Can Star Wars and apologetics go together? It seems more and more people think so. Over the last two weeks I’ve given several interviews with Christian broadcasters who want to know how believers can use this culturally important film series to tell the bigger story of the gospel. So instead of picking apart the science in the movies, I’d like to talk about the discussion opportunities that Star Wars provides. The two original trilogies—and likely The Force Awakens, too—suggest themes ripe with apologetic implications that can start conversations about Christian ideas.
Conversation Starter #1: Life on Other Planets
Life abounds in the Star Wars galaxy. Some habitable planets orbit multiple stars; other habitats exist on moons protected by force fields. Life even exists on space stations like the Death Star! The types of life also vary dramatically including ape-like Wookiees, obese slug-like Hutts, musically gifted Biths, and numerous sentient and intellectually talented androids.
These varied habitats and creatures readily lend themselves to intriguing science apologetics discussions. For example, scientists have invested enormous amounts of resources and time into the search for life-friendly extrasolar planets and intelligent extraterrestrial life. Research has uncovered thousands of extrasolar planets—some have been declared Earth-like, one was even likened to Luke Skywalker’s home world, Tatooine. The truth is that the more our investigations of other planets, both in and beyond our solar system, highlight the remarkable hospitality of Earth, the more they raise the question of whether any planet could exist without divine preparation. And this is where conversations about life in other galaxies can get interesting. Is Earth unique? And if it is, does that scenario fit better within theism or naturalism? If researchers do one day find signs of extraterrestrial life, what would that mean for the Christian worldview?
Conversation Starter #2: Good vs. Evil
Rebel alliance vs. the Galactic Empire. Jedi vs. Sith. The first two Star Wars trilogies tell the story of a galaxy haunted by a growing evil opposed by powerful forces for good. (Not having seen The Force Awakens, I am unsure how this theme continues to develop.)
While strong evidence exists that the concept of the Force flows out of New Age and Eastern mystical thought, the struggle between the light side and dark side of the Force provides a great opportunity to discuss the basis for good, evil, ethics, and morals. In Revenge of the Sith, for example, Anakin Skywalker discusses his waning trust in the Jedi Council with Chancellor Palpatine (himself a dark lord of the Sith). “The Jedi use their power for good,” Anakin says. Palpatine counters, “Good is a point of view, Anakin.” But is it?
Is there an objective basis for good? If not, how can we define and hold standards for morals and ethics? Are good and evil always black and white—or are there gray areas? Later in Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi tells a fallen Anakin, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” The implication is that absolutes are evil—and yet we can ask if this assertion is true. Is there absolute truth? Are absolutes evil or good?
Conversation Starter #3: Do We Need Redemption?
Perhaps the most significant Star Wars discussion topic surrounds the issue of redemption. In Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker risks his life to reach out to his father, Darth Vader. He encourages Vader to return to the light side of the Force. His risk is rewarded when Vader chooses to kill the Emperor in order to save Luke.
Vader’s redemption is a powerful scene and it can raise profound questions. Do we need redemption? If so, how do we achieve it? Return of the Jedi, like many stories, implies that a person can save himself or herself through good acts—but Christianity teaches otherwise. Which idea is true?
Major Star Wars themes such as the presence of true evil (the demonic realm) and good (all that God controls), the battle between them (Satan’s pursuit of God’s throne), the prophesy of a savior, and evil’s ultimate defeat (Christ’s life, death and resurrection, as well as the final judgment) all find parallels in Christianity. As expected, many aspects of the Star Wars saga run contrary to Christianity. For one prominent example, the Force that pervades everything in Star Wars contrasts markedly with the personal God described in the Bible who sustains the universe. We could gripe about the differences—or we can use them as a platform to tell what Christianity really has to say.
The Star Wars saga provides numerous entry points to tell the greatest story ever told. The triune God created a universe suitable for humanity to exist. The most powerful created being successfully tempted the first humans to reject God and follow him. Yet God had a plan to come live among humanity, atone for our sins and provide a way to restore us to a proper relationship with him forever. How suitable that we have the opportunity to share this message as we celebrate Christ’s coming during the Christmas season!