Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Does God Exist in Star Wars?


Astute believers will immediately see this question gets things backward. A sphere of reality (real or imagined) where God does not exist is logically inconceivable - God, by definition, precedes all planes of reality as their Creator. The more proper question should be "Would God have created the Star Wars galaxy?"

Disclaimer: I obviously do not own Star Wars, and what is presented herein is entirely my own opinion. Nor does this represent an exhaustive picture of the entire Star Wars Expanded Universe - just a cursory reading of what I personally find to be relevant source material. Also, my apologies in advance to any non-Star Wars fans reading this who might get lost in the unfamiliar terminology. I have included a link to as a reference tool. 😉


Like many fellow sci-fi nerds, my fascination with the Star Wars saga began in grade school and continued and intensified through my teenage years. When I came to Christ at age 15, it abruptly halted and entered a period of dormancy for years thereafter - I was putting away many aspects of my former life at the time, and such "childish" interests (in my mind as well as those around me) seemed unworthy of a mature believer. With the rediscovery of my passion for creative writing, however, it has since resurfaced as part of a more balanced range of interests - incidentally, this gives me the ability to better appreciate and enjoy it from an artistic point of view. At the same time, I can also recognize the more problematic aspects of its underlying worldview.

Let's start with the basics. The question of origins in the Star Wars galaxy is never meaningfully addressed beyond familiar evolutionary platitudes. Nor are we ever given a complete explanation as to the exact nature and origin of the Force. Where did it come from? How and why was it divided into Light and Dark? How did death and evil first enter this universe? The creators of the Star Wars franchise apparently expect us to maintain an agnostic outlook on these questions not unlike that of Buddhism. To quote the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, in his "Parable of the Poisoned Arrow":

"It's just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a priest, a merchant, or a worker.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me... until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short... until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored... until I know his home village, town, or city... until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow... until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated... until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.' The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him." 

Image: Comic Vine
This is, however, a deeply unsatisfying framework for those of us with a Judeo-Christian belief system. There's a fundamental hopelessness at the heart of the Star Wars saga's moral universe. Light and Dark are portrayed as co-equal and co-eternal, engaged in an unending struggle where each gains the upper hand at different times but can achieve no final victory - with all the continued pain, death, and suffering that entails. The ideal of a "balance" between the further implies (and the unending storyline bears out) the lack of any ultimate triumph of Good over Evil.

Image: Tee Public
The Force, as a concept, is clearly inspired by Eastern mysticism, with parallels in religions including Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Its described nature as an "energy field" also recalls contemporary New Age spirituality. George Lucas himself was up front about its place in the Star Wars mythology (quoted from

"I wanted a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God, and there is good and evil. I began to distill the essence of all religions into what I thought was a basic idea common to all religions and common to primitive thinking. I wanted to develop something that was nondenominational but still had a kind of religious reality."

From a spiritual standpoint, this should at the very least inspire a healthy awareness among any Christians who otherwise enjoy the franchise. Popular entertainment is suffused with many such false ideas, which we must be prepared to recognize and reject. Now, does that mean that Star Wars has no redeeming value from a Christian standpoint? Not necessarily. The entire story arc resonates with classic themes of Good, Evil, Temptation, Sacrifice, Tragedy and Redemption, all of them illustrated in vivid ways, and all of which parallel key components of the Biblical message. The fact, however, that they all center around an impersonal "Force" as opposed to the Creator God robs them of much of their power while promoting a false view of spirituality. 

With that being said, I believe it is still theoretically possible to salvage the series from a Judeo-Christian viewpoint - even with the otherwise problematic concept of the Force. I know I've raised more than a few eyebrows at this point, so I'll ask you all to bear with me. 

With the right interpretative framework, the Force can actually be rationalized as a non-mystical concept. Again, its described in-series as an "energy field" - a term drawn from physics long before the New Age movement appropriated it for spiritual phenomena. "Force-sensitives" are people born with the ability to sense and utilize this energy field - something the prequels further reveal as the result of special microorganisms in their blood. From this viewpoint, the Jedi and Sith are more like X-Men-style mutants than the magicians and sorcerers they would otherwise be. The Force is merely part and parcel of the physical laws governing the created universe in which they reside. 

Image: Sci-Fi Stack Exchange
Of course, the most obvious problem with this view is the supposedly crucial link between the Force and the "afterlife" as portrayed in the Star Wars universe. Isn't this proof that the Force is synonymous with the spiritual realm? Particularly when we consider the role that "Force ghosts" play in all three of the original films and much of the Expanded Universe?

