By Rebecca Flannery
According to a book written by Joshua Hays, research fellow for Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, Star Wars themes mimic those taught in Scripture.
Hays started writing his book, “Spiritual Perils of the Jedi Masters” when he was a seminary student and noticed the fiction’s ability to make scripture relatable to a group of students he led at church. Since he finished his manuscript in 2013, he’s been revising it and communicating with his publisher, Smyth & Helwys, about the releasing the book in the fall of 2015, a few months before the next installment of the Star Wars movie franchise.
Hays sat down with The Lariat to discuss where the force and Scripture collide.
Q: What inspired its start?
A: The idea for it started when I was a seminary student and it basically started as a way for me to process some of the things I was learning in my seminary courses in a way really different from classwork.
I started seeing these connections between the gospel and Star Wars and just started writing through it to process it for my own sake. At that same time I was teaching a Bible study at my church with middle school students and gradually I started introducing that material to them and it connected really well. The project took on a life of its own and grew from there.
Q: Can you describe the parallels you see between the Star Wars films and the gospel?
A: What I’m trying to do with my book is a little different than what other people have done. Of course there are people who try to debunk the Star Wars movies and say, the Force is not real, Jedi aren’t real And I certainly agree, but I’m trying to look at it and appreciate it as fiction and think, What are the themes that are true even though the images aren’t?
A lot of people have found parallels like that, like the importance of having a mentor, the reality of the struggle between good and evil and the importance of having a community of friends that are working together in the struggle.
Actually, in my book there are a little bit more than just the parallels. In fact, I’m sort of taking the opposite approach because there are messages that come out of the movies that are at odds with the gospel, like “only a Sith would deal in absolutes,” or “we’re luminous beings and not just crude matter.” So I try to point to some of those things and say that there are some things that are true and important to contend for. Being created people and having physical bodies is important, and that’s part of the gospel.
So, actually with this book, even more than just parallels I’m offering some critique but I’m doing it as someone who really appreciates and loves the movies.
Q: So you aren’t drawing hard lines to certain characters in the movies as being certain people in the gospel?
A: I would say it’s more ideas and themes that I see as connected. I wouldn’t say things like “Luke Skywalker is Jesus and Darth Vader is the devil.” I think when we start trying to push some of the analogies that far, they start obscuring and confusing people more than they end up helping.
Q: What are you hoping this book will do for the masses?
A: I guess I have two major goals for it.
The first is, I would like it to be a book that introduces the gospel to those who would not likely just pick up the Bible and start reading. In my experience, people in the science fiction community especially are pretty ambivalent towards issues of faith. So I’m hoping, by writing about movies they love and I love as well, I can introduce them to a much more important thing that I love.
My secondary hope for it is that it will help people who are committed believers who are interested in leading others, especially young people who would rather love to talk about Han, Luke and Leia. I hope this book can be a resource and a guide for them and helpful for shaping conversations.