Star Wars Episode III: Jedi Spirituality

Unless you've been "in a galaxy far, far away," to borrow from the original Star Wars opening screen text, you know about the release of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. From economic and cinematic perspectives alone, the premiere this month of the last of the double trilogy of Star Wars movies is huge news. In an article accessed today (5/2/05) on, chief economics correspondent Martin Wolk writes, "With five movies, more than $3 billion in ticket sales and perhaps another $9 billion in sales of everything from DVDs to Darth Vader masks, Star Wars easily ranks as the most successful film franchise ever." (The article goes on to detail the incredible deal cut with director George Lucas nearly 30 years ago, which gave him rights to all sequels!)

Star Wars' cultural impact is immeasurable. Jeffrey Weiss, wrote in a Dallas Morning News article Movies' Spiritual Theme is a Force, "America's median age is about 36. That means about half the country has little or no memory of a time before Star Wars was part of the cultural landscape." He continues, "Not coincidentally, some experts say, younger generations of American have been turning away from institutional religion in record numbers." They note a possible link between the "fuzzy theology of the Force" and the mish-mash of powerful religious motivations of young people.

For fans, cult- and culture-watchers, theologians, film buffs and others who like to parse the films' meaning and mythical origins, the entire enterprise has been news since its debut film release in 1977. The first religious system most people seem to associate with Star Wars is New Age or Eastern mysticism. It is popularly held that the writings of Joseph Campbell, author of Hero With a Thousand Faces, was Lucas' main inspiration—and his thinking influential on the story's structure, but does not necessarily heavily influence the storyline.

Christian writers and teachers tend to warn viewers about the New Age parallels and elements in the series, rightly so. One veteran culture-watcher takes a different tack. Dick Staub, an author who hosted a nationally syndicated radio show for 15 years, recently released a book we sample here: Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters. He taps into the spiritual guidance that so many young people are looking for, poignantly using the parallels of Christian discipleship with Jedi apprenticeship as presented by the Star Wars Yoda character. His contention that all of us—particularly the young and idealistic—are looking for a larger story, a myth, to live by, is examined in a scholarly way by several writers for The Journal of Religion & Film, a publication of the Religion Department, University of Nebraska at Omaha. We examine several other angles of religion and philosophy which the culture-shaping Star Wars phenomenon raises in our Special Focus, including the desire to connect with the Force known as the Creator God. "Enjoy it, we hope you will," as Yoda might say.


—Leadership University Editor/Webmaster, Byron Barlowe

Featured Resources

Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters: Chapters 8, 10 and 30—NEW
Dick Staub
Based on the premise that aspiring disciples of Jesus need mentoring much the same as young Jedi warriors of Star Wars lore needed teachers like Yoda, this unique guide delivers in a fresh way. Drawing from pilgrims of faith down through the ages and the Scriptures, Staub makes the spiritual connection for even the most unchurched seeker.

Star Wars Spirituality
Terry Mattingly
Syndicated columnist Mattingly reveals the irreconcilable religious worldviews of the last Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith. Part of a pattern of syncretistic incongruence in the film series, it points to a culture of confused spirituality–meets–Hollywood—what author Dick Staub calls a "teachable moment" in our society.

The Apocalyptic Cosmology of Star Wars—NEW
Professor John Lyden, from The Journal of Religion & Film
Analyzes the saga of Star Wars as a text that has borrowed extensively from biblical apocalyptic: cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil, etc.; and a new world order will come about in which justice triumphs and wickedness is punished. This myth is made relevant to modem viewers by being framed as a battle of technology vs. the natural human. The films' apparent technophilia is cover for a technophobic message: we must remember our humanity lest we be absorbed or destroyed by our machine creations.

Any Gods Out There? Perceptions of Religion from Star Wars and Star Trek—NEW
John S. Schultes, from The Journal of Religion & Film
A brief comparison study of the two giants of mainstream sci-fi, Star Wars and Star Trek reveals the differing attitudes toward religion expressed in the genre. Star Trek presents an evolving perspective, from critical secular humanism to begrudging personalized faith, while Star Wars presents an ambiguous mythological foundation for mystical experience that is in more ways universal.

Elves, Wookies and Fanboys: Star Wars And Our Need For Stories
Roberto Rivera
When a movie inspires religious devotion, there's more at work than great cinematography. Written in anticipation of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999. It still applies.

George Lucas, the Force and God
Terry Mattingly
"Some Christians hail Star Wars as evidence of a cultural search for moral absolutes. On the World Wide Web, others use the films as glowing icons that teach Eastern philosophy. Welcome to the theological mall." Also written in 1999 (statistics old), but quite relevant today.

Encyclopedic Resources

These Related Resources are part of the World Religions Index, a site for equipping Christians to understand other world faiths and religious philosophies.

World Religions Index
As the wise king Solomon stated in Ecclesiastes, "There is nothing new under the sun." The age-old religious system of spiritualism is evident in Star Wars' "theology." Here is the bottom line on this system regarding a major part of its view of divinity.

Biblical Christianity
World Religions Index
A corresponding bottom-line definition of the beliefs of Scriptural Christian doctrine on God, etc.

Related Resources

Connecting With the Divine
Marilyn Adamson
Many Star Wars enthusiasts (and others) are asking how they can connect with the divine force of the universe. This is a brief overview of various religions' views on how, starting with the two that are most woven into the Star Wars themes: Hinduism and, especially, New Age.
Available in Español

The New Age Movement
Dr. Robert Pyne
"The New Age Movement is not a conspiracy or a cult. It is a loose collection of very diverse people and groups. It is a religious trend, not a religious organization. There are several beliefs that are distinctively 'New Age.' One of these beliefs is monism, the idea that all of reality is essentially one." The Star Wars philosophy includes this tenet.

The Artful Dodger: A Skeptic Confronts Christianity
Dr. Alan Scholes
Skeptic-turned-theologian Dr. Alan Scholes traces his discovery of the various parts of man--body, soul, spirit--and how we can relate to a real, live, entity known as God.

Christ In a New Age
Russ Wise
The author explains the rise of New Age thinking and its implications, among them that man is not responsible to a Person and "that [God] is an energy that is in all things; therefore, you are divine, along with the rest of creation." Wise then guides the reader through a Christian response, including evangelism tips.

Is Truth Just a Matter of Opinion? An Evaluation of the Ethics of Witchcraft and Pantheism
Jon Rittenhouse
This article helps the honest seeker of truth, interested in witchcraft or pantheistic worldviews, to evaluate issues of truth and ethics through examining misconceptions about truth, suggesting criteria for truth and ethical inquiry, and then evaluating pantheistic ethics. Although the Star Wars films were not entirely pantheistic, this worldview was a decided part of the mix.

Truth and Finite Limitations
H. D. Lewis
Philosopher H. D. Lewis, renowned for his defense of anthropological dualism, discusses this concept of humankind's distinct body and spirit, which contrasts with the philosophy of elevated consciousness.