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Spirituality and Star Wars
May 13, 2005

Almost three decades ago George Lucas' Star Wars got movie fans cheering the blockbuster's amazing special effects and pondering the good and evil represented by "the force."

Now, on May 19, Lucas will release "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith."

And again movie audiences across the world will revel in the special effects and debate the whole host of philosophical questions the movie is likely to raise.

Count Calvin professor Roy Anker among the many who will both enjoy the movie's art and think deeply about its multiple meanings.

Anker is the author of "Catching Light: Looking for God in the Movies," a book that looks at 19 popular films and examines them in detail, including their theological dimensions.

Among the films Anker discusses in the book is the Star Wars saga.

Indeed while the first section of the book looks at films that deal with evil, and the second focuses on the Christian idea of redemption, the third section is on science fiction and fantasy films such as E.T. and Star Wars.

In a piece called "Tracking the Force: Meaning and Morality in the Star Wars Saga," Anker puts the movie under a theological microscope. And he finds it fares pretty well.

That shouldn't be a surprise he says.

"Good movies," he says, "usually do try to say something to their audiences, and Star Wars is no exception, although most adults tend to regard it as mindless kid's stuff. With Star Wars a big surprise comes not only in the fact that it has a message but in the nature of that message. At its core lie central Christian themes and images, especially of promises of spiritual reality and hope. While not necessarily a Christian film, its story argues for the possibility of faith, redemption, reconciliation and community. In this lies its real power and appeal, quite apart from its special effects and futuristic shoot-outs."

At the heart of the films, says Anker, is Luke Skywalker's journey.

"Most of all," he says, "the story depicts the spiritual progress or maturation of young Luke. In a way he has no choice: he must progress or be consumed by a hideous darkness, which is more or less true for all of us. While he does eventually triumph, there are many hard lessons in his path. His is not an easy way."

Anker says he will be shocked if "Revenge of the Sith" does not continue the very significant religious themes woven through the prior five Star Wars movies. And he intends to find out on May 19!