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Friday, June 03, 2005
Star Wars or Star Peace???
Recently, on a visit to a large, growing church some of the staff gave me a tour of the media department. They were really excited about a short video piece they had produced for the children's ministry and wanted to show me. Apparently, the children's ministry was having a difficult time getting adult volunteers to help. With all the Star Wars hype in the culture, they decided to do a Star Wars theme. The production was unbelievable. . . . amazing. They had children from the church starring in the roles of Luke SkyWalker, Princess Leah, Yoda and yes, Darth Vader. Luke and Leah were attempting to get the Sign-up sheet out of the hands of Darth Vader in order to save the Children's Ministry from the "Dark Side." The cinematography was all original (no scenes cut from the actual film). They were proud (rightly) that they had only utilized a bit of the famous soundtrack. The film climaxed with the massive space ship landing on the lawn of the Church. Luke Skywalker walked into the sanctuary where he met Darth Vader at the altar at which time a violent light saber fight ensued. Darth Vader used his dark powers (lightning from hands) to knock Luke to the ground and he stood there with his red light sabre poised to strike the death blow. A hoard of children in costume, including R2D2 and others rushed down the center aisle, light sabres in hand and rescued Luke and the all important "Sign-Up Sheet."

I am told the piece was met with thundrous applause and approval from the congregation, and I am not surprised. The production was amazing. They told me it took them about 100 hours to complete with the light sabre scene taking the longest since they had to paint the light over the pvc pipes the kids used in the fight scene. I also understood they got their volunteers.

Since my 4 year old Son was not allowed to see Star Wars, I opted to show him this short piece as a kind of treat. From all the cultural hype of the story, David has become very intrigued and interested in the movie. Needless to say, his response from watching the short film was, "Daddy! Lets watch it again!."

But here's the kicker. The following day, as we headed to the airport, David brought the film back up in conversation. He wanted to know, "Daddy, why were Luke SkyWalker and Darth Vader fighting in the Church?" "Daddy. . . . they were breaking God's law. You can't fight and kill each other in Church." As much as I initially liked the cute idea and was awed by the video production skills, I had to agree with the 4 year old. He's right.

I think it was David Hart, in his book "The Beauty of the Infinite" who argues that there are really only two metanarratives. There is the story of agape (love) and the story of violence. The story of agape traces to Jesus Christ. The story of violence traces to Caiphas. Are we telling the story of Jesus or are we syncretistically slouching toward the story of Caiphas? The Church I'm referring to in this instance tells the story of Jesus in marvelously creative ways and yet the interrogatory of the 4 year old should challenge them. (You see the essence of syncretism isn't to cease telling one story. It's to muddle it up with others.)

The big question: which story shapes us? I submit it is the story we remember in worship and whose plotline we learn to imaginatively enact with our lives. Herein lies the tournament of Stories. A thousand of them vie for our attention. Tim Costello recounts this illuminating interchange with Ivan Illich. "Ivan Illich was once asked what is the most revolutionary way to change society. Is it violent revolution or is it gradual reform? He gave a careful answer. Neither. If you want to change a society, then you must tell an alternative story, he concluded." Most stories only inspire imitation. If we're honest, this is what tires us with our present church culture. We are at best copycats, mimicking the forms of contemporary culture. What we long for is imagination; not something new but original creativity.

Star Wars is not a new story and while it is impressive, it lacks real imagination. It's interesting that our Story, too, finds it's advent with a Star, only this one is the sign of Peace.


posted by John David Walt | at 6/03/2005 10:18:00 AM



Blogger gmw said...

You got me thinking about stories--so much so that my comment was way too long, so I made it a post over on my blog. Anywho, my favorite commentary on the power of stories (though I very much wish I was a better storyteller) is Rich Mullins in his song, "Boy Like Me, Man Like You," in which he carries on a conversation with Jesus, wondering about what life experiences they have shared.

"Did they tell you stories 'bout the saints of old? Stories about their faith? Stories like that make a boy grow bold, stories like that make a man walk straight."

Stories shape the world in which we live--giving us vision for the future and accountability in the present.

11:02 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

YES! YES ! YES! WOW!!! I'm speechless. Awesome post! Amen my friend!

1:23 PM EDT  
Blogger gmw said...

JD says "Most stories only inspire imitation. If we're honest, this is what tires us with our present church culture. We are at best copycats, mimicking the forms of contemporary culture. What we long for is imagination; not something new but original creativity."

Isn't the problem with humanity not that we imitate but that we imitate the wrong thing/s or one/s? Part of our problem is that we don't know the right one when we see it except through grace. In biblical language, we love darkness rather than light and our lives--what stories we give our allegiance to--reflect that.

Or are you getting at something else here?

7:03 PM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

I think you are right Guy. We will imitate something. The question is more like this: is our imitation driven by mimickry or is it born of imagination. I suggest that imagination comes from memory.

10:50 PM EDT  
Anonymous matt maher said...

the old testament is chock full of murder, betrayal, liars, thieves, prostitutes, donkeys, shepherd boys made kings, crazy prophets,the poor, the destitute, and how God intersected with them all - building to the incarnation -
- the problem isn't that our story is boring - the problem is how it is told -
- the church has a history of defining culture, and not imitating it - this is inculturation - where the word becomes flesh - and we become the word we preach. it is also incarnation - happening again and again and again.
- Mike Pilivachi gives a talk about the "Christian Castle" - where the church basically retreats inside a bubble - i think that the christian "sub-pop"-culture that exists is exactly this - and instead of engaging culture - instead of baptizing it from the inside out - we try and imitate it hence we have christian music, christian clothes, christian movies, christian plumbers, christian everything - instead of influencing the trends, we copy them- you're so right, JD.
- so we pray for a new renassiance - of culture that stems from the gospel of life, and not one that imitates the culture of death.

6:17 AM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

Any of you blogger friends out there know Matt Maher? You should go onto ITunes and buy some of his music. He is writing and leading worship from a rich stream of theology. And he's my friend. Check him out. If you are looking for a good entry point-- get the song "Love has Come." You will see what I'm talking about. He sings the narrative and the Trinity in a very rich and compelling way.

7:53 AM EDT  
Anonymous Scott said...

thanks for the idea.

bill hybles

5:12 PM EDT  
Blogger Michel said...

One of my favorite moments in CS Lewis's Voyage of the Dawntreader is when Lucy reads a spell in the Magicians book "For the refreshment of the soul". As she reads it she finds it is more a story. A story that she loves so much that she hopes she can read it again but... alas, she cannot turn the page back to read it again.
So she asks Aslan when he appears to tell her the story. He then promises her that he will tell her the story over and over again. More he promises to tell the story to Trumpkin the dwarf who is waiting on the seashore for King Caspian to return from the voyage. This story is a source of strength and beauty and I think I have caught glimpses of it here and there even in the secular world... even in Star Wars.

This image of story inspired some of my most intimate, but maybe not best written verses of poetry: "I will tell you your story on cliffside, seashore, cathedral stone."

My favorite stories are the ones that remind me most of the grand story. In the same way that: "From then on, Lucy's favorite stories were those that reminded her of the story in the magic book."

1:10 AM EDT  
Blogger brandon said...


I love the last bit of your blog about imagination. In Richard Bauckham's book The Theology of the Book of Revelation, he discusses the need for John to use fantastical imagery in order to get the churches to begin thinking again, really thinking. I think that like the other quote, imitation becomes an art form for our lives, rather than creative or inavative thoughts. But the things that Christ did and said were so other than anyone could have imagined. He taught people how to learn to think all over again. I am going to blog about this. Thanks for the inspiration.

2:45 PM EDT  

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