“Something greater… is here” (Matthew 12:6,41,42)
It is the cinematographic event of the century. In the history of film media, no debut has been more eagerly anticipated. Star Wars Episode One will visit a theater near you, beginning May 19.
If you are thinking to see the film on the day of debut, forget it. Aficionados have been queued up in ticket lines since April 7. “We were kind of hoping we wouldn’t have to get in line this soon,” explained a student from UCLA, as reported in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune (April 13, p E5). “But we had to move fast to guarantee [a] place in line.” A webcam has been set up outside the Chinese Theater in Hollywood to monitor the growth of the line. You may have a look — and estimate your wait — at www.countingdown.com.
What is going on here? I consider myself a science-fiction fan. I intend to view the movie — and I will enjoy it. I have even downloaded the “trailer” in anticipation. But line up on cold sidewalks for more than a month to “guarantee a place in line”? The “Force,” perhaps, is tilting us a bit out of whack.
Indeed, the “Force” is exactly the problem. Star Wars has become something more than a movie; it has become the dramatic reflection of an American, feel-good, hyper-spiritual, ethereally-escapist religion. Many find in it similarities with old-fashioned Hindu pantheism. But this is philosophical pantheism gone into hyper-drive. The “Force” is always with us, Yoda explains. The “Force” is in us and around us, everywhere. “Learn to depend upon the Force,” he counsels. We have only to be enlightened, assume our place in the universe, and settle into cozy harmony with the mountains and oceans and planets. This is plainly religious thinking. This is what moves us to line up on sidewalks for weeks on end.
But I need a religion with something more than impersonal forces and optimistic coziness. I need more than harmony with the mountains. I need a Savior. I need a radical remedy for the radical sin I have discovered in my own heart, and my own impending death.
There is nothing ethereally-escapist about Jesus. There is nothing impersonal. If anything, he is hyper-earthy. He does not promise coziness, but a cross. He sheds his blood for our redemption. He makes his home among the poor, the outcast, the spiritually lost and the physically destitute. And he invites us to join him there.
Maybe that’s why we don’t, exactly, line up to follow him. But that’s exactly why we should.