How Star Wars Helps Me Understand the New Testament

Star Wars

This little article started as a series of conversations I have had with a fellow seminarian (now ordained reverend!) who hopes to one day teach an introduction to New Testament literature using pop culture analogies to explain its origins and functions. I do hope that course someday comes to fruition, and if you ever come across a Dr. Coyle-Carr teaching a course called “Comic Books and the Gospels” or something, I do suggest you take it. These conversations grew in my mind to bring together two of my great loves, two of the great influences on me as a person, and two of the defining forces of my childhood: the New Testament and Star Wars.

http://avinasharora.com/

Avinash Arora made this. It’s actually a huge mosaic. Hover over the image for his website address.

I grew up many years after the words “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” appeared on screen. I grew up many more years after the words “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1) dripped off the tip of a pen. I think that is a valuable insight to begin this self-indulgent discussion of mine. In both cases, with Star Wars and the New Testament, the media that has had such a profound impact on my life is not my own and it was not written to me. I am an inheritor of a tradition (as foolish as it may sound when it comes to Star Wars) that was not addressed to me. I should come to this tradition, then, as a humble outsider called to the truth within. I cannot handle that truth with my hands and possess it — it is there speaking to me. It is up to me to hear what it has to say and to choose whether to listen. That doesn’t mean the tradition cannot be subject to critique, but it does mean that I need to come to it with a bit more humility than I am accustomed to having in our world. I can’t tread the text like its mine alone and there to serve my interests. That’s probably a bit too sacred an approach to Star Wars and not nuanced enough for Scripture, but, hey, this is a novelty article.

Speaking of novelty. What the heck is this?!

Speaking of novelty. What the heck is this?!

I decided to write this piece because as Christians we are rarely familiar with the origins of our own sacred texts. We are so unfamiliar that when someone confronts us with those origins, it can send us into a spiral of panicky doubt and hysteria. Look no further than responses to Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code), Reza Aslan (Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth), or Bart Ehrman (Jesus, Interrupted among others). Christians respond with uninformed denial that has contributed to a cottage industry of so-called “apologetics” that have less to do with scholarship than the Star Wars movies. Christians need to know where there texts came from, at least in a general sense, and what has been done with them. It is not as threatening as it may sound depending on who is explaining it. It’s definitely not as bad as Jar Jar Binks or the musical scene added to Return of the Jedi.

If you’re interested in Star Wars or the New Testament, this article is for you. If you’re interested in both, definitely read on — hopefully this will be a fun ride. If you haven’t the slightest interest in Star Wars or the New Testament, I’m sorry. At least one of those will make your life a great deal more enjoyable. I might even make promises about both. So, without further ado, let’s start at the beginning.

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God-breathed

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“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

2 Timothy 3:16, NRSV

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:21, NRSV

Growing up, those words in 2 Timothy explained the Bible — well, not all of them. “All scripture is inspired by God,” or as my Bible at the time put it: “All Scripture is God-breathed” (NIV, 1984). All Scripture is God-breathed. Period. Full stop. Those words were some of the most oft-quoted in my church. The Bible, after all, was central to Southern Baptist life and identity. This has always been true about Southern Baptists — from the beginning, it was founded as a separate denomination because of its insistence on the Bible’s support for the owning of slaves. To the present day, the Bible remains in this elevated position bolstered by these words: “All Scripture is God-breathed.”

I had a problem with using this verse early in my life. It did not make sense to me that the Bible could talk about itself — so what was this getting at?

It made about as much sense as Moses writing the first five books of the Bible, one of which contains the story of his last words and death. But those were the books of Moses, even Jesus said it, so it must be true. After all, “All Scripture is God-breathed.”

The truth to which the “God-breathed” verse points, according to my church, was that the Bible was not only inspired by God but therefore inerrant. So, when I started biology classes in high school and thought evolution just made sense, I was told that I was wrong. The Bible doesn’t say evolution is true, and if the Bible says it, it must be right. After all, “All Scripture is God-breathed.”

If that Bible is inerrant, all its words are true and have prescriptive impact on our lives, I was told. For, “all scripture … is useful for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (NRSV). So, when I started to learn that multiple friends of mine were gay and I began to have less and less of a problem with that — and eventually come to affirm and celebrate their personhood as children of God — I was told that was wrong. It was wrong because Leviticus and Paul said it was wrong, and they were in the Bible. And if it’s in the Bible, it must be true. After all, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” Continue reading

God Who is Community

God who is community in Creator, Christ, and Holy Ghost, bless us as we go forth from this place that we might be in community with you, one another, and the whole world. Give us strength, compassion, and conviction as we go that our hearts might break with yours, our passions might stir with yours, and our spirits lift with yours. Let it be so that we might enter into everlasting life with you. Amen.