certain christian point of view. (part 3 of 9)
What did the Stormtrooper say when he came to church?
“Pew. Pew. Pew.”
There is much less spiritual talk in Episode VI. The focus is more on action and bringing the story to a conclusion. But there are still many great lessons to be learned here. Let’s dive in.
Return of the Jedi.
At the start of the movie Darth Vader announces that the Emperor himself will come to the second Death Star that is currently under construction around the forrest moon of Endor. Emperor Palpatine is the ultimate symbol of evil throughout the Star Wars trilogies. Even Vader himself says that “The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.” And as we know the former Jedi, now turned Sith, is not very forgiving at all. So the Emperor must be very unforgiving indeed.
It is also important to notice that the evil master of Vader claims to have the power of precognition. He can see into the future. Or at least a possible future.
He also points out that young Skywalker has grown strong and that only he and Vader together can turn him to the dark side. Every man or woman of God must remember that we all can sin and that in some instances can fall even if we have a strong faith. To know once weakness is a good defence. If you are week for alcohol, don’t drink. If you are easily tempted to look at men and women having scandalous behaviour late at night, don’t take your phone with you to bed. If you easily abuse power, don’t seek positions where you easily can do that. To seek simplicity and avoid temptations is often the best way not to sin. But remember. If the devil never comes after you it might be a bad sign. Then you are probably not doing well with God. That is something to ponder….
As Luke Skywalker introduces himself to Jabba the Hutt through a hologram he presents himself as a Jedi Knight. If he truly is a knight or, as Yoda later says, that he first must face Vader is maybe not that important. What is important is the Luke sees himself as a Jedi Knight. The Jedis have been, more or less, gone for the last 25 or so years and he has picked up the mantle of the order.
Very much like knights of our own history the Jedi has a creed and take vows. Even if they aren’t declared in the movies (at least not so far) we understand that there is something to his words. The Jedi has returned.
What we can learn here is that evil will never win at the end. Even if evil seems to be triumphant the good forces will always return at one point. That is also the lesson of the whole movie. The evil empire are back to their peek of power, ruling supreme but a seemingly obscure small force of rebels and technologically inferior race of teddy bear like creatures manages to overthrow them. Evil will never win. No matter how dark it is, light will triumph in the end.
When Luke arrives at Jabba’s palace to rescue his friends his first choice of action is maybe not the complete pacifist approach but he uses non-lethal force to enter. He subdues the gamorrean soldiers guarding the entrance hallway. When diplomacy fails he does however ignites his new green lightsaber and does use it to kill this time.
Catholic teachings learns that it is allowed to use force to protect oneself or other people from harm. It can even be instances where lethal force can be allowed. But that is in very rare exceptions. A just war is seldom, very seldom, the right action to take. One of the greatest examples of this in Christian history is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Dietrich was a german lutheran pastor who apposed the Nazi regim during the second world war. He refused to pick up arms against any opponent but he did join a small movement in an attempt to assassinate Hitler. This seems to be his only exception from his otherwise pacifist conviction.
Killing should never (in 99,999% of all cases) be the choice for the christian disciple. The choice of refusing violence is always a viable option. Jedi Knights seems to have a different code here….
After the battle and rescue of Han Solo Luke returns to master Yoda who is dying. Luke protests and says that the old master cannot die. Yoda however dismisses this and explains that all things must die. That is the way of Force. His day is over and night falls. As he dies he does vanish just as Obi-Wan did when Vader killed him. He becomes one with the Force.
Our earthly lives also has this cycle. A dawn, day and dusk with night following. We are born, we live and we die. But the night is not the end. As we die we might enter Gods glory and live forever. Christ proclaims that whoever believes in him shall never die but live forever. Even if we do die we are promised an eternity where we are, in a sense, one with God just as Yoda and Obi-Wan becomes one with the Force. They remain individuals and might even interact with the living but they have moved on to a higher plane of existence.
Obi-Wan then appears to Luke who feels a little betrayed after learning that Darth Vader is his father. Obi-Wan had told him that Anakin had been betrayed and killed by Vader. Obi-Wan explains that Anakin was seduced by the dark side of the Force and became Vader. He explains that he didn’t lie. He told the truth. From a certain point of view.
This might be one of the most important lessons in the trilogy. Truth might not always be pure facts and reason. It’s not that those things aren’t true. They most certainly are. But a parable can also be true. Poetry, love or art is a form truth. But it’s a different kind of truth.
