The latest in the Star Wars saga was released months ago now. It caused quite a stir, setting popular culture all atwitter. Actually, I enjoy escapism as much as the next guy, whether it is science fiction, old cars, or major league baseball. Still, I am struck by the grip that these films have on our popular consciousness.
I read about a young man with a modest upbringing. He and his mother had little, but they did have a VCR and the Star Wars movies. The home life was so barren that he devoted himself to endlessly watching the films. After years of this, he knew them dead solid perfect. His life has revolved around the plots, characters, and dialogues. Today he has a fitting Star Wars quote for any occasion. (Like: “It may smell bad in here, kid, but it’ll keep you warm” or “I’d rather kiss a wookie!”) George Lucas hired the lad as a Star Wars “savant” for Star Wars conventions.
Did you know there are web sites that will teach you they had Albert Einstein’s look in mind in creating Yoda; that Luke yells “Carrie!” instead of Princess Leia at the end of episode four; and how Chewbacca pays off his indentured servant status to Han Solo? Some revel in this and others scream, too much information!
Do you recall the Saturday Night Live skit where William Shatner arrives at a Star Wars convention? Everyone is dressed up as Jabba or Darth Vader. Excitement mounts as Shatner enters, mounts the dais, and leans into the microphone. He raises a hand to quiet the eager throng. “I have one thing that I want to say to all of you,” he begins, as they hang on his every word. “Don’t you have anything better to do than doing this? Don’t you have jobs or families or anything more important than being here?” The sneaky comedy moment makes a lasting point.
Whatever we think of such cultural phenomenon, it is a testimony to the power of stories to narrate and give meaning to our lives. We all deeply yearn to be caught up in a superior story, a grand narrative transcending our routine individuality. Some people live through Mad Men reruns, others through the political radio talk shows, still others through what Noah Syndegaard or Michael Phelps happened to eat for breakfast today. Philosophers call such grand stories meta-narratives.
For me, all of this is fun until I realize the extent to which our Christian story has been eclipsed in the popular consciousness. The Scriptural story doesn’t capture our imagination as it once did. The sweep of baptism—from Exodus through Jesus kneeling before John—no longer occupies our hearts and minds in the same way. Do you know anyone who knows them as well as Star Wars or Game of Thrones, as Clinton vs. Trump or as well as “where is Pokemon?” these days?
That is why worshipping God in particular and practicing our faith in general are so central to who we are. Without them, we forget our story—God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Other lesser stories creep in and fill the void. Whoever dictates the story that we live out of controls our dreams. Whoever controls our dreams owns us. That is why we dream together in the Technicolor of God’s new reign. This summer we plan many exciting new groups and worship opportunities for this autumn. I can’t wait for it all and hope you can’t wait either!