Analysis of Star Wars: An Inherently Religious Story

Sections:

Introduction

General Content Ratings

The Mission of the Jedi

Religion of the Jedi, & Luke’s Faith Crisis

Male Female Power Struggles in Ep. 7-9: Overt Feminism

Statements & Titles of Ep. 7-9 which could lead to chaos:

Good Anti-Anger Messages:

Dangerous Yoga & Scarry Force Powers

Luke Skywalker: The Retired Master & His Late Faith Crisis

Anakin Skywalker (Becomes Darth Vader): The Tragic Prodigy

Kylo Ren: The Troubled Wanna-Be Villain

Rey Nobody/Palpatine/Skywalker: The Ultra Prodigy

Additional Resource: Comment On Internal Self Mastery VS External Control, etc.

 

 

Introduction:

Star Wars is inherently religious, and is a potentially useful and encouraging story for the religious mind. Many atheists dislike it for the supernatural it does contain. It is a story of the battle of good vs evil, and good typically prevailing even against the odds.  Star Wars shows that there is some good in everyone, even fallen characters, and that repentance is available for everyone who will soften their hearts.

It’s not a top favorite in our home as there are better stories and presentations and the violence is borderline gratuitous at times, but a familiarity with the story is both enjoyable and instructive on a certain level.

I do prefer episodes 1-6 to 7-9 as the final 3 episodes had more politically correct gestures thrown in, though perhaps not overwhelmingly so.

Star Wars is one of the major stories of our time, and is perhaps worth considering as it is such a large component of modern culture and the philosophies are of interest. This being said, the obsession often associated with Star Wars is akin to idol worship, a level of devotion which should be reserved for the living God rather than these stories of myth. We must keep our hobbies in their proper place.

 

General Content Ratings:

Language: Generally wholesome with a few exceptions. The newest trilogy Eps. 7-9 has a few swear words.

Costumes: Generally wholesome and modest clothing of robes. I can say that the heroes always chose to dress modestly, which is great. One scene depicts Leah as an captive sex slave, being forced to wear immodest clothing. Yes it is evil that the bad guys did this and it isn’t saying it’s a good thing, but they didn’t have to show that. The casino/bar scenes do have a few immodest characters passing by, as is common in those unruly environments. Unfortunately, Fin calls the casino they’re in while looking for a hacker, a delightsome place.

Fantasy: There is much of the fantastic in these movies. This is potentially dangerous as it desensitizes the viewer to reality. On the other hand, this can stimulate creativity.

Gender Roles: With exception of Ep. 7-9, the male and female roles are typical and appropriate. More on this in a section below.

Violence: The level of violence portrayed in the films are concerning, particular for young audiences. The choreography of the sword play is quite good, especially in Eps. 1-3.

Horror: The final scene of Ep. 9 was particularly terrifying. It included a demon man calling for human sacrifice, transfer of spirits, and dead demons chanting in the background, typical of demonic scenes. This scene is too scarry and will cause nightmares. Exposure to such evil is likely not healthy, especially for children. Also scenes of Sith holding people in the air and choking them is quite terrifying, and exposing children to that is potentially abusive. There is also a scene where a nice robot appears to be possessed by a demon, having red eyes and speaking in a low dark voice. The robot is translating an evil text which is needed to unlock something, but the demon moment is scarry and unnecessary.

Conclusion: The concerning factors listed above lower my rating of this film, demoting it from the status of classic, and putting it as only an interesting story to be used sparingly if at all.

 

The Mission of the Jedi:

Some say the force is a useful analogy of good vs evil; the use of power for good or ill. Jedi is the religion of the light side of the force, which is in direct opposition to the Sith, which is the religion of the dark side of the force.

The Jedi Knight idea is appealing they represent what is good strict discerning and skilled. We all want to be jedi, to be highly trained, and to have access to the supernatural for aid in the cause of truth and right. We want to use the priesthood to save the world. The Jedi Knight is the equivalent, in the Star Wars universe, of an High Priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The Jedi master themselves, and fight the dark within themselves first and foremost. They aren’t in the business of conquering and obtaining control over everything, just in preserving the rights of the people.

