It should come as no surprise to people who know me that I’ve got this little kid from 1977 bouncing around inside my soul, eagerly anticipating the next “Star Wars” installment opening Friday (today). I’ve purchased the tickets and stashed them in a safe place, which I check periodically. My inner child at times gets so excited about this event that I have to threaten to send him off to bed without any supper because he is in danger of making it into a false god.
Like many folks my age, this cinematic universe of droids, princesses and lasers is more meaningful than the sum of its parts. “Star Wars” is one of those nostalgic totems that mark a turning point in my childhood. Not because it was the first PG screening I attended, but the whole concept of “The Force” gave me an (erroneous) framework for understanding good, evil and God’s place in my life.
In 1977, as now, my life had its share of complex issues – a pastor’s son whose family’s patina belied our deep dysfunctionality and brokenness, a world where the onset of adolescence was marked by painfully embarrassing moments of awe and wonder about human sexuality and overall boredom with the manner in which tired biblical tropes were being presented on flannel graphs in dusty church basements with shuffleboard tiles on the floor. To wit: A flannel David slaying Goliath couldn’t hold a candle to Chewbacca roaring at a mouse droid.
But now I am older, a pastor, parent and husband – living in a world where brokenness is prevalent in the media saturation that threatens to turn us into consuming morons in order to dull the ennui and malaise of life. Is it any wonder I want to crawl back into my R2-D2 footie pajamas and play with all the Kenner-brand action figures I sold at a garage sale a long time ago (in a state of Ohio far, far away)? Is it any wonder that we all don’t retreat into our nostalgias and create the world after our own beguiling memories (even though they have morphed over time into mere fantasies)?
As with any indulgence in life, we need to seek balance. The avocations we enjoy are not supposed to become the mainstay of our spiritual growth – at best they are supplemental to and informed by our grounded core convictions that are shaped by baptism and all its holy mysteries. So yes, I can slay this false dichotomy with a lightsaber when I come to understand that it is possible to eagerly anticipate a new trilogy as long as it doesn’t consume and supplant the original ongoing salvific narrative in the real universe, the one where we suffer pain and sorrow because Christ calls us to a deeper understanding of our place in the world and our relationship to each other.
“Star Wars” intentionally tapped the vein of a mythological narrative shared by many and varied cultures spanning the globe. George Lucas read and re-read Joseph Campbell in order to understand and represent all the components of the hero’s journey from call to tragedy to triumph. We Lutherans experience this primarily through the rhythm of the liturgical calendar. Christ is called to become incarnate, experiences death for the sake of love, and triumphs in being raised from the dead. This is the hero narrative by which all other narratives pale in comparison, because it the most profound and beautiful truth we can possibly hope to comprehend in this lifetime.
Even as I gear up for a late night to see “The Force Awakens” here in my town, I’m more excited about the narrative shared by Christians all over the world who are gearing up for Christmas Eve’s joyful nativity with angels, shepherds, magi and even the apocryphal drummer boy. Chewbacca is great and all, but in the final analysis, he’s just a walking carpet compared to the sacred story that is in, with, and under all that exists.