Many people have complaints about the storyline and acting, but it has not prevented the Star Wars movies from becoming embedded in our hearts. George Lucas’s universe of Jedi Knights and Sith Lords is held together by the mystical Force. While the Force resembles a type of pantheism, it is also a kind of  supernatural power that transcends the reductionist position of materialists in the world today. As a result, apologists can even utilize the ambiguously pantheistic Force to speak to a culture that similarly embraces a type of pantheism, is bound by the seeming inevitability of materialism, and ultimately has a desire for hope that it cannot find.

First, pantheism is remarkably popular in the world today. In 2012, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life discovered that 18% of the general population of the United States self-reported that they are “spiritual, but not religious” when they were asked whether they were religious, spiritual but not religious, or neither.[1] While this is still a minority, almost one in five people subscribe to a worldview where they don’t have a firm hold on specific characteristics or attributes of the supernatural, but they have faith in some kind of power. This is not all that different than the Force. As defined by Obi-Wan Kenobi near the beginning of A New Hope, “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the universe together.”[2] There are a few things to notice about this definition. First, it implies that the Force is something that originates within all living things. In other words, supernatural power is within all people in the universe, and it implies that all living beings are part of some large cosmic family. It is both a power from within and beyond. Second, the Force provides power. Jedi and Sith are set apart because of the abilities they possess through a strong connection to the Force. With that power, they can do things that ordinary beings cannot. As a result, while the Force is definitely something that is in all living beings, some can connect to it more effectively than others.

From a Christian worldview then, there are problems with this differentiation of spiritual indwelling. Christians believe that everyone is the same before God.[3] All are dead in their trespasses, and the only way that they can be reconciled to God is through the saving power of Jesus Christ and the subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.[4] Consequently, there are some problems with this idea that some people are perhaps more endowed by the supernatural than others. All Christians have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and everyone is separated from God without Jesus Christ.[5] Secondly, there is a difference between a God who exists beyond humanity and a Force that is generated from within all living beings in the universe.[6] Christians believe that God existed before He began creating and is not dependent on living beings to generate Him.

With these differences in worldview, there is obvious tension, and the viewer can consider which one is a better representation of reality. Is it better to live in a universe where the supernatural seems to play favorites by giving some a natural advantage, or is it better to consider that the same solution is available for every person? Similarly, does it seem logical to have the supernatural actually created by the natural? The Force is created within natural beings, but it simultaneously seems to play a supernatural role. This is a contradiction, and it invites the viewer to at least consider the reasonability of a Creator who exists beyond His creation and its superiority to pantheism.

This discussion of the supernatural naturally leads into a discussion of materialism, the belief that all that exists is matter in its various forms. Again, the Force seems to arise from natural causes, but given the explanation in The Phantom Menace by Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, midichlorians are tiny lifeforms that live inside the cells of all creatures, and he states that, “Without the midichlorians, life could not exist.”[7] Beyond the inconsistency in defining the Force as something that arises out of lifeforms as opposed to something that exists independently and makes life possible, the galaxy of Star Wars is one where the supernatural is at play. Jinn goes on to state that without the midichlorians, there would be “no knowledge of the Force.”[8] This is significant because the Force is something that creatures need midichlorians to access.

The Force exists beyond the people who access it. Therefore, it brings up clear questions for existence on earth. It is certainly fashionable to believe that there is nothing beyond the physical world that can be understood through the scientific method. If it cannot be measured, then some people will automatically assume that it does not exist. In the galaxy of Star Wars, there is a possible world that exists where there is a simultaneous existence of the supernatural and the natural. The Force is a pantheistic, supernatural power that interacts with the natural world of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. It is both part of the world and above the world. Even though the type of god that the Force represents is entirely different than the type of God that any Christians worship, the main thing to recognize about this relationship is that viewers are presented with a world that is not restricted to the natural.

