John Clark is an author and speechwriter. His first book Who’s Got You? reached #1 in the Amazon Kindle “Fatherhood” category and his new book How to Be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford A Decent Cape was just released by Guiding Light Books. He has written hundreds of articles and blogs about Catholic family life and apologetics in such places as Seton Magazine, Catholic Digest, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review. A graduate of Christendom College, John and his wife Lisa have nine children and live in Virginia.
The latest installment of Star Wars, The Last Jedi, has led to countless arguments and objections among the galactic fan base. And though it may be a fool’s errand to look for Christian ethics in Star Wars or other popular movies, it is clear that movies can have a formative effect on viewers, and that they often present teaching moments. When such moments arise, we should make the most of them. In this case, I’ll look at the common objection that Luke Skywalker would not have turned away from The Force.
The Last Jedi opens with Luke living on a remote island, on an even more remote planet, apart from the rest of civilization. Luke has seen his star pupil turn to the “dark side of the Force,” and he has run away and hidden. He has not turned to the dark side, but he has for the time being, we are led to believe, rejected the Force and his role as master. Though he blames the pupil, Kylo Ren, for his fall, Luke mostly blames himself. His best works seem to have amounted to nothing. Thus, he has given up.
For many fans and viewers, this does not seem like the same Luke Skywalker who so bravely fought in the other films. They object: This could not be the same character! Luke would never turn away!
In another fantasy story, maybe the hero wouldn’t turn away from the good. But to believe that real people do not turn away from real good, even after choosing it, is itself a fantasy.
In real life, people often turn away from the good. Sometimes it happens in one sudden act of rebellion, as with Adam and Eve. Much more often, it happens slowly.
It can even begin with an obstinate refusal to pursue perfection, as was the case with the rich man in Matthew 19: “When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” It can be a refusal to accept a particular teaching, such as we hear in John 6: “After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him.”
We can argue about why they turn away, but that people—even heroes—turn away is obvious.
The sad truth is that people seem to turn away from even the ultimate good, God, all the time; as has become evident in almost every recent poll on the subject. And aren’t all of us acquainted with at least a few fallen-away Catholics? Most of them likely never had a grand plan to leave the Church—but they did leave. Yet somehow, in the midst of all this, we can settle into a spiritual easy chair and believe that we could never fall.
It is a dangerous conceit to believe that we have reached—or can reach—a spiritual level in this life from which we cannot turn away from God. Even the greatest saints have faced some of the greatest temptations. The heroism of those such as Saint Thérèse of Lisieux—who faced a barrage of temptations near the end of her life—does not lie in their inability to sin, but rather in their free will victories over temptation. Simply put, they were always on guard against the attacks of the devil, and we must be as well.
As St. Teresa of Ávila, in The Way of Perfection, writes:
In every respect we must be careful and alert, for the devil never slumbers. And the nearer we are to perfection, the more careful we must be, since his temptations are then much more cunning because there are no others that he dare send us; and if, as I say, we are not cautious, the harm is done before we realize it. In short, we must always watch and pray…
But while it is dangerous to think that we have reached a state of unshakable faith in this life, so is it dangerous to think that we have fallen past the point of no return. Though we may have turned away from God, we can turn back to Him while we live. If our friends and family have turned away from God, they can turn back, and we must pray that they do. Even in the Star Wars universe, Luke Skywalker had a friend come to lead him back. Maybe we can be an instrument that helps our friends return.
We must pray for grace in good times, bad times, and in all the times in between. Specifically, we must pray for the grace of final perseverance, which is “the preservation of the state of grace till the end of life.”
And never forget that our very Faith is a precious gift from God that must always be protected, nourished and treasured.