It's hard to think that some event might upstage Christmas this year, but it appears to have happened for some. There seems to be an amazing amount of "hype" out there today about the opening of the latest "Star Wars" movie, a week before Christmas. Hollywood has long used the Christmas season as a great time to get an audience out to the theatres. This year seems to be no exception.
The hype of this movie borders on hysteria for a few. Theatres are sold out all over the world and the money this movie is going to make is anticipated to be well over one billion dollars. Not only is the worldwide audience of this movie expected to set all-time records, but even some churches are trying to tap into the craze. One large and growing church in Morristown, New Jersey is planning a live Nativity scene featuring Star Wars characters in the Manger to draw a crowd.
What is troubling about the "Star Wars" hype is NOT people having a good time or watching an entertaining movie at Christmas. The real concern that should be on people's minds is how movies like this are reshaping our understanding of the Lord and spiritual things. Few realize the creator of "Star Wars," George Lucas, describes himself spiritually as a "Buddhist-Methodist." Has anybody ever sat down and tried to figure out what that means? It is doubtful that almost anyone watching this movie could tell you much about "Buddhism" or "Methodism." For many, critical thinking on things like this doesn't seem to be that important anymore, as long as people are having "fun." Sadly, movies like this, and pop culture in general, are having a much more powerful effect on the thinking and beliefs of people than the Church.
The English historian Arnold Toynbee said that the last stage of a society's life before its fall is the appearance and growth of syncretism. Syncretism is a mixing of ideas and concepts without anyone really knowing what the ideas and concepts really mean. Many people don't understand that "Buddhism" and "Methodism" are two dramatically different religions.....totally opposed to and at war with one another. With syncretism they both end up as two aspects of one reality. When a society can't discern or understand its foundational beliefs, they will be changed and eroded by the surrounding culture until there is a collapse. This is what happened to Israel in the Bible. The Lord was turned into Baal....but everybody called Baal "the lord". The Lord's name was maintained, but it was another "god". This exact same thing is happening before our eyes in America and the Church world....."Methodists" are turning into "Buddhists" and "Buddhists" into "Methodists".
At the heart of the theology of "Star Wars" is the battle between some concept of "good" and "evil." The way this battle is fought is through channeling "The Force." It appears that "The Force" is a personal power that any individual can draw upon for their purposes....whether "good" or "bad." While "The Force" is not clearly defined anywhere, it appears to be a power innate to the Universe, a life force that is a part of everything, a unifying principle of reality...whatever that reality might be. Nowhere do we see "The Force" being defined as a personal god. The power and draw of "The Force" for many people in the "Star Wars" movies lies in it being mysterious, unknown and impersonal in nature.
It is very clear that "The Force" in the "Star Wars" movies is George Lucas's movie version of "god." However, Lucas's version of "god" is not personal. His view of "god" is a syncretized blend of eastern mysticism, as found in Buddhism, sprinkled with a dose of vague, moral theism that appears to have come from Methodism. The one point that is crystal clear in all the "Star Wars" movies is that "The Force" doesn't hold us accountable for our sins and it certainly is not concerned with salvation. Yes, there is some concept of "good" and "evil," but in the end it doesn't really matter because there is NO final judgment beyond this life. So while it appears the "Star Wars" universe is moral, in the end, any judgment is in our hands. So in the "Star Wars" series human beings define morality for their purposes....Man becomes the lawgiver.....Man becomes God.
What a shocking contrast to compare the thinking behind "Star Wars" and the Christmas Story. In the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ is not only God, but ultimately personal....not a "force." The Lord of Heaven and Earth also has a Name, Jesus, and He can be touched. This same Lord also came into the world to be our Savior because we needed one. Each of us has used our personal power to break God's moral laws that are woven into the Universe. These broken laws demand some sort of payment or justice for there to be peace in this world. The message of Christmas is that being spiritual is NOT enough. We need a Savior, not a teacher to help us find self-enlightenment and power through "The Force."
So this Christmas, movies can be fun and entertaining. However, the really Good News is that there is a real Savior for us all. Let's hold the Newborn Babe in our arms and find the Lord's gift of salvation. Merry Christmas!