Some apologists might be hesitant to approach this conversation because the materialist can simply say that the conception of the Christian God is just another fairytale like Star Wars. However, the apologist is not advocating that God is like the Force in every way. Rather, the apologist is simply showing that it is not logically impossible to have a world where the supernatural exists. For the committed materialist, a world where the supernatural exists must be logically impossible. It is not simply a position of agnosticism for the pure materialist; it is a hard position of atheism. Therefore, by looking at a fictional portrayal, at least the question can be asked and the discussion can be had. The atheist has to be able to answer how it is possible for Lucas to imagine the type of world where the supernatural exists in any particular form when it is impossible that the supernatural exists in every logical universe. By even creating an alternate version of the universe where the supernatural does exist, it suggests that this is far from a logical impossibility.

Finally, there is a desire embedded within the Star Wars series to have a happy ending, and there is actually hope of that truly happening. Lucas integrates a prophecy about one who will be born and ultimately bring balance to the Force.[9] Again, it is not as if the Force represents the Christian God here because the Christian worldview does not believe good and evil need to balance out. God is sovereign over all creation and will ultimately demolish evil once and for all.[10] Similarly, the prophesied Chosen One is not a Redeemer in the way that Jesus Christ is. This One does not save anyone but simply provides the weight to level the balance of universal good and evil. However, the existence of this prophecy does show that there is hope for a future that is better than the present. The dark side of the Force, tapped into by the Sith although separate from them, is in control throughout most of the series. However, Jedi long for the fulfillment of this prophecy and to see the balance restored. Interestingly, they do not hope for the elimination of evil which is another point of contention with the Christian worldview, but at the very least, they are looking for a hope in something better. Balance is at least better than the Sith being in control.

Christians also believe that the hope of the world is supernatural. God will ultimately bring justice to the entire world.[11] Every tear will be dried, and all pain will cease.[12] The Judge will put an end to evil once and for all. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, billions of people are going to spend eternity with God in the new heaven and new earth. There is a roadmap to eternal life with God; Jesus Christ is the way.[13] As a result, there is hope for the world from a Christian worldview.

C.S. Lewis once wrote that, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[14] In Star Wars, hope comes through the Force; the Jedi desire a better universe, but it could only be brought about by getting the semi-supernatural Force back in balance. Naturally, this can extend to a discussion of hope in the actual world. God will ultimately bring about the culmination of the very human desire for a universe without evil. This series can help point out very similar appetites in the present world and point to a supernatural source as the ultimate answer.

The Star Wars series is by no means allegorical; the Force is by no means a parallel for God. However, the apologist can utilize these movies to point out specific ways in which features of the galaxy far, far away actually point to things that are true about the universe God has designed. Christian apologists would be wise to take these pieces of culture that are so recognizable and speak to the truth that is embedded in them even if they do not start with a perfect premise. After all, all truth is God’s truth.

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Citation Information

Zak Schmoll, “Materialism and Midichlorians: Pantheism, Naturalism, and Hope in Star Wars,” An Unexpected Journal 3, no. 2. (Summer 2020), 131-140.

Direct Link: https://anunexpectedjournal.com/materialism-and-midichlorians-pantheism-naturalism-and-hope-in-star-wars/


Endnotes

[1] “’Nones’ on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, last modified October 9, 2012, accessed December 2, 2015, http://www.pewforum.org/files/2012/10/NonesOnTheRise-full.pdf.

[2] Star Wars IV: A New Hope, directed by George Lucas (Lucasfilm, 1977), DVD (20th Century Fox, 2006).

[3] Romans 10:12, ESV.

[4] John 3:16, Romans 6:23, Titus 3:5, ESV.

[5] Isaiah 59:1-2, Romans 3:23, Isaiah 53:6, ESV.

[6] Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, Psalm 104:24, ESV.

[7] Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, directed by George Lucas (Lucasfilm, 1999), DVD (20th Century Fox, 2007).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, directed by George Lucas (Lucasfilm, 1999), DVD (20th Century Fox, 2007).

[10] Revelation 20:9-10, ESV.

[11] Revelation 21:6-8, ESV.

[12] Revelation 21:4, ESV.

[13] John 10:10, ESV.

[14] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics) (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 136-137, Kindle Edition.

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