Zero Spoilers, One Persistent Theme Embedded in the ‘Star Wars’ Multiverse

“Why is this lobby filling up with so many dudes?”

The question arose without warning, fueled by a random observation, but it made enough of an impression upon my consciousness that I felt compelled to snap a quick image of all the guys lining up in the middle of the work day to see the latest installment in the apparently-unstoppable series, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (It ought to go without saying that I turned this analysis back upon myself, having purchased my tickets two months ago, played hooky from work and pulled my own kid out of school early.)

From 1977 to 2017, an inner longing remains.

From 1977 to 2017, a silent inner longing remains.

As it happens, during this particular season of Star Wars-themed madness, I am also re-reading Larry Crabb‘s truly-excellent take on biblical manhood, Men of Courage. I’ve written before about this particular book elsewhere – God’s Call to Oppose Evil and the Passivity of Adam – so I won’t dwell; I merely mention it to indicate that in some weird way, Larry Crabb and George Lucas¬†somehow collided in my soul and caused me to take a closer look at the other guys, just like me, who had skipped out on work so that they could show up ridiculously early to take in the latest in the Star Wars saga.

Of course, there are a myriad of reasons why this series of films has struck such a deep chord in the hearts of its fans. Yes, we all know full well that the “science” on display in this flavor of sci-fi is completely ludicrous. Yes, much of the acting is wooden in the original three installments (and especially so its much-reviled prequels). Yes, plot holes crop up regularly, some of them large enough to swallow an Imperial Dreadnought. Yes, there are many arguments to sustain the idea that every member of the Resistance ought rightly to have been snuffed out long ago.

We don’t care. We just don’t care. Give me my tickets and popcorn, and don’t you dare interrupt my viewing experience.

People go crazy for Star Wars, but more specifically, guys seem to be drawn to it. I’d like to humbly suggest that at least one reason is the recurring theme of fatherhood and, more specifically, the sub-theme of men having failed to parent their children, or at least mentor other men well. Every man longs to have a safe, strong, older and wiser man in his life…and yet very few of us actually have that. Whether they are courageous enough to admit it or not, men desperately desire to have someone like Obi-Wan Kenobi to train and instruct them, but many of the flawed, failed and broken men who have stepped into our lives have disappointed us. And we’d like to escape that reality, at least for the running time of a movie, if possible.

In the 1977 original film, Luke Skywalker did not really know who his father was; all he had was grumpy old Uncle Owen as a role model. In The Force Awakens, Rey also has been cast off and left untended, content to scratch out hash marks on a destroyed Imperial Walker as she sadly recalls a starship climbing into the sky, its occupants forever taken from her. Even our hero, Han Solo, doesn’t stick around to raise his kid Ben, with disastrous results. On and on it goes, again and again we return to the leitmotif of caring for our children properly or (more often) failing to accept this responsibility. Many of the characters in the series carry some sort of massive Father Wound as a driving force behind their actions, Dark Side or otherwise, and far more men than we might care to admit can easily relate.

In his book The Fatherhood Movement: A Call to Action, author Wade Horn puts the focus squarely on how vital it is that fathers 1) be present, and 2) consistently point to a reality that provides hope (another recurring Star Wars theme) beyond the boundaries of whatever time we have on the earth. Children, whether we wish to accept this or not, are quite capable of looking through the latest trinkets we dangle in front of them to the certainty of meaninglessness once the thrill has subsided, but both Horn and Crabb help us once more see that God has provided us with a pathway to Truth:

Not only is fatherhood the foundation of this meta-narrative, but as David Gutmann informs us so eloquently in the previous chapter, fatherhood is, anthropologically speaking, the means of connecting coming generations to this larger story…Fathers cannot export to their children and community what they do not possess, and likewise, fathers – elders – who do possess this important connection, naturally export it through the living of their lives.

In support of Gutmann’s assertion, Larry Crabb Jr., author, professor, and regular Promise Keeper speaker, addresses this intergenerational transmission and says the Christian Trinitarian message on fathering is instructive to the fatherhood movement because it tells men that by living for something more important than his children, a father gives them the most precious gift any father can give – the gift of transcendence. His ongoing involvement with them keeps them from feeling abandoned and worthless. His passion for God keeps them from thinking they are the center of his life. Instead, they are drawn to join him in pressing on toward the highest goal…We’re not the point; none of us is. God is. There is a story bigger than ours, a story that transcends every other. And until we see our story as only a subplot in that eternal drama, we’ll never see its meaning.

In my experience, both personal and professional, there are a great many men who feel much of the rage vented by a largely-abandoned Kylo Ren, acting out in various ways, but all of them being given the power to turn around their own Dark Side narrative with a few simple statements, simple in meaning but unbelievably difficulty to admit out loud: “Yes, I am weak. I need mentoring. I need someone to care about me and invest in me, to show me the way.” It has also been my experience that it is precisely into that raw honesty and weakness that the Spirit of God is most pleased to dwell, comfort and heal.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi must, in my opinion, be seen on the large screen. If possible, and only if age-appropriate, invite your son to go with you. Or maybe take your father.

Proverbs 4:1-9 (ESV)
Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
for I give you good precepts;
do not forsake my teaching.
When I was a son with my father,
tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland;
she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

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