Star Wars: Episode III – False Family Ties
Our Theology of Star Wars series also includes essays on Episode I, Episode II, Epidsode IV, Episode V and Episode VI. A free eBook version of the entire series is available here.
Emperor Palpatine is a snake. As Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith begins, he has successfully taken over the Galactic Senate and amassed his own army of clone troopers. Soon he manages to abolish the democratic process entirely and establish a dictatorship in its place. He’s also manipulating both sides of an intergalactic war, subtly luring an impressionable young Jedi to the Sith cause, while keeping all of this hidden from the not-so-all-seeing Jedi Council. The Sith prove to be more powerful than anyone thought possible.
As for the Jedi, they prove to be more limited than anyone thought possible. Not only are they unable to see through the Sith’s plot, their philosophy also proves completely insufficient to help Anakin Skywalker, the young Jedi, grieve the death of his mother and express his love for Padme. Anakin goes to Yoda for advice and Yoda tells him to “let go of everything you fear to lose.” The Jedi exhibit little sensitivity toward Anakin and force him to choose between his calling and his true love. Ultimately, this lack of compassion is what leads to their near destruction.
Anakin turns next to Emperor Palpatine for advice. Serpent that he is, Palpatine tells Anakin that the Sith possess the knowledge of how to transcend death and save Padme’s life. Of course, this is a sinuous lie. Darth Sidious wants the powerful Anakin at his side, and he can’t have Anakin’s loyalties split between his destiny and his desire any more than the Jedi can. Eventually Anakin uncovers Palpatine’s true nature, but the temptation of power is still strong. In the movie’s climax, as the Jedi are descending upon the Emperor, Anakin broods over his options: be true to his calling, forget Padme and let the Jedi stop Palpatine or abandon his Jedi code, join the Sith and hope to live a long, happy life with his love.
After all those pod races, clone armies, and Jedi training, all of Star Wars comes down to a man torn between fulfilling his calling or living a peaceful life with the woman he loves. Anakin/Vader’s anguished “Nooo!” near the film’s end is as much a cry of distress over not being able to reconcile the two halves of his heart as it is an expression of grief over his loss of Padme. At that point, why not build a Death Star and destroy worlds? If the galaxy can’t find space for both calling and companionship, of what use is it?
All of Star Wars comes down to a man torn between fulfilling his calling or living a peaceful life with the woman he loves.
Fortunately, we don’t live “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” We live in a world to which Christ has come. Jesus was able to redefine both calling and community in a way that allows each to include the other.
When Jesus’ biological mother and brothers came to see Him and interrupt His ministry, He asked, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to His disciples, He said, “These are my mother and brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus expanded the scope of what a family is to include anyone who participates in the Kingdom of God.
In a 2007 sermon on singleness, John Piper had this to say about Jesus’ words: “Jesus is turning everything around. Yes, he loved his mother and his brothers. But those are all natural and temporary relationships. He did not come into the world to focus on that. He came into the world to call out a people for His name from all the families into a new family. …Single person, married person, do you want children, mothers, brothers, sisters, lands? Renounce the primacy of your natural relationships and follow Jesus into the fellowship of the people of God.”
To put Christ first is to get both a calling and a family, something not even the Jedi, with their monastic demands, could offer. Christ crushes the serpent’s head and turns the Emperor’s lies into truths. If only the Force was as powerful, then perhaps Anakin could have found peace after all.
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