Jedi conquer the evil within, the anger. Anger leads to the dark side. It is not the Jedi way, for example, to kill an unarmed opponent, no matter how dangerous. They instead should capture them and bring them to the authorities for trial. Part of the fall of Anakin was in listening to corrupt advice to kill a powerful though unarmed foe. Luke and others teach that if you strike down someone in anger, you won’t be free of them, but to the contrary, their memory will continue to haunt your conscience throughout your life.

Their weapon of choice is a short range saber, which suggests self-defense, rather than offensive conquest and overwhelmingly powerful weaponry. Their skill with this weapon comes from not only practice, but from being in touch with spiritual forces which guide their hands.

They help the Republic stand against the tyranny of the Empire as their job is to protect people, not to gain power.

 

The Jedi Religion, & Luke’s Faith Crisis

Jedi are specifically called a religion in several episodes.

Luke has a faith crisis wherein he says the Jedi religion is both unimportant and historically ineffective. This faith crisis is overcome with the help of a master Jedi named Yoda, but the viewer could see this as an attack on religion.

Burning the temple and scriptures were a sign of looking beyond those and finding the true meaning of the religion, but the viewer could see this as an attack on religion.

Burning of the jedi temple and sacred texts could be to say we need modern Revelation even more than texts, which is true. But it could also send a bad message of rejecting the religious world view, and trivializes the importance of temples in the religious world. This being said, we remember this is an alternate universe with different religious requirements. Religion as revealed to the Jedi is not the fullness of the gospel, after all. The only danger is in a viewer compartmentalizing this scene, and walking away saying, ‘yes, lets go burn temples and scriptures, we don’t need them anymore!’ The mature viewer would hopefully walk away saying, ‘alas, temples and scriptures are important, but living a life of faith to help change the world is the most important of all.’

Luke overcomes his faith crisis and finds again meaning in the Jedi religion. He learns the true meaning of the religion which is beyond histories and books. He tells Ren that he was wrong in fleeing to that island, and that that decision was based in fear.

There’s an easter egg image of the sacred Jedi ancient texts being on board the Millennium Falcon at the end. This is part of what could have been meant by the statement that they had everything they needed. This is quite interesting and good, as even though faith in action is the most important, religious texts are VERY important.

 

 

Male Female Power Struggles in Ep. 7-9: Overt Feminism:

Repeatedly women rebuke men. There are hardly any male figures who have any sort of authority over women at all. This is obviously taken too far, and is not an isolated event. Additionally, the men are often showed as inferior to the women, and as goofy or lucky rather than highly skilled and with self-control like the women are. The “best pilot” guy is soon seen as highly inferior to Rey.

They overly load the last three movies with female characters in the war roles, suggesting that the woman have real meaning only in these roles, and not in the private roles of the home, the relationships, etc. In reality, men are nothing but the women have taught them to be, which means women are central to everything, but sometimes in more private settings.

Rose stops Fin from doing epic heroic move that could’ve saved them. She said save not destroy, but he was destroying in order to save. Her stunt to save him could have easily resulted in many people dying, and the whole rebellion failing. She put her personal feelings above her duties. This is what lead to Anakin’s downfall: putting his relationships on such a pedestal that he justified personal unheroic and even immoral acts to protect them.

In Eps. 7-9, they make a point of calling Leah “general” rather than “princess”. When she is called princess, its by the enemy, and is derogatory (with the exception of her funeral, which could be another issue in and of itself).

 

Statements & Titles of Ep. 7-9 which could lead to chaos:

The titles of this series itself is questionable. First we have the force awakening. Fair enough. But then is The Last Jedi. This could suggest (face value (which is as far as many of the masses get)) that the need for Jedi (religion) is over. Then we have The Rise of Skywalker. This can suggest individualism. It’s no longer about belonging to a greater cause, but all about the self (instead of religion).

