Star Wars is back! This week the eagerly anticipated resumption of the epic double-trilogy starts with episode 7 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is widely expected to become the biggest-grossing film of all time.
Since the ground-breaking arrival of the first film in 1977, Christians have argued over the content and symbolism. Those in favour will claim that the Force represents the power of the Holy Spirit, Obi Wan Kenobi’s self-sacrifice and apparent survival beyond death (kinda) is a significant nod to Jesus, and Darth Vader is a clear manifestation of everything we think of as evil, from his character to his stereotypical dark clothing, and even he can be redeemed. Others will argue that the Force can be used for good or evil, which is not part of a Christian cosmology. There is no clear redeemer figure and no communication of the love of God or the depravity of humanity.
But the real issue is not whether the films reflect a Christian message or not, but the fact that they reflect a postmodern worldview which Generation X and Millenials have bought into in a way that an older generation can’t comprehend. Millenials in particular think in a way that is in line with the underlying assumptions of the Star Wars galaxy, for example:
- There is a spiritual aspect to life which we do not understand but we can tap into if we choose
- Trade corporations are inherently evil and not to be trusted
- Most politicians are selfish and will easily turn to the dark side
- I have the ability to achieve much more than simply being a cog in the system
Contrary to popular belief, millennials are not antagonistic to Christianity (as long as it not prejudiced and bullying). They are suspicious of organised religion but open to personal spirituality, and are open to following Jesus if he is presented to them appropriately. The success of many vibrant, new church networks is partly due to numbers of millenials attracted to a warmer, livelier, less-structured style of church that helps them feel that they belong and are significant. These movements often intentionally plant (or re-plant) churches that look in very different ways to tradition ones.
The problem is that most millenials have not heard of Jesus. Unlike previous generations they were not taken to church or Sunday school as children, religious assemblies in school are discouraged, with the result that this generation is the least evangelised European generation for 1500 years.
Some of us may be aghast at that thought. But the flipside of it is that they are also the least prejudiced. They haven’t been bored to death by stories of Noah’s Ark and Goliath. They haven’t been made to follow a lot of life-crushing rules. They come to Jesus with a completely clean sheet and no preconceptions. They don’t have problems with the existence of an unseen world or a benevolent force pervading the universe. Ironically, this is probably the generation most open to the gospel in over a millennium.
May the Force be with you as you tell them the good news.