Thursday, May 26, 2005

Star Wars vs. Christianity

I just returned from watching Star Wars Episode III. It was simultaneously the greatest of the 6 movies and the worst. Let me confess up front that I am a Star Wars geek. I love the original trilogy, and I am one of the few who thought Episodes I and II were fantastic. Yet, Episode III trumped them all. Lucas accomplished the Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader transformation perfectly. The battle scenes were spectacular, the use of color was magnificent, and the Republic-cum-Empire topped them all. With the sole exception of Padme dying before baby Leia could possibly have formed any memories of her, (contrary to Leia’s account in Episode 6) the movie was consistent and well done.

Yet, I have this against the movie. There is one glaring out-of-place political insertion by George Lucas that taints the whole movie, undoes all his great work, proves he doesn’t understand his own movies, and declares war on Christians everywhere. The quote is the climax and occurs at the beginning of the battle between Darth Vader and Obi Wan.

Vader: "If you are not with me, you are my enemy."
Obi Wan: "Only the Sith deal in absolutes."

This small exchange of dialog is a clear attack on Christianity, especially in light of recent criticisms of Christians’ involvement in politics. First, Vader’s quote is an obvious reference to Christ and Matthew 12:30 "He who is not with me is against me." Thus Obi Wan’s (the good guy’s) reply is directed at those who hold that Christ is the only way to heaven and salvation. Second, this comment falls into a larger conversation concerning control of the Senate, which does fit well with the movie and the characters, but it serves to link the bad guy who believes in absolutes with the evil consolidation of Sith power that ultimately destroys democracy. Replace "bad guy" with "Pres. Bush" and "the evil consolidation of Sith power" with "Christians bringing their moral absolutes to the political arena" and you see where I’m going.

This blatant attack, in my opinion, only serves to make Lucas look stupid since the rest of Episode III sees the Jedi dealing in absolutes (just one example occurs when Obi Wan tells Vader he is lost because he can’t see that it’s really the Emperor that is "evil"), as well as the entire plot of the whole series, a series about the battle between good and evil, two very absolute things. Lucas should be ashamed of himself. As it is, he stands as yet another example of the inconsistency of a non-Christian worldview, which fails to understand what good and evil really are.


Stuart said...

Star Wars (A New Hope)
Luke: How did my father die?
Obi-Wan: A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father.

Obi-Wan lied to Luke.

Return of the Jedi
Luke: Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father.
Obi-Wan: Your father... was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and BECAME Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was TRUE... from a certain point of view.
Luke: A certain point of view?
Obi-Wan: Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...
[sits down]
Obi-Wan: depend greatly on our own point of view.

It does not surprise me that George Lucas would have Obi-Wan deny that there absolutes. To Obi-Wan there is no truth, only differing points of view.

Dr Funk said...

One, I think we need to remember that the "Star Wars universe" is not necessarily a Christian one... if anything, it is Manichean, with the forces of evil (Sith) being just as strong as the forces of good (Jedi). (Or maybe even stronger--there are hundreds of Jedi, but only two Sith.) The world of Star Wars takes more of its spirituality from Zen Buddhism than from Christianity.

Also, I think the "if you're not with me, you're my enemy" quote was used more as a swipe at President Bush than anything else. And I disagreed with Bush's using this Biblical analogy even more than Lucas apparently did. Christ, by virtue of being Truth incarnate, can make this claim. However, Bush/Anakin, being human and therefore fallible, cannot rightfully claim to be always on the right side; it the definition of sin to disagree with Christ, but not necessarily sinful to disagree with Bush (nor is it necessarily sinful to agree with him, as some liberals would have us believe). I think you and I disagree on the role of absolutes; we both agree that they exist, but I believe that we cannot (as finite mortals) lay claim to fully understanding and holding to the right side of them. Anakin's mistake was that he accepted the Emperor's "absolutes" (which turned out to be wrong) after what couldn't have been more than several days/weeks of being his Sith Apprentice, instead of wrestling for years with finding them (like Obi-Wan and Yoda had, and still were) as a Jedi. Obi-Wan was challenging Vader's blind allegiance to the Emperor, and hoping there was still reconcilation to bring him back to the Jedi.

If you look at the two trilogies, you will see that "good" and "evil" are not always totally separate. Yoda had to remind Luke (and Anakin before him) of the need to always subdue his emotions, lest he fall to the Dark Side, and in the end, Darth Vader/Anakin was still the "Chosen One" who overthrew the rule of the Sith by killing the Emperor after Luke was wounded in Return of the Jedi.

Finally, I think you are right that this phrase has to be taken in context--earlier in the movie, Emperor Palpatine had said almost the same thing in the Senate when he declared war on the Jedi. So Anakin was simply echoing what his Sith master had earlier said. And what shows the insidiousness of Evil better than the fact that what is said sounds right, and may even echo the Word of God, but what is meant is all wrong?

(PS--Its always been my understanding that Luke and Leia didn't know about Padme; when Leia talked about the vauge memories she had of her mother in Return of the Jedi, she was likely referring to the wife of Bail Organa, whereas Luke always knew the folks raising him were his aunt and uncle. As a doctor, though, I was surprised that a world that had Hyperdrive technology for its spaceships apparently hadn't developed ultrasound (or Dopplers!) to know that Padme was carrying twins....)

Lee said...

I agree with you Dr. Funk, the Star Wars universe is not a Christian one, but I did not expect it to have such a blatant attack on the Christian universe. Lucas claims that the movie was written prior to the Iraq war, which makes it hard to see this as an attack on President Bush, but more an attack on Christians in general. By the way, I just got my copy of World Magazine Memorial Day issue, and it has a review of Star Wars discussing these same lines. They were far more generous than I was.

As for Leia and Padme, if I recall correctly Luke specifically asked for Leia's memories of her "real mother" making clear it could not be the adopted Bella Organa. Something to check out at any rate.

Stuart, great quote from the early movies. Obi Wan condemns Vader as "lost" in Episode III for saying the Jedi are wrong from his "point of view". Sad to see such inconsistence in writing and Lucas's worldview.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with Dr. Funk. But my comment is my own. You stated that Vader's quote is refering to Christ in Mathew 12:30 "He who is not with me is against me." But what Vader said is "If you are not with me, you are my enemy." Being against someone is different from being someone's enemy. For example i don't agree with you but that does not make me your enemy or you my enemy. Two friends can have different point of views of anything, thus making them against each other on that point of view, not enemies.

Farley Waddlesworth said...

Quote: "I did not expect it to have such a blatant attack on the Christian universe."

Are all criticisms of Christians by non-Christians "attacks on Christianity?" Maybe its an attack on a part of Christianity which is often coopted by "Christians" into something vile and perverse. When some leader of any current expansionist empire says it, it naturally means something very different than when the Christ says it.

And if you believe that the WOT is an inherently Christian mission, then youre simply not a Christian. Nor would you be in agreement with the President's consistent denials that the WOT is "just another Crusade."

rawlzz said...

firstly. obi does very much belive in abesutess. his most well-known one?

"ONLY a sith deals in abelutes"

however, what you dont understand is that there are abelutes and ABESELUTES and that obi isn't perfect. why "freind or enemy" offer no middle way, "only a sith" does, as there are only two participants, that is, he is only talking about the jedi and the sith "of the jedi and sith, only a sith" is what he ment. while friend or enemey is EVERYONE!

also, we have swordwielding priests in robes, fighting for justice, blessed by allmigthy, omipresent and omisenient forece, preaching peace and love, against the fallen counterpart. reminds you of anything?