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Monday, May 25, A.D. 2009
George Lucas Luther

Thirty-two years ago, Star Wars appeared in the movie theaters. What a wonderful movie!

However, it occurred to me this morning that George Lucas incurs a similar blame as that of Martin Luther. For Lucas took something that was beautiful and marred it significantly. The difference is that Lucas tarnished his own creation, while Luther messed with God’s. Uncle George has less guilt, then, than my friend Andrew’s ggggggggggggggreat-grandpappy Marty.

You may find it sacrilegious, or sacrilicious, that I compare Star Wars to Christianity, but I admit that Star Wars had a rather profound influence on my childhood. Luke Skywalker was my hero, I dreamt of flying an X-Wing, and, naturally, I wanted to be a Jedi Knight when I grew up. I pretended that our vacuum cleaner was my R2-D2. I bugged my parents to buy me the consumerist goods that made Lucas rich; I had sheets with our beloved droid odd couple, I owned many toys, and I used Star Wars shampoo. (Do you remember the bottles in the shape of the characters?) I even read most of the books.

George Lucas thus shaped my young imagination as I endeavored to live in his fantasy. To this day, I have retained a certain disgust for fire arms, and my soul aches when old Ben delivers his explanation to the young farm boy from Tatooine:

Your father’s lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized time. For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire.

Light summer action fare for teens, maybe, but the original movies have so many moments of pure movie delight. “Before the dark times, before the Empire.” It’s perfect!

So, back in the 1990’s, I looked forward to the second and glorious coming of my favorite Hollywood franchise. I celebrated the original movies’ rerelease in the late 1990’s. I sat through an awful movie that I cannot even remember to see the trailer for The Phatom Menace on the trailer’s opening day. I camped out to buy tickets for the first showing of The Phatom Menace. I did my part—and Lucas failed. Like so many fans, I feel somewhat betrayed by the new Star Wars trilogy of prequels. Of course, I watched all of them at midnight on the opening day, and I obviously saw them several times at the cinema. Still, the experience was like attending a sterile Congregationalist Sunday service after having lived the joy of traditional Christian worship. George Lucas Luther kept the name but threw out the spirit.

Now, it is true that Protestants occasionally muster up some beauty in their religiosity. I have always found the hymn “How Great Thou Art” wonderful, and I appreciate the dynamism of many “evangelical” bodies. Similarly, the prequels have their moments of movie magic. The architecture of Theed on Naboo was lovely, Natalie Portman was gorgeous, and the final prequel, Revenge of the Sith, helped to redeem the other new films. As Luther, Lucas could not utterly efface the glory of that which he corrupted. Yoda, like Paul, manages to call to us through the mire.

Nonetheless, Lucas scandalized me with his folly. What is his excuse? Dort steht er, er kann nicht anders?

Posted by Joseph on Monday, May 25, A.D. 2009
Fun | Moving ImagesPermalink

Totally agree with your take on Lucas and his tarnishing of the Star Wars series; although he certainly had a legal right to do so… it’s still a little sad.

However, your comparison to Luther has me a little confused.  All Luther did was condemn the errors which had entered into the church of his time.  Furthermore, as a Lutheran myself, you should know that (despite popular opinion to the contrary) most Lutherans don’t consider themselves Protestants - but view Lutheranism as rather a middle stream between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.  It maintains the Protestant distinction of Sola Scriptura as the final authority for doctrine, but also maintains continuity with the liturgical and Sacramental Church.  Luther (and all orthodox Lutheran Churches) have not abolished the mass or traditional liturgical worship.  The only church service you reference is congregationalist (which Luther would have deplored) and the hymn you mention was 1) not a hymn, but a gospel song, and 2) not even a Lutheran Gospel song at that.

Posted by Matthew on Monday, June 1, A.D. 2009


Thanks for the comment. If you read my religion section, you’ll see that I frequently give poor Marty and Johnny a hard time. As you note, traditional Lutherans may not be as far from ancient Christian practice as newer Protestant sects, but I think that Luther uncaged the beast. Once one asserts sola scriptura and once one cultivates hostility toward the continuous Christian tradition of the ancient and medieval periods, one effectively raises the anchor and thus allows his ship to drift waywardly in turbulent waters, moreover with a modernist prejudice against the very wisdom and sanity that could save the boat. When Protestants happen to retain Christianity, it—fittingly—happens by grace rather than by works!

You also distinguish between a hymn and a “gospel song.” I am not familiar with this distinction. What is the difference?  What makes a hymn a hymn?  Is this a standard Lutheran distinction?

I also see from your web site that you are very interested in Ethiopia. I hope that your exposure to Oriental Orthodoxy gives you a better idea of non-Western Christianity.

At least, we agree that old George has mucked up a great fantasy. Cheers.

Posted by Joseph from Arimathea on Tuesday, June 2, A.D. 2009

Well, I could write a volume or two on how and why I totally disagree with you about Lutheranism… but I won’t.  (although I believe quite strongly that Lutheranism is a joyful and purposeful return to the approach and hermeneutic of the Fathers).

But about the hymn versus song distinction?  I was really just being petty.  Sorry.  It’s not a religious distinction, but a musical one.  I was always taught a song like “How Great Thou Art” is a spiritual song because it has a chorus/refrain, whereas a hymn does not.

Blessings in Christ,

Posted by Matthew on Tuesday, June 2, A.D. 2009
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