The bad guys called the first order is sketch as the first order means gods order and the patriarchy established by God. They do make it seem like Hitler. Are they saying the old ways are Hitler? Perhaps it’s just a name, which could be interpreted bad, but to those who are good it can be good.

A hero says something to the effect of, ‘at least we stole from the bad guys for the sake of the good guys’. This is needed sometimes, but is very questionable. We should not steal. Times of war may require drastic measures against tyrants, but we can’t justify ourselves in going around taking justice into our own hands as an everyday practice.

They failed a mission in a place, but they didn’t like the corruption there, and ended up trashing the place, and said something to the effect of, ‘well we failed here but at least we trashed this corrupt place’. This could lead viewers to think that there is merit in just trashing corrupt places. We should not engage in illegal destruction to property.

The rebels are the heroes. We know rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God, but the viewer could hear these repeated praises of rebels, and think that to be a rebel in general is good. They often glorified in and identified as rebels, rather than identifying as people who were standing for truth and right. It’s a gray area, but concerning enough to mention.

Fin, the African hero, is the first ‘rebel’ soldier introduced. He says this is what the resistance looks like. Was it calling Africans to rebel?

 

Good Anti-Anger Messages:

Luke and others say that if you strike someone down in anger, they aren’t gone, you haven’t solved your problem by eliminating them, but to the contrary, they are all the more your problem, haunting you from then on. The memory of your evil deed burning the conscience.

The dark side has power from anger, the light side has power from being free from anger. Power exists on both sides, which is true, but the one is evil, the other good. Where we chose to get our power from is the test of our souls.

 

Dangerous Yoga & Scarry Force Powers:

The Jedi have a sort of yoga-related out of body experience. This is dangerous.

Images of people using a power to choke each other, push each other, etc., are particularly horrifying.

The force is accessed not by obedience to God but by getting in tune with nature. Seems like yoga and new age. The other view of this is the god is the god of nature, and their access to him as they knew him was through nature. That was all that was revealed to them in that age, they did their best.

This being said, the display of power is often frightening. Sometimes God and his servants are charged with bringing down civilizations, etc., by fire and so forth. It is always sad when people die or get hurt, however necessary it may be. Evil must also be allowed to exist, and it is not pretty. The horror of evil and the tragic outcomes of evil doers are part of what teach us to avoid evil. This being said, we should be careful about exposure to these things, particularly with young audiences. These movies are borderline gratuitously violent. We should certainly avoid movies which are overly gruesome, violent, etc. in their portrayal of things, even if the meaning behind it is good vs evil, as that message can get lost in the corrupt entertainment of the terror.

 

Luke Skywalker: The Retired Master & His Late Faith Crisis

Luke portrays the typical hero as described by Joseph Campbell, who specifically used the Star Wars story as an example of the heroes journey (he may not have the same view of the character Rey, however).

Luke conquers his dark side when he has the opportunity to kill Vader but does not. It is a mistake his father (Vader) made, but which he does not. His fate is not determined by the mistakes of his father. Conquering ones self is, after all, the theme of the Jedi religion/order.

Like Anakin, Luke is overly committed to relationships, and the Jedi again expresses concern about this. Ultimately, this works out well for Luke, as he refuses to kill his evil father when he has the chance, and merely disarms him instead. See the Anakin section for more discussion on this.

Luke’s faith crisis stemmed from his typical fixation with the future rather than the present. He makes a critical mistake in prematurely judging one of his students, and in an attack on that student (attempting to prevent the great evil he foresaw the student causing), Luke inadvertently creates the evil in the student from the trauma of the attack. He inadvertently creates the evil by being overly concerned about the future. Yoda reminds him of this character flaw in Ep. 8. Luke later learns from his mistakes, regains faith in the Jedi religion, and helps in the rebellion against the tyrannical 1st Order regime.

In Luke’s cave experience, he sees the dark side of his angry self. Well, for we all have parts about ourselves which we need to conquer (except perhaps for Ren, she appears to be an angel whose only flaw is not knowing who her parents are…).

