Star Wars & Church Communication

Star Wars & Church Communication

December 14, 2015 by

You’ve probably heard by now that the newest film in the Star Wars saga is set to release this month. For Star Wars fans everywhere, this latest installment is a long-time coming.

Since The Force Awakens was confirmed, we’ve been frantically rewatching the first six films, rehashing some juicy fan theories, salivating over the movie trailers and restlessly counting down the days to the film’s release.

But what do these movies mean to the church? Why should Christians care about one of the most popular science fiction franchises of all-time? How is Star Wars relevant to church communicators?

Help us church communicators, you’re our only hope.

Religious Symbolism

Believe it or not, there’s a good deal of religious symbolism in the Star Wars universe. In the tradition of the Bible, Star Wars demonstrates the power of timeless storytelling.

Some of the parallels with Christianity are more obvious. Other references only become apparent after seeing the films a dozen or so times.

Here are some similarities between the biblical story and the Star Wars plot:

  • The presence of an invisible, but all-powerful God/Force.
  • An eternal struggle between good and evil.
  • A prophesied Chosen One who will bring salvation or ‘balance to the Force.’
  • Like Christ, Anakin Skywalker was born to a virgin.
  • Like the Israelites, Anakin was brought out of slavery in a desert land.
  • The theme of resurrection occurs with both Jesus and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • The chopping off of hands (Matthew 5:30).
  • Many of the characters wear flowing robes.
  • Voice work by James Earl Jones.
  • An amazing soundtrack by John Williams (or maybe that one is just Star Wars…).

This podcast provides another example by giving the much maligned Jar Jar Binks credit for exemplifying the human condition. Is there truly a Jar Jar Binks within each of us?

What if we could get fans as excited about church as they are about Star Wars?

Further Research

Google ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Christianity,’ and you’ll quickly discover a surprising amount of scholarly research around the subject. Some theologians demonstrate their inner nerd by taking this subject quite seriously.

  • This article by Dr. Taylor Marshall examines whether or not Star Wars is anti-Christian. Essentially, this argument boils down to whether or not the Force is a mockery of God—which in his view is not the case.
  • A major concern for some Christians is that the light and dark sides of the Force more closely represent concepts found in eastern religions, such as the yin and yang found in Chinese Taoism.
  • This Christian evaluation of Star Wars published by Probe Ministries agrees that it incorporates elements from other regions, but still poses healthy questions about our faith.
  • Another article in the Real Truth uncovers many biblical truths within the films—for example, likening the Force to the Holy Spirit and comparing Luke’s temptation to that of Christ.
  • There are even two books written on the connections between Star Wars and Christianity—The Gospel According to Star Wars by John McDowell and Star Wars Jesus by Caleb Grimes.

This amount of research only goes to prove that both Christians and die-hard Star Wars fans are deeply passionate groups. Both have their own theories about certain issues and love debating topics.

Star Wars, like Christianity, provides a common ground that people anywhere can bond over.

Meeting Expectations

If anything, the Star Wars franchise is known for its wide, rabid fan base.

So promoting the newest installation to the series is less about awareness and more about handling monumental expectations (especially after the disappointing prequel trilogy).

Churches face a similar challenge. Christianity is already a well-established social institution. The challenge for churches is to attract people despite their preconceived notions about religion and handle the wishes of a diverse audience.

For Star Wars, that task falls to new director J.J. Abrams, who has the unique perspective of being a Star Wars junkie himself. Generations of Star Wars fans are putting pressure on him to not screw this up.

The same can be said of us as church communicators. As we help to tell the story of Christ, we are ourselves Christians. We’re committed to this cause in not only a professional, but also a personal way. We’re carrying out the work that was begun by Jesus himself over 2,000 years ago.

Don’t let the massive expectations of others overwhelm your work. Understand that you’re a part of a great tradition. And embrace the joy that comes with it. In other words, help us church communicators, you’re our only hope.

Religion in the Films

Even in the films themselves, followers of the Force are portrayed as being part of a religion. Not only that, but this religion is viewed by outsiders as useless, kooky and outdated. Sound familiar?

Check out this famous scene from A New Hope in which an Imperial officer mocks Darth Vader for his “sad devotion to that ancient Jedi religion.”

Like Vader, many Christians find a “lack of faith disturbing.” Unlike Vader, we don’t often strangle our critics using the Force. Vader shows us that there can be a Dark side to every faith.

We also get the good-guy perspective on the matter when Han Solo refers to the Jedi as a “hokey religion” and to the Force as “a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.”

Even in the Star Wars universe, followers of a certain belief system are mocked and downcast. Yet, these individuals keep the faith and become the heroes of the story. (Though it appears Han Solo has since changed his tune.)

What We Can Learn From Star Wars

Like the Bible, the Star Wars universe is full of quotable wisdom that transcends galaxies and generations.

  • “Try not. Do—or do not. There is no try.” -Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
  • “Your focus determines your reality.” -Qui-Gon Jin, The Phantom Menace
  • “In my experience, there’s no such things as luck.” -Obi-Wan Kenobi, A New Hope
  • “Let go of your hate.” -Luke Skywalker, Return of the Jedi
  • “Who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?” -Obi-Wan Kenobi, A New Hope
  • “Fear is the path to the Dark Side.” -Yoda, A Phantom Menace
  • “Never tell me the odds.” -Han Solo, The Empire Strikes Back

Regardless of how you feel about Star Wars’ impact on the church, these quotes represent morals we can all learn from and live by. They speak to hope and endurance and strength.

Star Wars is not only entertaining, it’s inspiring. The story is enduring because it touches on universal truths. Christianity focuses on these same truths, but we all too often lose sight of them.

What if we could get fans as excited about church as they are about Star Wars? What if we could get them to read the Bible as often as they watch movies? Or quote Jesus as often as they do Yoda?

One thing is for sure, the release of The Force Awakens on December 18 will be Christmas come early for Star Wars fanatics everywhere.


Post By:

Robert Carnes

Robert Carnes is the managing editor at the Orange Group and also serves as an assistant editor here at Church Marketing Sucks. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. Previously, he worked in communications at two United Methodist churches in Metro Atlanta.
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