‘The Last Jedi’ and The Deconstruction of the Faithful

Since the inception of Star Wars, discussions of faith and its influence have arose; while the Force and all it represents act almost as a hodge-podge of religious ideas and motifs, many Christians (myself included) have made parallels between the stories and their own faith. I open this piece with the bold disclaimer that I am writing this on the day of the first teaser trailer for the eighth installment of the main Skywalker Saga, The Last Jedi. Even with only the little information it provides, my mind has been racing about the apparent direction of the saga and my own imagined possibilities; while the final product remains to be seen at the time of this writing, it seems the director, Rian Johnson, is indeed taking the franchise in bold new places. I present these ideas, not even necessarily as my definitive views, as commentary on impressions made; nothing more is implied here by me. Consider these to be merely the ramblings of a fan, connecting character arcs with patterns I see amongst modern-day Christians.

In the teaser, we hear voice-overs throughout between Rey and Luke within the trailer, presumably during her training with him on Ahch-to, the planet we last saw the two at the conclusion of The Force Awakens. Luke tells her that the Force is more complicated than just the balance of light and dark, the duality at war throughout the saga. We see flashes of early Jedi manuscripts perched on what appears to be a “Force tree”, recent additions to Star Wars canon; many are already considering the writings to be the legendary Journal of the Whills, as mentioned in Rogue One. Most haunting in the teaser is Luke stating that he knows but one truth: “the Jedi must come to an end“.

I have been asking myself a million questions about what all of this could mean, but my mind goes back to remembering that this is indeed the Skywalker Saga: we followed young Anakin’s eventual descent into the Dark Side, his “rebirth” as Darth Vader, the training of his son, Luke, in the Force, the political leadership of his daughter, Leia, the dark journey of her son, Ben, and, now, the apparent destiny of Rey to battle evil once and for all. I want to focus my thoughts primarily on Anakin, Luke, and Rey, as they tell us the most of what I’m seeing.

Anakin was whisked away at great promise of doing great things in the Force, yet immediately, he was rejected by the Jedi Order. Over time, even as he trained to be a part of it, he was increasingly critical of the rules of the institution. He distrusted its authority and how it encrouched upon his life and decisions. Much talk was made of his need to suppress himself, which only built his resentment toward the order that he, in time, cut down. The parallel I draw is that I see a believer capable of great ministry, but who continually wars against the rigid institution of the church. The man-made rules and suppression eventually prove too much to take, and they turn away. Many today fit this scenario: at one time, on-fire for Jesus, but eventually turned off by the hypocrisy of others around them.

Luke happened into his destiny, a simple boy called to set things right on a grand scale. He was trained, like Anakin, by the same teachers, yet circumstances limited the depth of his knowledge, as did his impulsiveness. There was simply too much to do to just slow down and ponder it all. After he “won” his great fight, he then had the time to do what others didn’t or couldn’t. He had time to dig into those overlooked teachings and instruct others to do the same. Things could truly be made right. Yet, it wasn’t; in trying to create​ order, chaos emerged again. He retreated to the solace of learning, but in his seclusion, he became convinced of the futility of it all. Light begets dark, dark begets light, and the struggle continues. Therefore, remove them both. The parallel I see is found in the idealism of many young Christian academics. All is well until that vision confronts reality. For many, their search for knowledge alone proves fruitless, and disillusionment results. Faith becomes pointless and seemingly worth abandoning, if only to avoid the conflicts that result from ministry.

Lastly, Rey (who I will presume to be the daughter of Luke, either biologically or surrogate through his mentoring) has annoyed some because in the course of a single movie, she went from no real knowledge of the Force to a formidable Force-wielder, all without any training whatsoever. Her abilities seem natural, supernatural even, but up to this point, she appears completely well-intentioned, despite having the same abandoned circumstances of upbringing as Anakin and Luke. If any instruction was given, it could be said that Maz Kanata made her aware of the Force inside her already. She will do what Anakin and Luke couldn’t, as she isn’t bound by the same biases. The parallel I see is someone not jaded by the imperfect institution of the church or lost in the myriad of religious academia. They feel God and endeavor to act as a singular vessel without deep instruction or organization. Their connection is purely natural and not put-upon in any way; the baggage of service is loosened by disavowing the institution of the church and cutting ties with doctrine. One must simply feel God and follow the direction He leads. Why pursue the Word and fellowship? Just follow your heart.

Now, personally, in our increasingly secular culture, I think this is a dangerous message that I don’t share, which is difficult to say as a passionate, lifelong Star Wars fan. I’m not saying this is the intention of the creators, but then again, it could be. I could go into Leia’s arc evoking someone seemingly forsaking ministry for a life of public service. Through the lack of instilling Biblical principles​ at home with their child and only entrusting them to others for that leadership, the child was left vulnerable without a foundation to fall back on. But, I digress; these are simply parallels I sensed (or imagined) today after seeing the teaser, and I thought I’d share.

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