Monday, 23 April 2007

The gospel according to Star Wars

The Barth scholar John McDowell has just released a new book, entitled The Gospel according to Star Wars – and he talks about the book in a guest-post for LeRon Shults.

I’ve always loved the original Star Wars trilogy, and I’ve watched the films numerous times over the years (as a little boy, I always wanted to be like Darth Vader). But in spite of my admiration for Star Wars, it seems I have an important and fundamental disagreement with John McDowell. Apparently, he likes the new trilogy as well – whereas I think these films were mournfully, disgracefully, irredeemably bad in every way (okay, except for the martial arts choreography).

But I’ll try not to hold this against McDowell; and I’ll certainly look forward to reading the book.


Michael F. Bird said...

I still thinks Star Wars gives us the best Analogy of the Adam - Christ typology in the Anacan - Luke dynamics, i.e. Luke suceeds where Anacan fails!

Anonymous said...

Ben, the day has come: you have uttered heresy with your Marcionesque statements about Episodes I-III.

The maiden said...

I've always suspected that I'm a spiritually shallow guy, because I just can't make myself sit through any of the Star War movies. I get the symbolism, I love the things that people like Joseph Campbell say about them, and some of the people I most admire see them as profound parables. But I still fall asleep in them. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa...

Anonymous said...

I'm curious to know what a Barth scholar (assuming he is also a Barthian to some degree) would do with the pantheism of "the force." This has always been my major reservation regarding the Star Wars movies.

Bruce Yabsley said...

I happened to see the fight scene from the end of Episode I recently (in isolation), and was reminded of how good it was. You can feel the danger, watching it. I think this reflects not only the quality of the choreography, but that Darth Maul was played by a martial artist.

As to the theology, Yoda's famous "fear leads to anger ..." speech in Ep I has some heft to it, but I agree that the rest is just dreadful. In particular, the midichlorian pseudo-scientific material is trying far too hard, by contrast to the "luminous beings are we" approach of the original films: that stuff may have been hokey, but it wasn't strained, and(within the story) it was believable; it hung together as a piece of fantasy.

My biggest complaint is with the anthropology. In the original films, Darth Vader is a charismatic villian. He has a well-defined sense of humour: of mischief, even. There is no sign of this whatsoever in the Anakin character as written, or portrayed, in the prequels. So it's unclear how that is supposed to fit together. I could go on, but I probably shouldn't.

Agnikan said...

"The force" may seem pantheistic, but pantheism has a precise definition incorporating notions of non-supernaturalism and so forth. As far as I know, the revelations we've been given about "the force" just do not address super-nature at all.

Paul Buckley said...

An open blog comment to publishers:

Please stop titling books The Gospel According to ... . Overworked as this is, it's now a cliche. When I see it, I groan. (Just as I groan when people continue to make cheap, distracting puns on the name of N.T. Wright, but I won't harp on that here.)

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the comment, but I'm afraid I don't quite follow. Can you unpack and clarify it a little more?

Agnikan said...

Pantheism is commonly defined as the notion that 'God' is limited to the totality of the matter/energy cosmos.

Insofar as 'the force' seems to be the closest 'God-thing' in the Star Wars saga, and since the force is definitely a type of material-energy, you could argue for the force being pantheistic. But it's not entirely clear to me that the Star Wars universe totally rejects a super-nature, a God.

Anonymous said...

re: the force, the prequel's introduction of the idea of mitichlorians as a heritable biological basis for the force renounces any notion of a democratic or meritocratic spirituality, and instead posits that god/the force only speaks to and can be spoken to by adepts. if the star wars indeed has a god, it is an elitist and capricious one.

Nance said...

Thanks for the heads up on the book; the title is(as the aforementioned prequel films are also) terrible, but it's Star Wars. If the focus in the book is on the original trilogy, then it may at least be a fun read.

Anonymous said...

As a student of process theology and a fanatic of the Star Wars series, and briefly reading the thoughts of this web-site, it might just be that "Star Wars Theology" because it opens the possibility of "other peoples on other worlds" could be "panenthestic."

If the God of even the Judeo-Christian heritage is god and created all, "the force" gives us reason to think beyond our little planet circling around a third rate star.

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