>may the force be with you / and also with you

>In 1977 I turned twelve years old and I saw Star Wars twelve times in the theater that year (six times in the first week of the film’s release). I was gaga over the film and so were my friends.

I was also attending a Christian grade school at the time. One day a friend of mine wore his Star Wars shirt to school. It was one of those all black t-shirts with the phrase “may the force be with you” emblazoned across the front. We all thought it was a cool shirt. The school principal did not.

My friend was asked to go home and change his shirt before he came back to school. “May the force be with you” was, apparently, not appropriate for a Christian school.

The truth is, I get it.

Star Wars is not a Christian film (whatever that is). Along with the hero with a thousand faces story arc, Star Wars is loaded with Americanized fast-food style Eastern philosophical concepts. To me it all fits perfectly into what G. Lucas was doing, but I also understand how it conflicts with traditional, Biblical Christianity. And maybe the school principal made the right decision at the time, but I can’t help but think he could, and should, have done a better job by going about it differently. One thing I know is that he lost his influence with some of the students who, although they could not articulate it, would have responded more positively to a reasoned argument along with thoughtful discussion. Kids are not as simpleminded as many educators suppose, and they can be just as deeply passionate as adults. The pricipal had the right to assert his authority, but he may have “lost” some souls that day. Such is the power of our commitments to our popular cultures.

Which gets me thinking of how we engage others around areas of faith, truth, and popular culture, especially at those points were our beliefs conflict with other’s. This is particularly important to me when it comes of movies. Years ago a friend of mine and I saw The Last Temptation of Christ. We watched it, in part, because we were living in a loosely Christian community and when the film came out we heard of many Christians actually picketing outside movie theaters against the film. So we had to see it for ourselves. When some of our friends found out they were a little shocked. How could we have seen that film. My conclusion was that Last Temptation was a rather mediocre film that, nonetheless, should be seen by Christians and then discussed. In other words, there are some important ideas in that film that would be good for Christians to seriously engage, even if only to ultimately refute. Even then, I did not find the film offensive, though I found it both wrongheaded and poorly realized.

I admire the passions of those who stand up for their beliefs, even if it means they are derided or spit upon or slandered. Sometimes one has to be a fool for one’s beliefs. And, at any given point in history, there will be some points of view that are scorned even though they are legitimate. But there is the question of tactics. How does one get others to truly engage with foreign ideas? Consider this guy:

This is actually a joke, but it’s too close to reality to pass up. The picketer is acting the same as a lot of true zealots and street preachers do. I find it actually hard to laugh because it’s too close to reality. Remember that hundreds of Christians literally picketed outside of theaters against The Last Temptation of Christ, which was their right, but only further alienated them from the world of others. Be a fool, but don’t be foolish.

Okay, there, now I can laugh. And may the force be with you, brother.

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