 

Anakin Skywalker (Becomes Darth Vader): The Tragic Prodigy

The fall of Anakin from the light to the dark was a very powerful lesson which can help us avoid similar mistakes. In his attempts to ‘save those he loves’, he brings great destruction, as he goes about it in an evil way. This shows that the ends don’t justify the means. In other words, you can’t do bad for the sake of a good goal, or it all turns on its head and results in epic loss.

The Jedi counsel are concerned about him due to his overly obsessive connections to his relationships. It isn’t good that the Jedi are celibate (they forbid marriage in their order), but Anakin does have issues in over commitment to relationships. When someone is so committed to their relationships that they make moral compromises, this is evil. He starts doing bad things to try and preserve those he loves. He starts killing everyone who hurts those he loves. He turns to the dark side to try and get extra power to preserve those he loves. In the end however, his love for his children helps him turn to the light side again, as he destroys the evil man who was torturing his child. Learning that his child was yet alive was an opportunity for him to right some of his wrongs.

The Jedi order doesn’t allow marriage and sexuality, so Anakin goes underground in his love for Padme, they have an affair resulting in a pregnancy and children. Surely forbidding marriage contributed to this. Marriage is natural and should not be forbidden to any. Forbidding it is error, and often results in tragedy.

As Anakin’s character development is truly magnificent and worthy of a closer study, I put a neat comment with more insight in an appendix to this essay regarding internal vs external order as a means of getting what we want, which looks at the folly of the idea that corrupt means justify a good end, etc.

 

 

Kylo Ren: The Troubled Wanna-Be Villain

He was different than Vader, which is good. Some say ‘he was cool until he took off the mask, revealing he was a punk kid.’ But a direct copy of Vader wouldn’t have been a creative character.

It’s intentional that he was a weaker character. Some say he was show as being far too out of control, lashing out in anger frequently. This can be an anti-man message, it can also be an appropriate message for the story and character, that he really was totally out of control, and very conflicted.

Ren is very evil, but not wholly gone. He kills his father in an attempt to end the conflict within him and become a more powerful Sith (Sith is the master office of the dark side), but when presented to blow up the ship which he knows his mother is on, he choses not to.

Ultimately Ren, through help from his mother and Rey, turns to the light side shortly before his death, and dies in saving his friend Ren “Skywalker”, just like how his hero Vader finally turned back to the light side and died saving his son Luke Skywalker.

 

Rey Nobody/Palpatine/Skywalker: The Prodigy Millennial

She was a prodigy, which upsets many people that she had so much power so quickly, seemingly unearned, but she wouldn’t be the first prodigy. Anakin, though trained for several years, was also obviously better than everyone at everything, and that from a young age.

She turns out to not be a Skywalker, for a while she thinks she is totally unrelated to any line of the force, but it turns out she is a Palpatine. The good in this is the message that anyone can access religion and greatness despite negative actions of their forefathers. It also made a fun plot twist for an otherwise bland character.

For a while the viewer is lead to believe she is a nobody. A negative connotation of this could be that we don’t need to align ourselves to Gods family to gain power, but that any lifestyle can lead to greatness and power. In reality, not all lifestyles are created equally. It can also suggest that we can forsake our family heritage and find just as much meaning anywhere and with anyone, as one ideology or tribe or bloodline isn’t better than another, if the bloodline is being used as a symbol for ideologies.

She is also somehow an embodiment of all the Jedi combined, like how Palpatine was the converse for the Sith. Perhaps this was just a general sentiment on both their parts?

One concern as mentioned earlier is the politically correct narrative that females are better than males at everything. She certainly embodies this. She is a gifted prodigy, which is ok, but her abilities seem to be instantaneous and through the roof. Example: beating a Sith trained from his early youth in a duel the first time she holds a sword. Piloting despite having never flown. Doing mechanics on the Falcon ship better than the lifetime owner of it. These things are unprecedented, not even the prototypical prodigy Anakin was as gifted as her. More on this in the above section on feminist themes.

It is possible that she is a reflection of the millennial generation philosophy, which is that as soon as we aren’t oppressed anymore, as soon as the system gets out of our way, we will all be super awesome bar none.

