Spiritual Thoughts on the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy
In the last Star Wars post, I explored why good triumphs in the original Star Wars trilogy. So now, we must turn to the prequel trilogy to see how evil triumphs, or better put, why good fails.
A brief look at literature and history would show that people critique evil better than they foster the alternative. Unfortunately for Anakin Skywalker, Jedi wisdom is better at identifying the path to the Dark Side than helping him follow the Light. Nevertheless, the truth in Star Wars shines forth.
Incomplete Advice, Love, and Theology
In a meeting of Jedi Masters in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the experienced Yoda warns a young Anakin Skywalker in one of his most famous quotes:
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
This concurs with the Biblical wisdom found in Psalm 37:8:
“Cease from anger and forsake wrath. Do not fret. It leads only to evildoing.”
Yoda and scripture identify the path to evil. But how does one avoid it?
See, Anakin loves people, and that love leads to worry. Yoda’s warning is the response to the boy worrying about his mother. Later, as a young adult, Anakin has premonitions of his mother’s suffering, but following Jedi wisdom, he does nothing about it until it is too late, and his mother dies. Not wishing to make the same mistake, when he has visions of his wife’s suffering, he acts recklessly, making a deal with the most evil man in the galaxy in an attempt to save her. This results in her death, and he becomes Darth Vader, the servant of the new Emperor.
One might argue that the fault fully lies with Anakin, as the Jedi policy forbids marriage. In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Anakin explains to his future wife:
“Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is central to a Jedi’s life, so you might say we’re encouraged to love.”
Although this unconditional love, which Christians describe with the Greek word “agape”, is more important than romantic love or “eros”, the Jedi understanding seems to lack the personal and relational aspects of love. But it makes sense that a religion with an impersonal “deity”, i.e the Force, would also celebrate impersonal love.
When Anakin later expresses to Yoda that he fears the death of another, Yoda replies:
“Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed, that is… Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”
Of course, this advice does not help Anakin refrain from worry, nor does it keep him from foolish actions. What advice might the psalmist have given?
“Delight yourself in the Lord. And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (Psalm 37:4,5)
God calls us to delight and desire. And since other scripture passages and life experience show us that God does not give us everything we want, we can instead interpret the above verse to mean God actually gives us desires as we delight in Him. So, how do we hold desire in an uncertain world where we will not get everything we want? According to the psalmist, we find peace by trusting God. We trust that even if we do not get all that we want, He always acts towards us with love (and incidentally, we do get much of it.)
Most importantly, we always have the opportunity to draw closer to the Lord, our primary delight. The Jedi failed to understand that we are relational beings, and we can only be truly satisfied in relationship. Since the Force is impersonal, Anakin only sought relational love with other people, most notably his wife, but not with the Lord.
Interestingly, Luke Skywalker has much in common with his father. He doesn’t only care for the cause, but also for his friends and even for his father. Approximately 20 years later, in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda again discourages this thinking. When Luke fears his friends are in danger, Yoda tells him not to go and rescue them. Finally in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Obi-Wan, agreeing with Yoda, tells Luke to kill Vader. Luke simply responds: “I can’t kill my own father.”
Luke’s personal care for his father leads him to choose death instead of killing his father. And finally, Vader’s love for his son, or in other words, his love for a family member becomes his path of redemption. Vader, true to his identity of Anakin Skywalker, turns on the Emperor and sacrifices his life to save his son.
Although Yoda continually discourages Anakin and Luke from personal love of family members, this type of love (and the intense desire it embodies) saves Luke, redeems Vader, and defeats the Emperor, saving the galaxy. Imagine if the Jedi taught Anakin to embrace familial love in the context of having compassion for all people? More importantly, what if his heart was primarily satisfied in a loving relationship with God, which bolstered his love for family in an appropriate and healthy way?
So, is there a desire that might pull you down a wrong path? Have you ignored it or tried to get rid of the “attachment”? If your desire is a godly desire, perhaps you should embrace it. Pray for it. Seek it. I’m not saying that we should disregard wisdom and only follow our feelings, but we can pursue our desires while being open to choosing (or receiving from God) a different desire. Ultimately, you are free to desire more, not less. Finally, and most importantly, desire to delight in the Lord. It is a fitting response to His desire, as we see in Jesus’ prayer:
“Father, I desire that [my followers] also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24, italics mine)