Arts / Entertainment

7 Spiritual Themes to Look for in Star Wars VII

The Force Awakens can help us appreciate anew our religious heritage and the stories that guide our choices

George Lucas wanted Star Wars to be a new mythology that teaches a new generation about spirituality, good and evil. He deliberately used common themes in biblical stories and various religions in his movies. Here are seven fundamental themes to look for in the new movie.

1. Vocation: the call, the initial refusal and the acceptance of the call. Luke is a simple farm boy on a remote planet. But old Obi-Wan calls him to learn the ways of the Force. Luke refuses at first: “I’m not going to Alderaan!” but ultimately leaves everything behind, following his teacher (and later Yoda) to become a Jedi.

2. The existence of an invisible higher power: the Jedi apprentice needs to learn to open himself to a higher power that will guide him and that can even accomplish miracles. Not quite the Holy Spirit because of its impersonal nature, but still a guiding principle that can bring light if you open your heart and your mind to it. “Use the Force, Luke.”

3. Temptation: to use the talents and gifts for selfish reasons, out of fear, anger or hatred. Darth Vader was once a good boy, but he got seduced by the ‘easy’ way of the Dark Side. Following the light side is hard and requires dedication, detachment and sacrifice.

4. Evil: the reality of evil that stems from the choice to refuse the light and turn to darkness. This choice to refuse the light can have tremendous consequences for the rest of the universe. Some characters in Star Wars seem to embody this evil in a personal way, like Darth Maul with his devilish appearance, and the Emperor.

5. Redemptive sacrifice: there is no greater love than to give your life for your friends. Sometimes the quest to save people from the darkness can lead to suffering and sacrifice. Obi-Wan lets himself be killed by Darth Vader so Luke, Leia and Han can escape.

6. Conversion: despite the power that darkness can have over someone’s soul, there is always good somewhere deep inside. Conversion, forgiveness and redemption remain possible until the very end. Luke tells Darth Vader: “I feel the good in you.” That faith ultimately wins Vader back, and he becomes the savior he was once called to be.

7. Rebirth and resurrection: death is not always the end; a life well lived may endure after death. Obi-Wan, Anakin and Yoda appear as spirits after they die. Star Wars is full of “awakenings” of people or things that seemed to have died but come to life again, like Han Solo after he gets frozen in carbonite, or C-3PO, who gets reassembled after he gets shot.

Star wars is a metaphor of our times. We have forgotten our religious heritage, the stories that guide our choices. It makes us vulnerable to the temptation of selfishness, fear, anger and hatred. But faith always comes back. Han Solo starts off as an atheist but ends up transmitting his faith in the Force to a new generation that thought the old stories were just myths and fairy tales: “It’s true — all of it,” he tells them.


Father Roderick Vonhögen (@FatherRoderick) is a Catholic priest, podcaster and self-described “Geekpriest.” He makes these points and more in this video chat with Elizabeth Scalia.