 

Additional Resource: Comment On Internal Self Mastery VS External Control, etc.

 

I found this comment very insightful guide to the overall Star Wars theme of dark force and light force, etc., and it gives more insight into the compelling story of the tragic Anakin Skywalker:

 

“If we consider the distinction between the desire for internal order and external order, I imagine this would help us better understand the light sides apparent interest in order (internally) and the dark sides apparent interest in order (externally). Consider the points below:

The Jedi, or the light side, were never interested in establishing an external order in terms of galactic governance or otherwise, their goal has always been the cultivation of a personal, internal order; maintaining control over personal emotions, freeing oneself from personal attachments, achieving a calmness over the passions, and to act only in defense of oneself or others and never to achieve ones ends or for reasons of aggression.

The dark side of the force, on the other hand, serving as a mirror image for the light side, is deeply engaged in and always aspiring to achieve dominance and control over the external world and its inhabitants. This would appear to be partially a result of the chaos that reigns within their own mind and spirit, where the passions are permitted to dominate their psyche and rule over their conscience and intellectual faculties. The need to satisfy their own ambitions, passions, and maintain a hold over personal and/or physical attachments, combined with the aggressive tendencies cultivated by the dark side, instills the desire among all dark side force wielders to twist the world in a way that satisfies their own wants and apparent needs.

This was ultimately Anakin’s undoing, and explains his departure from the light. He could not let go of his personal attachment to his mother, Padme, or his then unborn children. The need to control future events, and to order the world in his favor, created a chaotic disorder in his mind compelling him to act in ways he knew were wrong and conflicted with the Jedi way.

EVIDENCE:

1) He killed the Sandpeople in revenge for the harm that befell his mother:

2) killed Count Dooku in part due to the loss of his own hand to Dooku in a previous battle (attachment to a hand, funny);

3) participated in the death of Mace Windu to protect the Emperor so he could later save Padme;

4) killed the Jedi because they were also now a threat to the Emperors survival and would challenge the Senate;

5) turned against Kenobi because of jealousy and his belief that Kenobi had turned Padme against him (loss of love);

6) killed the Trade Federation leaders to facilitate an orderly Empire and end any threat to the Empire and those he loved;

7) filled with hate when Kenobi severed three more of his limbs and took Padme from him;

8) Finally, the death of Padme and supposedly his children (at his own hands) sealed his fate as a Sith (loss of love, regret of past actions, his need to bring Padme back via the dark side of the force). Vader’s spirit was consumed with chaotic feelings of guilt, regret, loss, hate, and the desire for revenge driving his need for order in the external world and to fulfill his ambition to learn the secrets of the dark side.

Upon learning that Luke and Leia were alive, the conflict between his light and dark sides was reborn. He now had the opportunity to right some past wrongs, to save his son and daughter where he could not save Padme. He probably now knew the Emperors claims of the ability to resurrect the dead were also a lie. In the concluding scenes of Return of the Jedi, the orderly Empire and the Emperor himself now threatened Vader’s attachment to his own children.

The Emperor failed to realize that the very same passions that had once led Vader to the dark side now led him back to the light; his love for his children. This is even more clear when we realize why Kenobi and Yoda are so concerned with Luke’s attachment to his friends and his impulsiveness. They feared that the same passions that were the folly of Vader would now be the folly of Luke. And they nearly were. But in the end, Luke’s passions and faith in his father proved a force for virtue and light, as the love of Luke restored Vader’s goodness in the love of his son.

…I feel this is a very coherent and consistent narrative device that drives the original 6 films, though, it certainly was violated, and horrifically so, in The Last Jedi.”

[end of Comment from Jon Lawrence in a thread of a video by Jonathan Pageau, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi | Dismantling All Order” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyB3BxGrUvU. The lecture at this link is also of interest, Jonathan suggests that the old Star Wars were about freedom, heroism in the face of tyranny; the new Star Wars ideas have changed into social justice and safety from oppression. Jonathan’s analysis are through the lens of a religious world view.]

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