Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 25, 2000
Obi-Wan Kenobi was a Catholic
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
In May 1999, coinciding with the release of Star Wars Episode One - The Phantom Menace, Maclean's magazine ran a cover story proposing the notion that, as they put it, "pop culture has become a new religion."
The magazine quoted Star Wars creator George Lucas affirming that "I put the Force into the movie to try to reawaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people. . . . I see Star Wars taking all the issues that religion represents, and trying to distill them down into a more modern and easily accessible context."
Uh. . . . reality check here. Lucas is a Hollywood movie producer, and he has the hubris to presume that he could even identify "all the issues that religion represents," let alone distill them into any sort of coherent construct - accessible or otherwise.
Nevertheless, Lucas has succeeded in instilling a quasi-religious sensibility in many Star Wars fans, as evidenced by the hundreds of people who lined up for days to buy tickets to the first screening of The Phantom Menace, and the alarming number who know the four Star Wars episodes in minute detail, some of whom can even recite the script dialogue by heart.
I have enjoyed science-fiction as entertainment since I was a kid. I like Star Trek, and I thought The Phantom Menace was fun in a lightweight sort of way I even liked Jar Jar Binks.
However, I tend to roll my eyes whenever Captains Kirk, Piccard, or Janeway, or one of the Jedi, begins waxing philosophical about the deeper "meaning of it all," - meaning which always seems to be pretty much Hollywood-style liberal humanist boilerplate. Spare me the ersatz profundity, please.
As Mary Jo Leddy, a professor of theology at the University of Toronto, remarked to Maclean's, "What is now being marketed is cheap grace." Mark Kingwell, a U of T philosophy professor, agreed, calling the Force "pantheism without cost - a spiritual belief without any ritual or commitment required."
"Easily accessible," as George Lucas would say.
Consequently, I found it deliciously ironic to read in an obituary tribute to Sir Alec Guinness, the actor who played the aging Jedi Knight and mentor to Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, in the original Star Wars episode, was a devout Roman Catholic convert.
Oscar-winner Guinness, who died on Aug. 5 at age 86, told Time magazine several years ago that "I am an alleged Christian, so to that extent, yes, I do believe that something like the Force exists. But not as experienced in Star Wars. "
Sir Alec wrote in his 1985 memoir, Blessings In Disguise, that several experiences drew him to, as he put it, "reconciliation with the holy Roman Catholic and apostolic Church," not least his son's perhaps miraculous recovery from polio at age 11. The elder Guinness was received into the Church in 1956, and confirmed later that same year.
He later wrote: "There have been moments when I have wished to turn away from Roman Catholicism, but they have been moments of personal dejection and acedia, and soon dispensed with." Guinness also made several pilgrimages to Rome, and met a succession of popes.
There is indeed a Force, but he is not the shallow, feel-good, whatever you want to make of it concept proposed in the Star Wars series. Guinness discovered the real Force - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and his Son, the risen Jesus Christ.
There is a deep hunger for spiritual reality among people in our post-Christian culture, especially among the young who have to deal first hand with the bleak and barren emptiness in futility of post-modern nihilism.
However, looking for spiritual substance in movies like Star Wars and The Matrix is both pathetic and ultimately dangerous - the quest for an easy and "accessible" quick fix of pseudo-spirituality as a substitute comfortable and undemanding placebo for the sacrifice and commitment real religion demands.
Easy spirituality will ultimately prove unsatisfying, sort of an analog of those fake, proprietary "fats" that add flavour and "mouth feel" to junk food, but have molecules too coarse for the body to assimilate, instead just passing through the digestive system to be excreted, and providing no nutritional value.
Popular culture as religion is junk food for the soul. Essentially it constitutes the same thing as that excreted fake fat, and unless supplemented with real nourishment, it results in spiritual starvation.
That is what Sir Alan Guinness discovered, and why in real life, as opposed to Hollywood fantasy, Obi-Wan Kenobi was a Catholic.
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