A few weeks ago I sat in on a screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I found myself sandwiched in between two of my favorite people and long time fellow Star Wars veterans, skeptical of what we were about to see.
However, as the words STAR WARS once more blasted across the screen, my body couldn't help but erupt in goosebumps from head to toe. There will always be something magical to me about Star Wars.
As we walked out of the cinema, all of us in a state of euphoria, high-fiving people that thought it was cool that we dressed as Jedi, I had an odd moment of clarity. I stepped outside of myself and looked at what was happening objectively. I glanced at my fellow fans and thought, what's the big deal about Star Wars?
I am clearly not alone in my love and devotion for Star Wars, as it has now surpassed James Cameron's Avatar and become the top grossing film of all time in North America. Star Wars clearlystill matters to us, and to understand why I think we must understand why Star Wars mattered in the first place.
The first Star Wars film came out in a troubling time for America, the late 1970's. People had lost faith in their government due to unpopular war and corrupt politics. Race riots had become the norm. People had become angry, jaded and cynical and the art of the time reflected this. Watch films like Network and Chinatown and you'll see what I mean.
Unlike these films, Star Wars didn't have a pessimistic bone in its body. Sensing a spiritual void in the cynicism of his time, the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, set out to make a classic morality tale, specifically with spiritual dimensions.
"I put the Force into the movies in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people," Lucas said in the 2000 documentary The Mythology of Star Wars, "More a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system."
In his fantasy world, Lucas replaced the idea of God with a disembodied power known as the Force; more reminiscent of animism or eastern philosophies than any monotheistic religion. However, unlike just about any other cult hit that populates fandom, faith in a power greater than oneself takes center stage in Star Wars; and not only is it present but it's celebrated.
The cynic Han Solo
It's not the devout persons (Luke Skywalker, Ben Kenobi) who need to grow cynical as their faith comes into question, as is the case in most other post-modern stories of our time, but in Star Wars, it's the cynic (Han Solo) who needs to be awakened to the truth of faith and mystery and believe in something greater than himself.
Here we are, 2016. People have lost their faith in government due to unpopular war and corrupt politics. Race riots have become the norm. We have become angry, jaded and cynical. The art of our time reflects this (i.e. Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men, Breaking Bad). As a western society, we are losing our belief in faith and mystery, and here comes Star Wars once more to remind us of what we've lost.
As a Christian, watching Star Wars always fills me with hope. Hope that wrongs will be made right, that reconciliation is possible for all people, and that there is a benevolent God that is watching over us and showing us the way home. I guess I can't unequivocally say that this is why Star Wars matters, but I can say for certain that it is why Star Wars matters so much to me.
Brenden Bell is working as a full-time missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization in Brisbane. He works as a screenwriter, editor and teacher with their film production team.
Brenden Bell's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/brenden-bell.html