Luke also learns that Leia is his twin sister. Both he and her where hidden from Vader and the emperor as they could be a threat to him. Twins and siblings has always been a strong part of storytelling throughout history. Castor and Pollux, Hercules and Iphicles or Apollo and Artemis from Greek mythology to name a few. They all have a devine origin with great potential thanks to their bloodline. It is the same with Luke and Leia. Thanks (or because of) their parental linage they are born with power.
To be born with a gift or to have aptitude for something is something that can be used for both good and evil. Let’s say you are a natural speaker and rolled high on charisma. You might become a great and natural leader that can captivate listeners with your speech. How do you use that gift? Even if you chose to use your expertise for bad things you will still have that ability. This is why we most foster a mind that wants to do good because it is good. To seek the will of God is key here. Just as the Force once spoke to Anakin (more about that in part 5) to prevent him to do evil God speaks to us. Let’s pray that we use our gifts to do good like Luke and Leia did and not evil like Vader.
While the Emperor believes (he was foreseen it if he is to believed) that Luke’s compassion will be is undoing. His care and love for his father is what will bring him to a point where he can be turned to the dark side. This is the folly of evil. It cannot comprehend the power of love and how for a person is ready to go for it. Self sacrifice and selflessness is foreign to the Sith. They grasp power by learning from a master and then killing their own master when they are strong enough. A dark lord of the Sith would never sacrifice oneself for his pupil or master.
St Paul the Apostle writes to the corinthians: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
This is very much the mind of Luke when he seeks out Vader to lead him back to become Anakin Skywalker once again. He does not delight in evil. Nor does he seek power for himself.
In my favourite scen in all cinematic history Luke and Vader battle each on the second Death Star in a climactic duel. Luke is tempted by evil and struggles with light and darkness. His love for his friends and his sister is almost his undoing when he is fooled into the belief that if he kills Vader he might be able to stop evil happening to them. What he does not so is that he himself is starting to drift to the dark side. For a short while loses his temper and gives in to anger and emission, cutting off his fathers right hand. But when he sees the robotic parts under the dark lords armour he is reminded of his own synthetic arm. He sees that he too can become “more machine than man”. Not that having a prosthetic limb is bad or making a person less human. But here it is a metaphor for loosing oneself to the cold, mechanised thinking of darkness. Luke halts his actions, looks at his own hand and decides to put down his weapon. He chooses good over evil. The Emperor then tortures him with Force lightning to the point where he is about to die. This is the turning point for Vader who finally embraces his humanity, the light side of the Force, and sacrifices himself for his son by picking up his former Master, throwing him in a deep shaft where the Sith Lord is vaporised by a reactor core. The Force lightning together with his injuries is too much for his body and he soon dies. But not before declaring that Luke was right and that his son was right in thinking that there was hope even for him. This is a very important (and difficult) lesson to learn. Even for a person who has fallen from grace there is hope. We can all sin and we can all turn back to the light no matter what we have done.
Luke later burns what remains if his fathers armour on a funeral pyre. Some internet sites claims that the way Luke lights the fire by the foot of his father is a buddhistic custom. I have not found any good sources for this but it is Ferrarin that in eastern religion to cremate a body instead of burying it is common. That much is clear. It is however not against catholic teachingmto be created. The catechism says that “the Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.” In a galaxy far, far away we have not seen the resurrection of bodies in this manner but Jedi might return as Force Ghosts as seen with Obi-Wan, Yoda and now also Anakin. With his final act of sacrifice and accepting the Light side of the Force he was granted to gift of not only becoming one with the Force, but also being able to live forever as a fully restored person. In the Special Edition of the Star Wars saga we see Hayden Christensen (who played Anakin Skywalker as a young man in episode II and II) as the actor for the restored Anakin. In the original release it was Sebastian Shaw (who played the unmasked Darth Vader in Episode VI) that was to been seen as a Force Ghost. Even if this edit by George Lucas is to some fans controversial I think that there is estetic and theological beauty to having Hayden be the one portraying the restored Anakin. This was Anakin when he was still a Jedi. Our true self is what we are meant to be. Not always what we chose to be. But as Saints in heaven we will be our most true self, both by choice and by grace.
In the next part we will go back in time to Episode I and explore what spiritual thoughts might be hidden there. Until then. May the Force be with you.
/ Samuel Varg