would scribble our name in sunlight across the lower right horizon. And if we were part of the group assigned the task of ordering the stars and the planets in their courses, we would make sure that our name was listed as a member of the committee. God isn’t like that. He’s subtle, gentle, faithful, and humble- so much so that only those wise enough can see His handiwork. Like the atheist professor who wrote on the whiteboard in class: “God is nowhere”, only then to watch as a believing student walked up and separated the syllables in “nowhere” so that it read “God is now here.” We need that kind of sensitivity and smarts to look at the significance of all that is about us and then say with the Psalmist: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. You have set your glory above the heavens.”
Next, “Star Wars” speaks to me of the eternity of God.
Now eternity is a concept that stretches beyond all of our minds. The classic illustration, which has been used to help us try to understand eternity describes a pile of sand one mile high. Every thousand years a bird comes and picks up one grain of sand and carries it away. According to the illustration, when all of the sand in that mile-high pile has been removed in that manner, then one second of eternity will have passed. Now let me confess to you that that doesn’t help me understand eternity at all.
But interestingly enough, “Star Wars” sent me back to the Bible to see what the Bible says about eternity- and it is very enlightening. In “Episode 1- The Phantom Menace”, there is a tremendous special effect when the good guys fly in the Queen’s sleek Naboo Starfighter and try to escape the bad guys. They jumped the speed of their space vehicle up to nearly light speed and the rocket ship just disappeared in the distance.
Now that concept of light speed pushed my mind around in the direction of the eternity of God. You know, of course, that the great difficulty of interplanetary travel rests with distance. The nearest star to us, Alpha Centauri, is four light years away. In one light year light travels 6,000 billion miles. So if we were to travel to the nearest star, the journey would take 30, 40, 50 years even when our speed is vastly increased over what we know today. Now how could we carry enough food and fuel and how could we care for the people on such a journey? Well, the remarkable thing is that we don’t have to. Science has discovered- and “Star Wars” portrays it- the principle known as “time distillation”. Time distillation simply means that the faster you go, the closer you come to the speed of light- 186,000 miles per second- the more time is compressed. So if we journeyed to Alpha Centauri at a speed close to the speed of light, then the journey could be accomplished in a matter of a few days, even though years would still pass by here on earth.
Let me express it this way. Suppose that instead of going to the nearest star we were going to the center of our galaxy which is vastly farther. Suppose we had on board our starship a television set and that television was recording what was happening on the earth. If we were moving at close to the speed of light then in one day on our journey, a thousand years of the earth’s history would have passed by. That’s what modem science teaches us in the principle of time distillation. And yet, think about it, 2000 years ago Peter wrote in his letter in the Bible these words: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.”
Or push it one more notch. Imagine that we could move at the speed of light. Theoretically, that is impossible for humans, but we are talking about God and nothing is impossible for God. Science tells us that if we could move at the speed of light time would stand still. It wouldn’t pass at all. There would be no past, no future, only now. That’s eternity. And what does the Bible say about God? The Bible says that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The only way in which you could always be the same is if you are moving at the speed of light. And what does the Bible also say about God? I John: “God is light.” What does Jesus say of Himself? “I am the light of the world.” And where does the Bible tell us that we shall find our Lord Jesus Christ? I Timothy: “Our Lord Jesus Christ who alone is immortal and lives in unapproachable light!”
Thanks to the imagery of “Star Wars”, when I think about the eternity of God, I’m not going to think about a big bird and a pile of sand. No. I’m going to think about God as light, moving in such a way that it is for Him always NOW.
Another thought: “Star Wars” speaks to me of the righteousness of God.
The plot of this film- and the plot of all the “Star Wars” films, for that matter- is the struggle between good and evil, and good wins. That speaks to me about the moral order of things. It says to me that just as God’s natural law exists both here and on the most distant star, so God’s moral law exists both here and on the most distant star. In other words, just as carefully as God orders the galaxies and the planets, so He orders the standards and principles for the living of our lives.
Some dispute this. They say: “Don’t tell me about the moral laws of God prevailing in the universe. The moral laws of God are broken by ten thousand times ten thousand people every day. I beg to differ. The moral law of God is never broken. We never break God’s laws; we just break ourselves against them. When you step out of a tenth story window, you don’t break the law of gravity- you demonstrate it. In just the same way, when we hurl ourselves against God’s standards of righteousness, we don’t break them, we demonstrate them. Marriages are collapsing all around us. Why? Because God’s laws with regard to marriage no longer prevail? No. It is because they do prevail and when people break those laws marriages fall apart. We see our society coming apart at the seams. Why? Because the laws of God do not exist? No. Because the laws of God do exist and people smash themselves to smithereens against those laws. That’s true on earth. That’s true on the planet Tatooine in “Star Wars”. God’s law is not broken. People are broken as they seek to subvert or disobey God’s law. Just as surely as the planet that moves outside the planned natural order itself into ash and disappears, so the one who scorns the command of God in life will in the end disappear.
There’s a great passage in Judges 4 where an evil general named Sisera comes with 900 chariots to do battle with the Israelites. His chariots are made of iron. Israel is led by two people of God, Deborah and Barak. In the course of the battle, God causes a river to overflow and Sisera’s heavy iron chariots get stuck in the mud- and Sisera and his forces are soundly defeated. Then Deborah, the leader of the forces of Israel, the forces of good, sings a song of victory. In that song are these words: “The stars in their courses fought against Sisera, so perish all thine enemies, O Lord.” What she was saying was that those who give themselves to evil, to the dark side in life, fly in the face of everything that is obedient to God. In other words, every star, every planet, every comet, every natural process, all of it moves against you when you move against God. The whole of creation obeys God and to disobey God is to go against everything that is. By the same token, to live according to the righteousness of God is to have the whole universe moving with you, leading you to a life of glory and joy and victory.
“Star Wars- Episode I: The Phantom Menace” with its representation of the magnificence of the heavens spoke to me of the majesty of our God. And with its representation of the splendor and power of light, it spoke to me of the eternity of our God. And with its representation of moral choice and the victory of good over evil, it spoke to me of the righteousness of our God. In the “Star Wars” movies you frequently hear the words “May the Force be with you.” Our own Ted Pierce is right. The real source of the Force is not a movie- it’s God. Claim the Force of God in Jesus Christ as your very own. If you do, then in the battles of life, and even in the battle of death, you cannot lose!
May the Force of God in Jesus Christ be with you.