Luke Skywalker’s Despair

I enjoyed the first Star Wars movie (1977). It was fun and the conflict was palpable. So was the hope. Luke Skywalker was a young hopeful idealist, even somewhat corny. He was strong in the Force. Obe-Wan Knobi, the Jedi master, was somewhat brooding, but had an air of confidence which engendered hope. Likewise with Yoda. Obe-Wan and Yoda had faith.

Unlike his teachers, the Luke Skywalker of The Last Jedi has no faith. In fact, he seems to be filled with despair, even fear. He is haunted by his failure as a Jedi master. He seems to be terrified by the Force. He is terrified by Kylo Ren and he is terrified by Rae. He seems to be convinced that the ultimate end is the triumph of the dark side. Even as he confronts Kylo Ren there is a sense of fatalism.

I’m aware that the Disney powers-that-be don’t want the conflict between the Empire and the Rebellion resolved. They want to keep the conflict alive so the revenues will continue to rise. But there is something else. The dualism of the Force – the dark side verses the light side – is equilateral. In other words, there can be no victory of one over the other, only perpetual struggle. Maybe that’s why Luke lost hope.

The Star Wars saga is more than a series of movies. For millions of people Star Wars has become a meta-narrative of human existence. As such, the perpetual conflict breeds despair. The dualistic conflict of the Force will be reincarnated generation after generation. This mirrors the postmodern angst of Western civilization.

The Christian faith challenges the equilateral dualism of post-modernity with a meta-narrative of good news. Like Luke Skywalker, human heroes tend to be tragic figures. The Bible tells many tragic stories. But the meta-narrative of Scripture is nonetheless hopeful. Light overwhelms darkness. Life defeats death. The tragedies, injustices, and disappointments of this present age are judged, and ultimately redeemed in New Creation.

The Last Jedi was released for the Christmas season. The movie makes for good entertainment, but not a hopeful human story. The Christmas story of God assuming human nature, to share in the human story, and to redeem humanity is a much more hopeful story.