There is just something about Star Wars. From the simple, yet iconic lightsaber, all the way to the stark contrast of a clearly defined external good and evil juxtaposed against a seemingly never ending war between the Light and the Dark within each character’s own heart. Following the absolute cinematic perfection of the most recent Clone Wars episodes (9-11) on Disney+, I’ve been contemplating that universe quite a bit.
I’ve always liked the Jedi, there is something compelling, and rather Christian, about an order devoted to fighting evil at great personal sacrifice. As I was flipping through Mere Christianity today I was reminded of this fact by the Yoda of real world, C.S. Lewis. At times I struggle with the violence in much of entertainment, yes even in Star Wars, but Lewis reminded me of the good within a certain type of force (pun intended), a good that surely influences my love of all things Jedi.
After reflecting on the difference between killing and murder, Lewis then turns to a brief critique of pacifism, or in particular, a form of “semi-pacifism.” Lewis writes:
War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken. What I cannot understand is this sort of semi-pacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it. It is that feeling that robs lots of magnificent young Christians in the Services of something they have a right to, something which is the natural accompaniment of courage—a kind of gaiety and wholeheartedness.1
While recognizing that war, in and of itself, is certainly a horrible thing, Lewis causes us to recognize that not every attitude about it need be despondent. There is a certain cheer one can rightly have, and indeed ought to have, when the troops go marching out to war (assuming the legitimacy of that war of course, ie. I have zero hesitation affirming WW II was a legitimate and praiseworthy response by the Allies, if anything, one that was surely too slow in coming about). There is a confidence that a solider can rightly have as he defends his land and protects those weaker than he, and he need not feel compelled to be all gloom as he reflects on his duties.
I believe this type of justified response adds to the allure of the Jedi for many like myself. There is a peace to be defended, there is a defined enemy to engage, and there is a careful, yet almost eager willingness to do battle. There is a worthy desire of using one’s superior strength and abilities for the good of others. There is something about the image of a Jedi knight that reminds us, as Blaise Pascal stated, “The proper function of everything must be sought [and] the proper function of power is to protect.”2 Although they fail often, the ideal of these knights, of perfecting the art of combat to be ready and able to defend and protect, is warranted. Indeed, as Lewis further states, “The idea of the knight—the Christian [or Jedi] in arms for the defense of a good cause—is one of the great Christian ideas.”3
Yet, it does not just end with this virtuous use of power that connects the concept of the Jedi so intricately with the Christian vision. Lewis reminds us that though we may rightly have a heart ready to make war, not only “must [we] not hate,” but we must go even further and “even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves—to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good.”4 This is a constant theme within the Star Wars universe, one deeply imbedded into the heart of Christianity, perhaps only truly grounded there even, where two battles are simultaneously waged, a war against the opponent and a battle fought for them. No enemy is too far. None too wayward to be given the call to return. There is always a pressing hope to win even the darkest of opponents to the light, knowing that we ourselves are but feet from the dark.
And yet, even in the fictional world of Star Wars, none seems able to bring the darkness to a final end (Rey doesn’t count! I reject that trilogy!! And still, clearly the hope of such a thing is present in that storyline). It’s as if the Light itself would have to cast the Darkness aside. As if the only hope for the conquering of the evil of this world lies outside of what it is able to produce on its own. As if Another must look upon His enemies with compassion enough die for them, even if by the enemy’s own hands. (Romans 5:8)
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2001), 119
- Blaise Pascal, Pensees, translated by A. J. Krailsheimer, Penguin Books (Hudson Street, New York, 1995), 241, (310)
- Lewis, Mere Christianity, 119
- Ibid. 120