I may or may not be obsessed with science fiction. I blame my dad. My dad and I have logged away many hours with science fiction movies (Props to my mom for enduring some of those hours as well). At some point, I want to blog about the pros and cons of this genre, but I wanted to write down some thoughts about the latest installment in the Star Wars saga.
Perhaps you have seen Rogue One already, or perhaps you are considering going. I highly recommend it. It is captivating, clean, and classy. I don’t recall any foul language in the movie or any scandalous characters (unlike The Return of the Jedi). If you are going to watch it with your kids, or for your own pleasure, here are some spiritual lessons to ponder during or after the movie. These ten lessons are in no particular order.
[Warning: There are some spoilers in this post. Also, the quotations may not be 100% accurate because I have only seen it in theaters.]
1) The wicked die by their own weapons.
The book of Proverbs repeatedly states that the wicked get caught in their own trap (Proverbs 5:22, 11:6). This truth can be seen over and over again in the Bible. Take Haman in the book of Ester for example. Hamman builds a noose for Mordecai and then dies by his own rope. Satan himself enters into Judas to betray Jesus, and then it is actually Jesus’ crucifixion that is the death blow to Satan. In some sense, a great enemy of the wicked is themselves.
Rogue One highlights this in a climatic ending. General Krennic has spent his whole life and evil career on the Death Star. He has been overseeing it’s construction, and it is his precious project. He is using the Death Start to kill others, and at the end of the movie, the Death Star kills him. The movie ends with the Death Star (manned by General Tarkin) shooting its laser beam to Scarif. If you look closely, you notice that the laser beam hits the tower upon which Krennic is located first. Krennic looks up, sees his creation, and then it takes off the top of the satellite tower before hitting the ground a few miles away. This is a good example that the wicked often die by their own weapons.
2) Power and pride blind us to reality
There is an obvious tension between Tarkin and Krennic. Krennic is concerned about his status in the Empire. He wants the credit for the Death Star and Tarkin stands in his way. Krennic wants to do everything he can to clear his name and present himself as a capable general to the Emperor. This is especially highlighted in the exchange between Krennic and Darth Vader.
At the end of their conversation, Krennic asks the unfortunate question “Does this mean I am still in charge?” and Vader begins to choke him. Vader points out what is taking place in Krennic’s heart. Vader says, “Be careful that you do not choke on your aspirations general.”
The great irony is that Krennic’s lust for power blinds him to the reality that Vader and the Emperor will never care about him. Ever. The Sith will destroy him in a second’s notice. They are merely using him and will discard him (like they always do) once they are finished. Krennic’s entire obsession with his status is an utterly vain effort.
His character is a lesson that a lust for power and pride is “vanity, vanity, vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
3) You don’t have to fear death
Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior who is Force-sensitive, is a great character. He is calm, fierce, and funny. We should all want to be like him in some sense. One of the most powerful moments in the movie is when Imwe goes to flip the master switch. The odds are against him, and one of his fellow Rebel soldiers was killed immediately upon attempting to run to the switch. Imwe is bold and uses the Force to dodge the blaster fire and get to the control panel. The viewers can expect this because of his courageous moves earlier in the movie when he defended Cassian and Jyn against a group of Storm Troopers on Jedha.
In each of these moments, it is clear that he doesn’t fear death. He trusts the Force and believes that the Force will do what is best. He says something like, “I’m not afraid, the Force is in control of what happens.” He was trusting in the sovereignty of the Force, and this enabled him to act valiantly. He didn’t fear death and accepted it when it came. How much more should we as Christians act this way when we trust in a true Sovereign God who created and controls everything?
4) You don’t have to be a main character to be a hero
A ton of people die in Rogue One. But think about the final scene for a minute. Darth Vader is going on an epic rampage and slaughtering the Rebel fighters trying to get the plans. Vader kills an unknown fighter, and another, and another, and another. Yet the Rebel fighters keep passing the secret plans on down the line. Their first priority is to make sure the plans are not captured.
If any one of these unknown Rebel fighters tried to save their skin by giving the plans to Vader, the entire cause would have been lost. If any one of these unknown characters tried to rescue themselves first and neglected to pass along the secret plans, the whole mission would have failed. They all die for the cause and sacrifice themselves so that the secret Death Star plans are passed into Princess Leia’s hands. They were selfless to the point of death. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
5) A story doesn’t have to explain everything
I love thinking about how the various plot lines in the Star Wars Saga fit together. If you are a nerd like me, you might be concerned about any plot holes in the overall story that Rogue One could produce. Here are six different plot holes that you might be thinking about. I will spare you, but I actually think these can be answered sufficiently. Take the example of C3PO and R2-D2 being on the Rebel base when the fighters are being sent out. We only see them saying something like, “Oh my, I didn’t know we were going to battle. No one tells me anything.” Then the scene ends. You could argue that the directors made an error because in Episode IV, we seen them on the ship that was in battle in Rogue One.
However, I think it would be a better option to believe that the creators of Rogue One spent a lot more time thinking about this than we have. They certainly watched Episode IV a few times before making Rogue One. It is also a good assumption that they spent a lot of money to make sure this movie would be a success. We can be assured they thought about this before we did.
