Catholicism and the Star Wars Universe

by Desirae Sifuentes

“We’re not sayin’ you can change him, because people don’t really change…”

If you’re a parent of little girls, you can probably peg those lyrics instantly: “Fixer Upper” from Frozen. Aside from being an underwhelmingly composed song, whenever I hear those lyrics in my home, they  elicit an eye roll and a lesson in how the Frozen series isn’t very good (hot take) because it says untrue things like that. To my pleasure, it’s no longer playing as much in our home.

The fact is that people can change.  There’s no such thing as “too far gone,” or anyone who is outside of the possibility of being redeemed by God’s grace. That’s why one series will always be playing in our house: Star Wars (the first two trilogies, anyway). These six movies do such an incredible job teaching many catholic principles, but especially redemption.

How many catholic themes are in Star Wars? The Force is a clear one, and I find it has two meanings. As the thing that humans can use for good or evil, it strikes me as the gift of free will: powerful when used rightly, and disastrous when abused. Alternatively,  you could say the Force is clearly a metaphor for the Holy Spirit. The sacraments endow us with the Holy Spirit, which strengthens us,  inhabits our bodies, and marks us as part of Christ’s flock, so the Force “is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

The Jedi can be likened to a religious order. With their emphasis on discipline, abstinence, strict codes of conduct, and a devotion to their service to the Force and the galaxy at large, they are very much like priests, monks, and friars. Every day Jedi are called to deny themselves and live for a higher purpose, which is are central traits in any Christian.

To foil the Jedi, you have the Empire, who misuse the Force and try to take possession of the galaxy, much like a certain adversary we all know. Taking something good and twisting it for sinister purposes is very in keeping with the fallen light-bearers. They will for us to be eternally separated from God, and they're eager to impose it upon us so greatly that we weaken and submit, only to live in misery just as those who live under the Empire’s reign. 

Arguably, the first six of the Star Wars saga follow the salvation story. There was a better time in the beginning, then Anakin fell, then creation existed in desolation waiting for a savior, until Luke had come, and he restored balance to the Force. This eternal battle between good and evil we see in the story is yet another catholic theme, an important conflict the Church has always taught and reminded us we’re fighting in. Just as the Jedi living within the confines of the light side of the Force bore good fruits for themselves and those they served, so do we live lives of freedom when we exist within the confines of what we were created for.

Finally, we come back to the most obvious theme of redemption: Darth Vader. He was the singular most menacing and frightening villain in history, causing untold amounts of pain, harm, and damage out of his own wounds from his lack of trust in the light side of the Force. In trying to do good, he succeeded in doing great evil, because he did not trust what he knew to be right. He had been totally seduced by the dark side, paid dearly for it, and became hardened against everyone--even his own son. Yet, in the end, he decides to sacrifice himself for his son, and defeats the Emperor. This selfless act redeems him, like all of us are redeemed when we fall into sin and then make ourselves right with the Lord. 

Speaking of the Lord and selflessness, there’s another redeemer in Star Wars: Obi Wan Kenobi. Unlike Darth Vader, who fell and then was redeemed, Obi Wan is the perfect example of the unblemished lamb who sacrifices himself so that Luke, Leia, and Han could live. Just as Jesus foretold of His death and incredible resurrection (Mark 10:32-34), so did Obi Wan: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” He was there from the beginning of the series, and he continued to live on as a Force ghost after he laid down his life.

Why are Catholic themes so heavily latent in the world’s greatest scifi opera? It’s simple, really: The Greatest Story Ever Told is going to hit us in just the right spot every time. The Word is truth, and things that are true deeply impact us. Wherever there is goodness, there He is; you cannot extract goodness from the biblical narrative and tradition any more than you can separate you from yourself. 

I hope you’re living liturgically today and watching all the movies from sun up to sun down (I know I will). Whatever you decide to do today, I hope you live long and prosper.

HA HA, just kidding! May the 4th be with you.