I’ve got to admit that I’m a Star Wars fan. I was only three when the first movie came out and actually saw The Empire Strikes Back first. It remains one of my top five favorite movies to this day. Like many fans, I thought the newer films lacked something of the magic of the original trilogy, but I still enjoyed seeing the rest of the story.
Several days ago, Holly and I went to see Revenge of the Sith (again!). As you probably know, this final installment in the series traces the fall of Anakin Skywalker to the dark side of the force. An interesting and somewhat unexpected twist in the plot was the reason for Anakin’s fall – namely, his desperate desire to save his (secret) wife, Padme, from dying in childbirth, which he fears will happen based on his premonitions and dreams. Initially, Anakin seeks the counsel of the older and wiser Jedi master, Yoda who counsels Anakin not to fear or mourn death, but to accept it as a natural part of life. “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose,” says Yoda. The evil Palpatine, on the other hand, seduces Anakin with the promise that through the dark side of the force he can achieve the power to cheat death. The fear of loss plus the desire for power lead Anakin down a path of betrayal and murder.
As I’ve reflected on the cause of Anakin’s moral and spiritual demise, I’ve thought of how different the counsel of Jesus would have been. On the surface, there is a similarity between the words of Jesus and the words of Yoda. Jesus did say, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). But Jesus was not calling for self-denial for the sake of self-denial. There is no inherent virtue in denying one’s self. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, “The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.”
Further, Jesus never asks us to accept death as something natural. The Scriptures consistently depict death as something unnatural – the result of sin and God’s judgment on the world – while the hope we are given as Jesus’ followers is the hope of life and resurrection. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15). As the title of John Owen’s classic book on the atonement states, Christianity is all about “the death of death in the death of Christ.”
This all goes to show that the pseudo-spirituality of George Lucas is bankrupt when compared to the true way of Jesus. One reason why Anakin fell is because when he went to the good guys there was no gospel. That made him an even easier target for the deception of the Sith.