That's obviously what the series creators intended, yes. But I still believe there's an alternate explanation. I know I'm playing with semantics here, but perhaps people who re-appear as Force ghosts are not truly "dead" in the theological sense. We first see someone become a Force ghost in A New Hope, when Obi-Wan Kenobi is struck down by Darth Vader - and he simply vanishes.
Image: Sci Fi Movie Zone
Image: Reddit
I would argue that rather than dying, he used his mastery of the Force to convert his body into pure energy - his spirit, therefore, did not experience the bodily separation that defines "death." In the Expanded Universe - both Legends and Canon - it's revealed that he learned how to do this by studying the ancient "Journal of the Whills" with the assistance of his former mentor Qui-Gon, who had previously mastered this ability (some brief exposition here - it's a uniform belief in the Star Wars universe that this is the only a person's soul to live on after death; under the scenario I imagine, it is, of course, false).

Image: YouTube
I know, I know. Qui-Gon died quite unambiguously in The Phantom Menace. But... did he? What if, in fact, his studies from the Journal of the Whills taught him how to willingly place his body in a state of suspended animation, shutting down all extraneous functions while it diverted its energies to preventing brain death? There are real life instances of people who have appeared dead for long periods only to revive later - a link to just one example is available here. His body's final transformation into an energy form might then have taken place as it burned on the funeral pyre.

Image: Phil Noto
But what about Anakin Skywalker? Didn't he also unambiguously die in Return of the Jedi? Unlike Qui-Gon, he never learned the process of becoming a Force ghost and, therefore, would not have known any 'suspended animation' techniques associated with it - and he still became one.

This is not as insolvable as it may appear. Assuming the two prior solutions hold true in the case of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, we can also produce one for Anakin. The official Canon explanation for how Anakin Skywalker became a Force ghost without prior training is that Obi-Wan appeared to him as he lost consciousness and assisted him in the process. Perhaps this involved externally inducing the suspended animation and converting his body into energy on the funeral pyre just as we imagined with Qui-Gon? The whole scenario falls into place quite smoothly if approach it with the right presuppositions.

Let's now expand all this into at least the beginnings of a Grand Theory of Origins for Star Wars. What follows is another one of my "thought experiments" you've all come to know and love. 😊

Let's assume that the Star Wars galaxy was created by God at a point long before its recorded history (which varies significantly depending on whether you subscribe to the original Legends material or the new Canon). It could either be connected to our universe in a scenario like the one I described in Other Worlds: Fiction and Reality or, more likely, exist in a separate "Narnia"-type universe. Shortly thereafter, a Fall occurred in some manner paralleling our own. A promise of Salvation was given (perhaps handed down to the original Jedi Order or its precursor), but the knowledge of it was gradually lost or corrupted over the generations until the Creator Himself was forgotten (in our world, this is basically the story of all post-Babel religious systems). The Force then became the subject of idolatrous veneration ("the creature more than the Creator"), similar to how the sun, moon, and stars were worshiped in biblical times. This produced the Star Wars saga's defining cycle of an endless battle between Light and Dark, with both the Jedi and Sith having elevated the Force into a false Deity. The only true escape from this cycle is by a return to the Creator.

Image: Imgur
I remember toying with one particular "fanfiction" concept (my version of doodling) during a slow day at work. What if a certain Jedi Master, searching for inner peace by faithfully applying the Order's teachings, instead received a revelation from God? What if this opened his eyes to how far the Order had deviated from the original Truth by using the Force as a substitute for the Creator? Perhaps he would try to share what he learned with his fellow Masters only to be rejected as the Pharisees rejected the message of Christ. What if he was expelled from (or voluntarily left) the Order, taking a large group of followers with him to form an "Israel"-type nation on a "Promised Land" planet where they await the eventual coming of a Messianic Savior (the real Savior - not that bizarre "Chosen One" prophecy so needlessly tacked on to Anakin Skywalker's character in The Phantom Menace).

Image: Wikipedia
As the release date for The Last Jedi gets closer, we've been hearing a lot of plot rumors regarding explosive revelations on the nature of the Force and of the ancient Jedi. I, for one, would love it if the series were continued in a direction that explores the shortcomings of the Force as a religious concept, ultimately revealing the existence of a Creator God. It would be one of the single most powerful plot twists I can imagine in any science fiction film ever.

Image: Master Mind Content
Realistically, of course, I don't expect anything like this to happen in a million years.

Join me for our next installment as we continue our journey through the Dark Corners of Heaven and Earth.