The Jedi, the Sith—say what you want about these light-saber wielding space cowboys, but the real star of the Star Wars franchise is the Force.
Don’t fight me on this. More than pretending to be Obi-Wan or Luke Skywalker, you’ve pretending that you were a Jedi with all the power of The Force flowing through you. It’s ok. Admit it. This is a safe place.
The Force is easily one of the coolest elements of our collective sci-fi consciousness; in many ways, redefined what science fiction could be, as it proved that the future, faith, and the mystical can be united in a fun and exciting way. When anything becomes as big and as culturally ubiquitous as The Force has become in the nearly four decades since it was first revealed on the silver screen, it becomes natural for us to use these cultural elements to help us understand bigger, more important things.
I can remember more than a few times—back in the nineties when the second set of movies were being released—when people tried to build a comparison between The Force and the Holy Spirit. I really liked that idea back then, but now that I’m a bit older, I wonder how that comparison would really play out.
The Force is the sentient entity/energy field that unites all living things and even the cosmos itself. All of reality is bound together within The Force. Certain individuals are “Force-sensitive,” and as such, they are able to manipulate The Force, using it in various ways. There are many groups who have studied and used The Force, but two groups are truly noteworthy: the Jedi and the Sith. These two groups are diametrically opposed to each other, one seeking understand and use the “light side” of The Force to hope others while the other, the Sith, being obsessed with the power and might that can be achieved by following the “dark side” of The Force and putting it to profitable (i.e. nefarious) use.
The are various differing opinions on The Force, so much so that it’s hard to be precise in describing it. This, of course, is further complicated by the vast, impersonal nature of The Force, as it both encompasses and is embodied in all of reality. However, it’s fairly safe to say that The Force is indeed impersonal, disinterested, and inert, meaning that The Force is merely an energy force that unites the cosmos and all living things without having a distinct personality, will, or agency (i.e. power to act independently of others). Essentially, this thing called “The Force” isn’t an entity that drives people or events but is instead a true “force” that can be used by the individual. (The only exception to this that I could see is the sexless conception of Anakin Skywalker within Shmi Skywalker; however, I would argue that this was the work of the midi-chlorians, not The Force. If you want to argue that point…then I have to say that you might be the most sexless person in this galaxy or even one far, far away.)
The Force has no agency; it does not act on its own. Thus, it has no moral will—it doesn’t dictate what is good or bad—at least not explicitly. Now, since The Force exists within all living beings and the cosmos itself, harming people and blowing up planets—Alderaan, you are not forgotten!—could be harmful to The Force and, therefore, be seen as evil. However, there is no explicit, objective moral law, and The Force seems to only guide the seeker in the direction they were naturally/situationally inclined to move in. Stated another way, a person who is prone to selfish or downright evil thoughts and actions will naturally move toward to the “dark side” while a person is inclined to do what is right will be drawn to the “light side.” In this sense, the two sides of The Force act more as poles, drawing the individuals to them like a magnetic.
Or not since magnets attract opposites. Whatever.
The Holy Spirt is the third person of the Trinity in traditional, orthodox Christian theology. He is neither a force nor an impersonal, dispassionate entity. The Holy Spirit comes to us from Jesus and has been charged with both directing us to Jesus and transforming our spirits so that we become more like Christ. The Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ disciples after Christ left the earth, as recorded in Acts 2. Speaking of this in advance, in John 14-16, Jesus affirms that the Spirit will guide His disciples in truth, that He will serve as an advocate for them, and that He will, in effect, take Jesus’ place. In fact, Jesus went so far as to say, “I will not leave your orphans; I will come to you.” Is He speaking about His return at The End? I don’t think so; I think He’s hinting at how the Spirit will function for the disciple—He will be for us, in our spirits, what Jesus was in their lives. The Spirit guides, teaches, challenges, and changes us so that we are more like Jesus.
But that’s not all.
The Holy Spirit also came to give us power. The whole episode of Acts 2…now, pretty much all of the book of Acts speaks of what happens when the Holy Spirit empowers human beings to do God’s work. Now, the Holy Spirit is not a force to be wielded any which way because He is personal and has agency. He acts according to the the will of the Father and Jesus, and He does only that which is good, to the glory of God. Thus, He empowers us to do God’s work for God’s glory, and there is no room for darkness.
Now, let’s consider something: God is the infinite, Almighty. If His Spirit is dwelling within us, then what does that say about the power available to us?* Power to testify to God’s glory. Power to heal the sick. Power to create. Power to think. Power to change this world and bring God glory. (I’m constantly exasperated by how incredibly weak and whiny the Church seems to be. Where’s the power? If God does dwell within us, giving life to our spirits, why are we so consistently lacking in creative, inventive ways of proclaiming His truth and expressing His love? Sorry. That’s a post for another time.)
The Force is pretty amazing, but so far as we know, it’s power is limited. The most amazing thing I’ve see it do is to preserve a Jedi’s spirit after their physical death. But that’s nothing compared to what the Holy Spirit does for Christians. When we die, our disembodied spirit will be instantly ushered into the presence of God, but this is only a temporary situation because the Holy Spirit will impart new life to our dead bodies. We will be resurrected, just like Jesus.
But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
Boom! Beat that, Jedis! We’re not going to be hang out as creep blue ghosts, where George Lucas can arbitrarily change what we look like. We’re going to be resurrected to inhabit a new planet and live with God in His manifest presence forever. That, my friends, makes an epic nine movie franchise look like an extended nap during half-time at a golf tournament for octogenarians.
Let’s begin the conclusion with a quote from George Lucas, “The Force evolved out of various developments of character and plot. I wanted a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God and there is good and evil. I began to distill the essence of all religions into what I thought was a basic idea common to all religions and common to primitive thinking. I wanted to develop something that was nondenominational but still had a kind of religious reality.”**
The Force was never intended to be analogous to the Holy Spirit—it’s funny how we try to make things fit when they clearly don’t—and that’s a good thing because The Force, as it’s been revealed in the franchise so far isn’t strong enough to even begin to compare with the Holy Spirit. The sad thing is that we often forget the importance of the Holy Spirit in our personal spiritual growth. We treat Him like a force, denying Him both His agency—ability to act and will—and deity. The Holy Spirit is God, and He dwells within all believers, uniting us with each other and God. However, unlike The Force, the Holy Spirit does more than give us power over others or surroundings. He gives us the power of God, power over death, power that transcends creation itself.
How do you feel about The Force?
Do you often forget that the Holy Spirit is personal, powerful, and absolutely necessary to your faith?
*I’ll try to keep my Pentecostalism to myself.
**Quoted in “Jediism as Religion? The Force as Old/New Religious Philosophy” by Zachary Ingle in Fan Phenomena: Star Wars edited by Mike Elovaara and “The Force” entry on Wookiepedia