The Gospel according to Star Wars

In a new and updated version of this best-selling book, John McDowell explores the many spiritual themes that weave throughout the Star Wars films. From the Force to the dark side, the issues discussed in the films have a moral and spiritual complexity that, if paid attention to, can help us better understand our place in the world and our relation to others and to God. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, did not intend for his films to be mere entertainment, McDowell argues. Rather, he hoped his films would be used as a vehicle for moral education.

This new version has been thoroughly revised to include discussion of The Force Awakens and other new developments in the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars has been a huge part of American culture for decades and even more so in recent years since they began adding to the Saga. It is of little surprise then equating Star Wars with Christianity would come about particularly Star Wars talks about faith, good and evil so often. When a popular trend takes over the US it’s not hard to understand why someone would want to ride the bandwagon.

I’ve read many books that used popular themes to try and teach Biblical stories and principles so McDowell has many years’ worth of time tested material in order to help him understand what works and doesn’t; apparently he chose to go his own direction.

First, despite the subject matter being used this IS a serious academic work and not for the weekend, need to kill some time reader. It can be heavy and you need to focus in order to follow his arguments; this is not going to be for every Star Wars fan.

He uses pieces of the Saga from the prequels and ‘sequels’ through Force Awakens along with added info from the books that have provided more story filler in between movies. Like many Star Wars fans who have spent hours if not decades debating the BIGGER meanings, actions and motivations McDowell imitates their enthusiasm by delving into the spiritual side of things to compare Jedi values, ethics and morals to Christian ones.

My complaint of his passionate attempt is that too often it feels like he’s assigning things that aren’t there almost as if he’s trying find a way to justify applying his Christian beliefs towards the Jedi religion. In defense of his thought process though George Lucas did grow up in the Methodist faith so it’d be easy to believe he wrote the Skywalker Family History as some kind of ode to the Christian faith. However, he became very interested in Eastern philosophies and been known to say he’s a  “Buddhist Methodist” which did actually influence his work from Star Wars to Indiana Jones. If you read the book, Star Wars: The New Myth they trace the aspects of the first few films that came from cultures and religions around the world which shows they are actually NOT Christian based.

A subset of this issue is that Christianity itself took things or took credit for things that existed FAR before its creation so even when McDowell tries to stretch plot points, characters actions and or motivations to be examples of Christianity they actually aren’t. For example something as basic as “The Force” is more Buddhist in nature. Good versus evil tropes are in practically EVERY faith system, Christianity does not own the copyright. Sacrifice and redemption can be traced to older Pagan beliefs pre-Christians. The idea of a Chosen One can be found in Greek mythology. The idea of a Wise Old Man AKA Obi Wan can be found in Greek, Asian, Scandinavian and more. Luke and Vader were not the first to lose an arm to have it replaced with something silver, that honor went to an Irish mythic hero named Nuada – again PRE-Christianity.

McDowell definitely shows a great fandom and intellect for the Star Wars universe but it just doesn’t feel like his heart is into tying it to Christianity, it almost feels like he’s being forced to as if to prove that Christians SHOULD be watching these movies because they are somehow SO VERY Christian.

The only other minor issue, and I can’t say this is too much his fault, is that it’s now slightly outdated as it only goes through Force Awakens and so much has happened since then which would alter some of his comments. He would have been better served to wait until the latest movie comes out then use that and publish after since the last movie is now put off for a while.

If you’re a Star Wars fan you’ll probably like this book because there is a whole lot about SW in it. If you’re a SW fan who is hoping this will help you convince people why the Saga is Christian then not so much and any liberal, not so conservative friends you try to win over are only going to get irritated as they point out the fallacies in your arguments. Although if you’re a Christian who needs help convincing family, friends or your church why you should be allowed to be a SW fan and they don’t care how much of Christianity isn’t even Christianity then you’re going to find plenty to back up your argument and get you a guilt free ticket to the next movie coming out in December.

For a book that markets itself as being about the Gospel there isn’t a whole lot of Gospel and scripture to be found unless you want to view it as the Gospel of Our Lord and Savior George Lucas – may God forgive me for making that crack.

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