Last week a conservative friend on Facebook posted a meme about how liberals ostensibly caused a child to be ejected from school for wearing a Star Wars tee shirt bearing the image of a man holding a phaser. It is well-known that Star Wars is a main haven of geekhood and not generally a threat to anyone. Yet in what probably was an overreaction, the child was sent home from school.
Gun proponents assailed that action as political correctness and an indication that liberals are nuts about gun control. And yet, you have to draw the line somewhere. If the next kid in line comes in with a picture of Luke Skywalker carrying an AK-47 on his shirt and the phrase, “The Force is With Me. And You Shall Die,” written on it, then we might all have cause for concern. There are too many documented cases of self-fulfilling prophecies to ignore the disturbed minds of those with emotional axes to grind.
Losing My Religion
On another front, that ostensibly liberal move to send the kid home might also be depicted as a persecution of the child’s religion. To many people, it seems the Star Wars movie enterprise is a religion of sorts. Millions flock to the theaters to worship those characters and soak up their adventures and supposed wisdom. Star Wars is as effectively canonized in world culture as Christianity or any other religion. That fantasy is a powerful force in the lives of many people. For some, it is just as real in terms of involvement and study as any organized religion.
At the heart of the Star Wars myth is a religion called The Force. It supposedly permeates all of existence. There is even an evil side to this force just as there is an evil side to all religions. Used for the wrong purposes, all religions have a dark side.
The Force and use of force
It is indeed a strange thing that the hyper-sensitive Christian crowd that has blamed the Harry Potter books for promoting witchcraft has largely given the Star Wars movies a cultural pass.
Or perhaps the real reason why Star Wars is not called into question is that it just hits too close to home for conservative Christians to raise such questions.
Consider the basic premise of the Star Wars series.
The movies initially center around the oppressively power-hungry Darth Vader and his Nazi-like Storm Troopers. These characters represent the force of galactic fascism backed by the Dark Side of a religion.
By contrast, the rebellion is led by a princess courting the scurrilous Han Solo. Her brother Luke is the product of a humble upbringing on the outskirts of some galaxy far, far away. He partners up with a short green philosopher who hails from the deep woods and talks backwards while speaking truth to power.
Wisdom From Yoda
The Rebellion is much like liberal Christianity. The lead philosopher Yoda makes many of the same claims as Jesus. Here are just a few examples.
“When you look at the Dark Side, careful you must be, for the Dark Side looks back.”
“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”
All three of these quotes are powerful indictments of conservative religion. That’s no surprise, as conservatism so often aligns with forceful earthly powers to exact its aims.
And that, my friends is exactly why religious conservatives have so little to say about Star Wars. It indicts everything about the state of conservative Christianity today.
Men like presidential candidate Ted Cruz emanate from the Dark Side of the Christian conscience. As such, he is a descendant of his father Rafael Cruz, who easily confuses religion with government, having this to say about current President Barack Obama. “We have to unmask this man. This is a man that seeks to destroy all concept of God. And I will tell you what, this is classical Marxist philosophy. Karl Marx very clearly said Marxism requires that we destroy God because government must become God.”
All such Dark Siders call depend on the language of religion in order to compel political targets to action through fear. This is what Ted Cruz has to say on the same order as his father: “We are witnessing a great awakening. Millions of Texans, millions of Americans are rising up to reclaim our country, to defend liberty and to restore the Constitution.”
The irony of that statement is that it is religious conservatives have so frequently sought to deny Constitutional rights to minorities, gays and women, and many others. It was religious conservatism that sided with pro-slavery forces in America, turning its back on the notion of equality for blacks. It was religious conservatism that drove Prohibition, Jim Crow laws and blocking the rights of women to vote. Religious conservatism now denies the basic tenets of science and seeks to block abortion rights and the right of homosexuals to marriage. With all this Dark Side politics at work, men like Rafael and Ted Cruz depend on confusing religion with politics because their interpretation of the Constitution is a lie.
That means men like Ted Cruz truly are the Darth Vaders of this galactic age, twisting the power of goodness and liberty to fit their arch-conservative ideology. Cruz unabashedly persists in this claim with disarming confidence, “My touchstone for every question is the Constitution.”
It is perhaps no surprise that Ted Cruz is well known as the leading Asshole in the Senate. Just like Darth Vader on that Death Star, no one wants to be around the guy.
But he’s far from alone in his Darth Vaderness. The origins of Dark Side nastiness and claims to Constitutional verity seem to have emanated from the bleached skull of Newt Gingrich, and it’s only gotten worse from there. The Senate and Congress and state governments are now populated with Sith Lords and Darth-like characters, all voted in by authoritarian voters who love the appeal of the Dark Side because it promises to deliver their one-issue wonderment.
The entire slate of political candidates on the Republican ticket acts like a pack of greasy Death Star commanders lobbying for protection from the likes of Vader (Donald Trump) while seeking power from the Dark Side of the conservative Empire.
It’s an ugly business, this use of the Dark Side of religion to seek political power. It’s all over the screens and even showing in IMAX. You would think religious conservatives would be screaming bloody murder about these depictions of religion as an ugly force in the universe. After all, men like Bill O’Reilly are pissed as hell that people don’t say Merry Christmas any more. Why isn’t he absolutely freaking out that people seem to put faith in a movie that says “May the Force be with you?”
Well, believers in the Dark Side of the Force need to stick together, you see.
How revealing it is that the newest Star Wars “villain” is the equivocal son of the late Han Solo, whose progeny weeps at the fact that he does not know his own faith, then piercest the heart of his father with the hot anger of a light saber.
One no longer has to wonder what family values are really all about on the Dark Side. It’s about gaining power even if your own father or brother or sister stands in the way.
And it is no wonder conservative Christians are so quiet about Star Wars. It really hits close to home.