May the Force Be with You
Over the past several years, a running internet joke has returned each spring. Picking up on a phrase from a famous movie series, four days into the fifth month, we’re swamped with the punning salutation, “May the Fourth be with you.” Since the Fourth came on a Sunday this year, we saw a bumper crop of Lutherans, Catholics, and other liturgical Christians respond, saying, “And also with you.”
Anyone with even a casual knowledge of any part of the Star Wars saga knows that the original line comes from the Jedi blessing, “May the Force be with you.” In other words, “I wish for you that the cosmic power underlying the universe would align itself favorably with you — and you with it.”
The impact of the Star Wars franchise was and remains a huge part of Western culture. Thirty-seven years old this month, it’s capable of a fresh start with a third trilogy, beginning with a sequel scheduled for release almost thirty-nine years after the original A New Hope. Audiences will probably flock once again and critics may again rave.
Within the Christian Church, the films continue receiving a mixed reception. By-and-large, we agree that there is a cosmic struggle between good and evil. We accept the grim reminders of the power and the persistence of the forces of darkness. We celebrate when good wins out. However, while Star Wars shows much of the ongoing conflict, it misidentifies the source of strife and posits false salvation.
In the mythos of Star Wars, everything is unified by and ultimately springs from an underlying power known as The Force. Sometimes expressed in mystical terms and at others in pseudo-scientific jargon, The Force empowers all that exists and can be used for good or evil. So while Luke Skywalker’s mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi urges his young charge to “use The Force” for good, his nemeses Darth Vader and the Emperor Palpatine try to attempt him to use this same Force rashly and, ultimately, in the service of darkness.
Those who try to reconcile a belief system similar to that of Star Wars and its Force with Biblical Christianity therefore must ignore tenets of one or the other, for The Force has more in common with oriental dualism than with the God of the Bible. Christians believe in all-powerful, all-wise deity as the source of all life, light, and goodness. He isn’t merely one side of a cosmic coin with the other being just as powerful but dark, destructive, and death-dealing. This way of thinking has more in common with Yin and Yang than with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Christianity teaches that evil, darkness, destruction, and decay are not coequal with light and life but are twisted perversions and absences of godliness. Strife comes not because two evenly matched sides inevitably must duke it out but because evil — including Satan, the Evil One — wants to overthrow light and life, order and abundance.
Dualism has been around for a long time as an earthly attempt to explain both order and disorder in the universe. Versions arose counter to Christianity already during the New Testament period. Nowhere is this clearer than in the First Epistle of John. Here, the apostle goes out of his way to point out that light and dark are not only enemies but that darkness is a weak, fallen shadow of the light of God — particularly of Jesus, the Light of the World.
Through John, we also learn that the light vanquishes the darkness and that, while we might chose to serve evil, good — that is, God — must choose us before we can respond in service to Him. Evil might amass tremendous wealth and power and can assemble mighty forces but it cannot be the ultimate source of any of these for all that is has its source only in a good and gracious God.
Scripture shows us that the “Dark Side of The Force” isn’t a mirror image of the Light, nor is it a separate yet equal entity. Evil can never be more than the good it twists and tears. The Dark Side is already judged and doomed by Jesus’ death and resurrection and will pass away entirely when Christ returns on the Last Day. The only force that is truly “with you” is God’s Son Jesus through His Word and Sacraments. Anything that is counter to him is also counter to your well-being, both now and eternally.
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Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, hymn writer, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.
Article first appeared in The Concordian of 7 May AD 2014.