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Art Imitates Life 3: Faith and the Force

In an interview I gave to a fan site after the release of Star Wars Legends: The Last Jedi, which I wrote with the late, talented Michael Reaves. I was asked specifically about religious themes in Star Wars properties. 

My interviewer asked: What are some of the most prevalent religious ideas in your Star Wars novels and Star Wars stories in general?

If you’ve ever overheard Star Wars fans discussing the dynamics of the Galaxy Far, Far Away (the GFFA), you’ll inevitably catch the main theological subtext, which is about the nature of good and evil and the nature of the Force. It’s very much the same discussion that takes place on religious forums and in scripture study groups all over the material world. The Force, in that context, becomes a proxy for God (and, in some minds, both God and Satan), and informs the debate about good and evil in the GFFA.

For example, over and against the idea suggested in the movies that the Force literally has a Light and Dark side, there’s the theory of the Potentium, which posits that the Force is benign and that the Dark Side is created by individual Force users. 

There is the pantheistic idea that the Force is merely a collective, neutral energy that pervades everything and everyone—the Force, then, has no purpose of its own. 

Conversely, other fans and writers portray the Force as being something more than a mere energy field. They suppose that it has will and purpose and that it actively aids those who work with and for it. The later movies introduced a scientistic element by proposing that the Force had a genetic component (midichlorians) that some possessed and others did not. There was a lot of controversy among Star Wars fans over that, and it made things interesting for writers like me and Michael Reaves, who felt that was a weak attempt to make the Force seem science-y.

These are the same debates that happen in our world. The way George Lucas set up his universe invites this debate. In two of the novels I co-wrote with Michael, we took on a foundational principle of the Star Wars universe: Is the Force really a duality, or is the Dark Side a reflection of the darkness in the heart of the adept? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Prophets of God have for millennia used darkness as a metaphor for evil and remoteness from God (i.e., Hell) as Christ does in the parable of the wise and foolish maidens.

Creating a fictional world is a lot like Luke Skywalker’s foray into the grotto on Dagobah: Everything in it is what you’ve brought in with you … consciously or unconsciously.

In Star Wars Legends: THE LAST JEDI, we also looked at the nature of dogmatism—both in the Jedi Order and in other “sects” of Force adepts. We had one such adept (a Dathomiri “witch” who channels the Force via spells/prayer) come to the conclusion that an adept’s means of connecting with the Force differed depending on a lot of things—including the adept’s experience and environment—and that those differences weren’t necessarily right or wrong.

We also confronted our protagonist with the sort of trials and tribulations one reads about in the book of Job so that we could explore what might pull even the most moral spiritual aspirant out of the Light and into the Darkness.

One of my favorite threads in the THE LAST JEDI was about the sorts of things that an evil or amoral person will do that a moral person will not. The amoral may view this as a weakness (i.e. humility is a weakness because the humble aren’t ambitious enough to become powerful); but Evil is limited in a different way. In this case, a Dark Side adept set up a puzzle which he assumed only another dark adept could solve because of the horrific nature of the solution. Our protagonist—a Jedi—solves it in a way that no dark adept ever could, because his toolkit includes the spiritual principles of unity and cooperation.

We also explored the sort of love and loyalty that is suggested by Christ’s assertion, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

This is a tip of the iceberg situation of course, so I’m going to stop there before the polar bears come out.

A Star Wars Bibliography

  • Patterns of Force (Book 3 in the Coruscant Nights series, featuring Jedi Jax Pavan and I-5YQ)
  • The Last Jedi (Bood 4 in the Coruscant Nights series, featuring Jax Pavan and I-5YQ)
  • Shadow Games (standalone novel featuring Dash Rendar, Han Solo, Leebo and Eaden Vrill)
  • And Leebo Makes Three (short story featuring Leebo the droid, Dash Rendar, and Eaden Vrill

Star Wars Songs (from Jeff & Maya’s Grated Hits and Schrödinger’s Hairball albums)

Waistin’ Away on Tatooine
Viva Mos Eisley
Midichlorian Rhapsody
GFFA

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