Looking Back on the Central Questions of the Star Wars Saga
“This war represents a failure to listen.”—Padme, in Star Wars: Episode III
“I am your father.” Those words, once dramatically uttered in The Empire Strikes Back, continued to reverberate through Return of the Jedi and went on echoing as filmmaker George Lucas took fans back to the beginning of the Star Wars series for Episodes I – III.
For those who were young in 1977 when the first film (IV) came out, it was a simpler time; we were as shocked as the padewan Skywalker to learn that a bad man could be the good guy’s dad. But now, years older, we can grasp new meaning as Lucas lifts the impenetrable mask to show us who Luke’s father was before he was Darth Vader. The central questions the Tatooine farmboy had to answer for himself are those we all must answer at some point, at least symbolically: Who is your father? And who does that make you?
The Christian “parody band” ApologetiX has recorded a great spoof of country singer Toby Keith’s song “Who’s Your Daddy?” The revised, biblicized version is called “Choose Your Daddy,” a delightfully catchy exhortation I found myself humming as I walked out of Revenge of the Sith. Unconsciously I’d hit upon a more apropos theme than any John Williams could have composed for the film. That’s because, in the Star Wars universe, every potential hero is offered several chances to choose not only whether to accept what acolytes of scholar Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth) describe as “the Call to Adventure” or whether to follow the dark path or the light to ultimate destiny. First, the heroes of myths always have to decide which mentors they will trust, which guides they will listen to and try to emulate. That is, they must decide who their spiritual parents will be—who they want to be like when they “grow up.”
What made the revelation to Luke in Empire (Episode V) so horrifying was the implication that, in Vader, the younger hero was facing his own future. What we learn later, when the story backtracks to Episode III, is that Vader was also facing his past.
The choices before Luke were choices that were once before his father, a man who rejected the spiritual “parents”—Obi Wan, Yoda, and others—who preached patience, humility, discipline, and self-sacrifice. Anakin chose to listen and trust in a different father, who taught him that fear and anger were his allies, that power is more important than loyalty, that “good is a point of view,” and that those who shun the Dark Side are simply too afraid to “embrace a larger view of the Force.” In other words, “Ye shall not surely die . . . your eyes will be opened, and ye shall be as gods.”
Now complete, the Star Wars saga offers the perspective of two lifetimes—Anakin’s and Luke’s—with all the choices and consequences both faced. Digesting their myth helps those of us in a galaxy here and now ask ourselves the questions all potential heroes (and villains) must answer: Will you and I trust the guides placed in our path who steer us toward light or those who entice us toward darkness? What will we do when the Sith hits the fan, so to speak? And, when there are destiny-driving choices to be made in life . . . who’s your daddy?Fiction for Adults
by Geraldine Brooks
Sonya Vanderveen Feddema
(Viking) Geraldine Brooks draws on historical documents and her own fertile imagination to tell the fictional tale of Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Filled with idealism, March leaves his family behind to serve as a chaplain in Virginia for the Union cause. However, his world shatters when he is reunited with a friend he neglected to assist years earlier, when he encounters injustices perpetrated against slaves by the northern “saviors,” and when he faces his own cowardice. Finally, he must choose between accepting grace and trying to redeem himself. This fascinating novel effectively portrays both a nation and an individual at war internally.Christian Faith
So Much More: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality
by Debra Rienstra
reviewed by Lori Vanden Bosch
(Jossey-Bass) Calm. Measured. Thoughtful. This primer on Christianity, written by Calvin English professor Debra Rienstra, does not have the bling-bling of the latest Christian best-seller. Instead, it has so much more. Seekers and doubters will find gentle nudges toward Jesus. Seasoned believers struggling with issues of church and community will find the encouragement they need to keep moving faithfully along. Raised in the CRC, Rienstra is firmly rooted in Dutch Reformed community and theology, yet she transcends parochialism, pointing out the strengths and perspectives of other faith traditions. Rienstra’s understated tone may seem quiet at first, but those who read further will be delighted by her wry wit and mature insights.Picture Book
The Pea Blossom
retold and illustrated by
Amy Lowry Poole
reviewed by Jeanette Romkema
(Holiday House) While sharing space in a pea pod, five peas also share their hopes and dreams for the future. Although four of them have unattainable expectations, the fifth and smallest pea decides to go “wherever it is that I am meant to.” After much patience it lands on the windowsill of a very ill young girl, where it offers her months of happiness and hope. This retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale magically brings Western and Eastern traditions together. With beautiful watercolor paintings on textured rice paper and sensitive yet provocative text, this picture book will touch the hearts of all ages.Sexuality
by Lauren Winner
reviewed by Philip Christman
(Brazos Press) Of all the things I never expected to read, a smart, engaging book about chastity must be near the top of the list. After all, chastity is most often described as an unending, uptight regimen of cold showers and guilt from which many young Christians (if we can believe the statistics) have turned away. Credit this small book, then, for reminding us that sex is first and foremost a gift of God, and for placing that gift within the inspiring context of God’s actions in human life and history. Lauren Winner (author of Girl Meets God) manages to make the refusal to have premarital sex seem like everything Freudianism, commercialism, and Madonna have told us it’s not—a turning toward life, rather than away from it.CD
by Arcade Fire reviewed by Michael Buma
(Merge Records) Funeral may be the surprise album of the year. Though ostensibly tailored for college radio and a small niche market of fans, it has catapulted Arcade Fire to indie-rock notoriety: they have appeared on the cover of Time magazine (Canadian edition), been scouted by major record labels, and, most impressively, managed to sneak their music onto mainstream radio playlists. Funeral is orchestral in its scope and fullness, running the gamut from bombast to whimper. Its brushes with lyrical eloquence are propelled by textured melodies, multi-layered instrumentation, and genre-bending pivots (such as the unexpected turn in “Wake Up” from power-ballad emoting to irresistibly catchy jangle-pop). All in all, Funeral proves worthy of the buzz—this is an album that shouldn’t be missed.