Is Star Wars Christian or Anti-Christian? Should the Force be with you?

I’m pretty pumped. Start Wars Episode VII is in the works. I’m super excited, but I know that not everyone shares my geeky expectation. Some folks have serious theological disagreements with Star Wars. We’re going to try to rescue Star Wars today using a little Thomas Aquinas…


Star Wars VII is going to be directed by JJ Abrams (new Star Treks, Super 8) and will include the original cast with the likes of Harrison Ford, Mark Hammil, Carrie Fisher, and even new faces like Andy Serkis (the actor who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings).

andy serkis as gollum

Hopefully Andy Serkis was not cast for the part of Jar Jar Binks. Just sayin’.

Christians (both Protestant and Catholic) have over the decades expressed concern that the worldview of Star Wars does not conform to the Christian worldview. I want to look at this concern, and then try to rescue Star Wars for all you Christian Star Wars fans (yes Greg Willits, I’m looking at you).

The mistake that people make when getting all down on Star Wars is that they make this equation:

  1. Christians have God
  2. Star Wars has the Force
  3. But the Force does not map on the biblical doctrine of God.
  4. Therefore, Star Wars teaches a false worldview, a false theology, and must rejected as evil!

Let’s take a look at this in more detail.

May the Force be with you: What the heck is this Force?

Let’s start with what the Force is not?

  1. The Force is not a personal God to whom one prays.
  2. The Force is not omnibenevolent or ‘all good.’ There is a ‘dark side’ to the Force.
  3. The Force is not just for good guys. Bad guys use it, and apparently use it more powerfully than the good guys.

It seems that the force is really an impersonally energy source. You can seem immediately that this does not jive with a Judeo-Christian understanding of the universe…or does it?

Christian Star Wars fans: Do not fear!

Let’s look again at the anti-Star Wars argument:

  1. Christians have God
  2. Star Wars has the Force
  3. But the Force does not map on the biblical doctrine of God.
  4. Therefore, Star Wars teaches a false worldview and false theology, and must rejected as evil!

Let’s flip this around. Let’s say that the Force stands for something other than God. Perhaps the Force is neither a spiritual entity nor a divine essence. What we need is to find in the Force an analogy to our current Christian worldview.

Pause: I realize that we don’t even really need to do this. It’s a fictional movie saga that’s fun and mythical. But to appease those that want to have a philosophical justification, here goes.

There is one thing in our universe that maps perfectly with the Force. I’m going to go down the Thomas Aquinas trail, so please follow me.

According to Thomas Aquinas (and the Catholic tradition), humans and preternatural spiritual beings (angels and demons) have a power that stretches beyond the faculties of all other natural things and species. This special faculty shared by angels, demons, good men, and evil men is called intelligentia. This word comes from two Latin words:

inter + legere

inter means “between” (like interstate) and legere means to “choose, pick out, or read.”

Intelligence, then, is the ability to choose between or to discern.

This is a power (or might I even say force) given to us by Almighty God. Your dog, cat, fish, and cactus plant do not have it. We do have it. You guardian angel also has it.

Since we have intelligence or rationality, we can manipulate our environment, manipulate nature, manipulate objects around us, and manipulate other people. Our influence over creation through the reign of rationality can be really good, but it can also have a dark side…

The Passions and the Force of the Intelligence

According to Thomas Aquinas, there are eleven passions. Emotions like fear, joy, and anger. Because of original sin, these passions interfere with our rational intelligence. We eat too much ice cream, scream at other drivers, and cry over silly things. The passions twist and thwart the force of our intelligence so that we do dark things.

The Dark Side of the Force

We have perceived that the myth of the Force in Star Wars is not God or the Holy Spirit, but instead it is the shared experience of human and angelic rationality. This is why evil characters try to get good characters over to the dark side of this force by moving them to passionate anger, rage, covetousness, or lust. We see that the Sith Lords even overtake the entire Empire by manipulating others through this force of rationality. It happened to the Empire in Star Wars. It has happened to every human society. The only way to have the “Empire Strike Back” is to rule the passions rationally through right reason and prudential thinking. So being trained in the force is really just using the intellect to habituate virtue in ourselves and in society.

The dark side of the force is like the dark side of human rationality. Rationality is a good, but it can be twisted and abused for evil – always through the corruption of the passions/emotions.

Reassessing the Force as a Christian Analogy in Star Wars

Someone might say, “Yeah, but Yoda can move rocks with the Force and Luke can stand on his head with the Force. What does that have to do with rational intelligence?”

I answer, “Right you are. Yessss.”

But there is more to it. We humans have used our minds to accomplish all sorts of impossible things like fly in airplanes, walk on the moon, split atoms, and explore the ocean floor.

Battles, scientific miracles, healing – all these are accomplished through the force of right reason.

The lesson is that it is intelligence rightly used that accomplishes great things. In Star Wars, we see that the Force is the power rightly used to bring a civilized society into a civilized society. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Aquinas would applaud George Lucas’ depiction of “the Force” as the only power to order society – because all these philosophers realized that it was true rationality that provided humans with law, order, and civilization. Even natural law requires rationality to see it.

Star Wars actually gives a pretty accurate political picture of how human intelligence can be thwarted to accomplish society evil. Evil politicians are always flexing the force of their intelligence. When men appeal to the “dark side” you have bad things happen like this:

So next time somebody at donut hour after church says, “Yeah, I used to love Star Wars, but I don’t let me kids watch it. It’s so unbiblical,” brush off your philosophy skills and go to work. Remember: Force does not equal God. Force equals human rationality.

And remember, next time you turn into a rage monkey and start living according to your passions, you’re becoming more and more like Darth Vader. Don’t do that! You may not have a death bed conversion where someone takes off your helmet and give you a last chance.

Want to learn more about Catholic philosphy, theology, and Thomas Aquinas, join the New Saint Thomas Institute and take classes online: New Saint Thomas Institute Waiting List.

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Question: Okay, let’s talk about it. Do you think rationality or intelligence is the right lens through which to analyze Star Wars? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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