Star Wars: Lessons in Love and Fear
Star Wars was one of the most successful film series ever made. It finally closed with its last episode in 2019, “The Rise of Skywalker” to disappointing reviews. However, this does not detract from the timelessness of the themes underlying the entire series, that is, the classic battle between good and evil, between the chivalrous Jedi knights and the dark Siths. The heroes and anti-heroes of the Star Wars franchise find its fullest expression in Palpatin (Sith) and Rey (Jedi), who actually turn out to be grandfather and granddaughter.
This film takes on the familiar themes of the hero’s journey from innocence to wisdom, and the anti-hero’s journey from idealism to corruption. Throughout the film, there is the reference to the “force,” a neutral power that can be harnessed for good or evil. The force is harnessed by good through great love (as when Obi Wan Kenobi sacrifices his life to strengthen Luke or Han Solo allows his own son to strike him down dead). The force can be harnessed by evil through fear and anger (as when Anakin Skywalker is filled with fear over the loss of his loved ones that he ends up killing the Jedis, including the little children training to be Jedis.)
I particularly love the famous line of the wise old Jedi, Yoda, who said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hatred. Hatred leads to suffering.” Fear is the undoing of Anakin Sky Walker as he journeys into darkness. It is his fear of losing his mother and then of losing his wife that leads him to have all forms of anxieties, resentments, and anger. Eventually, he sells his soul to the evil Emperor Palpatin to secure his future, only to realize that by doing so he has sealed his damnation. All his fears are realized. He loses everyone he loves. Tragically, he loses himself and his very humanity and becomes the menacing machine known as Darth Vader.
Fear is the first step into darkness. The phrase “fear not” is repeated 365 times in the Bible. Here are just some of the more famous biblical phrases that tell us not to fear:
“Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34)
Why is fear so insidious? Fear is the antithesis of faith. When we fear, we do not believe. Fear removes peace. Fear enslaves us in all forms of bondages. Fear leads to all forms of vices: cowardice, anger, hatred, and envy. Fear led Peter to deny Jesus three times. Fear led the Egyptians to enslave the Jews. Fear of losing his power led Pontius Pilate to allow a grave injustice to be committed under his authority. The Pharisees feared the truth. They feared the light that will expose their corruption. They feared the loss of power. Fear is the beginning of evil. The only antidote to fear is love. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (1 John 4:18).
At the end of the Star Wars franchise, The Rise of Skywalker, there is redemption for Kylo Ren. At the point of death, he makes one act of heroism—that of saving Rey from annihilation by the evil Emperor. He is Ben Solo again, son of Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa. In this act of love and sacrifice, fear is driven away. Love prevails. The order of the universe is restored. Perfect love drives out all fear.