It is not necessary to conclude there was an error because they didn’t explain everything in the movie. It is possible that five minutes later a Rebel leader could have told the droids they would be on the next ship out of the hanger. That could have been the Rebel flagship. Just because a story doesn’t explain something, doesn’t mean it is unexplainable.
If we read widely enough, watch enough, or begin to notice these kinds of things in life, we can see that stories often have apparent contradictions or moments that require more information than a plot line contains. Especially if a story spans across a series of episodes. I think it is best to start out trusting the author of the stories and assume the story is complete even if we don’t always see every single angle.
How you approach a story is incredibly important when you begin reading the four Gospel accounts or compare and contrast 1 & 2 Chronicles and 1 & 2 Samuel. I think our Bible reading will be enhanced if we learn how good stories are told and how different accounts mesh together.
6) Ethics are sometimes complicated
Galen Erso is a good guy… But he lies and works for the Empire.
Galen convinced an imperial pilot to defect… Yet he made a machine that destroys millions of people.
But he knew they were going to make it anyway… Yet his Death Star wiped out an entire city. But he sabotaged the inner core and risked everything to leak the secret Star Dust information to his daughter…
These complicated ethical situations are highlighted in the struggle that Cassian faced when he was under orders to snipe Galen. After much turmoil, Cassian decided against it when he saw Galen stand in front of the engineers before they were executed.
If nothing else, Rogue One underscores that ethics can be complicated in a fallen world. This is a great opportunity to think through what you would have done and how you are going to explain his actions to your kids.
7) The Force feels good because it points to a supernatural reality
Perhaps you don’t feel anything when you watch Star Wars except boredom, but I suspect that many of you feel something powerful and compelling by the storyline. Disney certainly wants us all to feel something powerful when we watch their new episodes.
I think that the concept of the Force is compelling because we are designed to believe in and embrace the invisible. Deep down we all believe (or have a instinct to believe in) the “Tao” as C.S. Lewis calls it in the Abolition of Man. We are not just materialists. We want to believe in something beyond nature. We want to believe there is a Being or Entity that unites us all. We want to believe that everything was created by something. We want to believe in the supernatural. The fictional Force feels good because it points to what is nonfiction in the Christian faith.
There is a Being that unites everything and upholds the entire cosmos by the word of His power. There is a supernatural element to every person – the soul. There is life after death. There is something greater than what our eyes can see. Christianity gets it right, and the Force- a feeble and flawed concept- points towards it.
8) Everyone knows we need to do something about our bad deeds
While in the separatist prison, Cassian tries to talk with the defected Imperial pilot. He asks him if he knew Galen and the pilot says yes. Later, Jyn is asking the pilot about her dad. He says something like, “Your dad told me that I could make up for everything I had done by defecting.”
The pilot realized that he had been working for evil. He knew that the Galactic Empire was doing wicked acts against innocent people. He knew it, and he wanted to change.
This points to the reality that every human experiences when they realize they have sinned. They feel guilt and want to make things right. Defecting was the right thing for this Imperial pilot to do, but we know that good works don’t make up for bad ones. We need forgiveness for our sinful actions. No amount of good deeds can cancel out our bad ones (Ephesians 2:8-9). Thankfully, Christianity has a beautiful answer to this problem through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
9) You can’t be indifferent to injustice
The separatist leader, Gerrera, asks Jyn, “You are fine to see the imperial flag fly across the galaxy?” She responds by saying, “It doesn’t bother me if I don’t look up.”
This answer is how many people live their lives. They know injustice and wickedness abounds in the world, but they ignore it. They know that people are hurting and are in need, but they ignore it.
This answer is a weak one that doesn’t work. Jyn quickly realizes this and Cassian chides her later on. He says something like, “You aren’t the only one who has lost everything. I have been fighting in the Rebellion since I was six. It has been going on for a long time. There are some of us who decided to do something about it for a change.”
What about you? Do you ignore injustice? Do you turn a blind eye for your own interests and comfort? Or do you do something about it? There is no middle ground in real life.
Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
(Proverbs 24:11-12 ESV)
10) Don’t follow human orders blindly
Cassian did the right thing by not shooting Galen, and yet he disobeyed direct orders from the Rebel Alliance. The Imperial pilot did the right thing by defecting, and yet he disobeyed his Galactic Empire orders. The only one who gets orders right all the time is God.
As Christians, our instinct must be to obey our earthly authorities. This is commanded in the Bible (Romans 13:1-7). Yet the call for Christians isn’t to obey blindly like Storm Troopers. It is better to do the right thing (obey God) than simply follow the orders of man (Acts 5:29). Do you follow the morals of humans blindly or do you match everything against the Word of God?
Even fictional stories can’t escape themes of reality. I love some Star Wars, but I’m infinitely more grateful for the true and better story that God has woven through redemptive history. Any good thing that is present in Star Wars is a result of God’s common grace. If you liked Star Wars Rogue One, you will like the true story of Christianity even more.
This movie is a great opportunity to reflect on these ten spiritual topics and then search the Scriptures to shape our thinking. I’m looking forward to watching it again.