To say Star Wars has been a huge commercial success is an understatement. Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon. Besides the groundbreaking special effects, the movies are a great example of the power of the story.
In Episode 1, Anakin Skywalker is enslaved on an obscure planet. Soon he is overtaken by his destiny. By the end of the series, he redeems himself by saving his son and fulfills the ancient prophecies bringing peace to the galaxy. George Lucas, the creator of the series, exploited the redemption meta-narrative of legend and lore, and I believe it is this power of story that has made the movies a success.
I’m often critical of these attempts, though. I’m not convinced Lucas was ever able to synthesize the beauty of the human desire as expressed in the stories of our ancestors. In fact, I believe his version reveals some pretty dark recesses of his psyche. For whatever reason, he only skims the surface of the deepest ocean. I don’t want to be too harsh. He at least gets wet.*
C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien are different. They embraced the beauty of mythology and saw a clear path from those ancient stories to the more ancient truth of the God of scripture. If you’ve read much Lewis, you know he often returns to the theme that pagan mythology finds fulfillment in Christ (in a similar way to the Old Testament, making some readers admittedly uncomfortable). In my opinion, reading Lewis and Tolkien provides a glimpse behind the curtain to a reality you’ve always known was true in your heart. In comparison, Lucas offers us a Twinkie version of these grand concepts. I know why it’s popular, but it’s still junk food.
The Epistle of 1 Peter shines a light on the truth behind the pagan yearning. Hear Peter’s appeal to the grand narrative of his readers. This is the power of story.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 1Peter 1:10-12
The myth has become fact. We who were once far from God have been born again of an imperishable seed. We have entered our destiny as God’s people. We are experiencing the fulfillment of the prophecies, that in the last days God’s Spirit would dwell with His people. We are the living temple of God–the manifestation of His presence and power on earth. The inheritance that awaits us is awe-inspiring.
This is the narrative we were created to live. For that reason, in the central, primal place of our humanity, as a collective species and as individuals, lies the compulsive desire to take part in this story. That is its power. Even the counterfeit and weaker versions can’t help but reveal a deeper truth, if we only look for it.
Today you are part of that story. Live this chapter well.
*For some insightful critique of Lucas’s perversion of the Campbellian framework, consider perusing the writings of David Brin. His Commentary on Attack of the Clones is as good a starting place as any.