I can't thank Irony Boy enough for doing me a DVD of clips from the films to illustrate key points in my talk on spirituality in Star Wars. He is a geek god and I owe him loads, especially given how rubbish the notes on timings were that I gave him to work from!
This was the conclusion of the talk.
So, what do the Star Wars films offer us in terms of understanding contemporary cultural spirituality? Certainly, as films, they were among the first popular expressions of what has become known as the post-modern world-view. The idea that, in an advanced, technological society, there is still room for mystery, the ‘spiritual’, and a morality based on good versus evil.
However, there are some caveats. Evil is represented mainly as a threat to freedom, rather than any particular action. Morality isn’t black and white – one of the main heroic characters is a smuggler with a history of narcotic trafficking. The concept of ‘god’ that is ‘The Force’ isn’t a transcendent, prescriptive god to be worshipped, but, in theological terms, an immanent, impersonal divinity to be used and shaped. Rather than ‘god’ seeking to transform humans, human beings in the Star Wars galaxy seek to alter the world around them by ‘changing god’.
Star Wars does, however, offer a challenge to us. We still live in a culture where science and technology seek to suppress, oppress and repress our innate awareness of the spiritual. And the materialistic emphasis of our culture separates us from the Judeo-Christian image of a transcendent, and holy, God, which many Christians hold. The idea that God may be found everywhere, binding all things together, is both Biblical and important.
The idea of a ‘god’ which works in partnership with us makes us responsible for moral decisions. And, crucially, the promise of redemption, from materialism, from ambivalent ‘sin’, and from moral evil that you have chosen to participate in, is one of the most important and compelling aspects of the whole Star Wars saga. I would suggest the redemption motif is the reason Star Wars retains it’s appeal after several decades; perhaps because, deep down, we are all seeking redemption.
Star Wars underlines that possibility of redemption, but it is something we have to actively choose, in a universe where ‘god’ gives us the freedom to make our own moral decisions. And lets us live with the consequences.