By now we are all familiar with the Facebook Star Wars meme; When I watch Start Wars and hear the line, “May the force be with you,” I respond “And also with you.” It’s a humorous similarity that many Catholics have observed between the now legendary series and their faith. The similarity exists on purpose. George Lucas has admitted that the inspiration for his films and characters came from many sources, classic literature, westerns and more. Among other influences was various aspects of Catholicism. Specifically, the Jedi Knights were inspired by the long-gone monastic military orders of the middle ages. The Order of Malta is the only one of these monastic orders remaining (pictured above, looking like Jedi), though their focus is now no longer militarily!
In the original scripts the name for the Jedi Knights was actually the Jedi Templar, from the Knights Templar mostly known for their role in the Crusades and later their controversial dissolution. So it is no wonder many aspects of the Jedi Knights and their force wielding remind of us of our faith! There is a reason why the Jedi meditate, represent an ancient code of ethics and even dress like Dominicans, Franciscans and Benedictines. For as many similarities exist between the Jedi Knights and the Knights Templar there are many fundamental differences as well.
I think most of us prefer to pretend like the Star Wars prequel trilogy didn’t happen. But it did. I was relatively young when Episode I: The Phantom Menace hit the theaters. The movie came out about one month before my tenth birthday and I remember lining up to go see it. I saw it three times in the theater, a record I wouldn’t beat until I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer Stone four times, including opening night. As a child who had only recently discovered video games, I was mesmerized by the special effects. Alas, when I watch the same movies again almost two decades later, I realize that that is all they had going for them. Beneath the now outdated CGI the series did make some shallow attempts to touch on the greater themes of life. One that stuck with me was a memorable line from Episode I. After meeting the young Anakin Skywalker for the first time Yoda warns the boy; “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” It has a familiar ring to it. The formula sounds vaguely familiar.
“The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace.”
-Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta
I recently read an excellent blog post by Monsignor Charles Pope where he examines the nature of fear. To read Monsignor’s blog click HERE. All emotions and passions have their place within our own lives and society, context is key. As Monsignor Pope notes fear can be a good thing. On a physical level it is good to fear a grizzly bear. Similarly fear of God is commended to us in scripture.
The fear of the Lord is life indeed; filled with it one rests secure and suffers no harm.
It would seem to me that Yoda missed the mark. It is a catchy saying, much like President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s, “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!” But these sayings are just that, catchy but devoid of any real substance. Both are attempts to inspire without any real depth of wisdom or truth. Furthermore scripture teaches us to rejoice in suffering, not shy away from it.
But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed
-1 Peter 4:13
In light of these Christian ideals I propose an alternate to Yoda’s skepticism of fear, perhaps one that would more closely align with the beliefs of those monastic orders Lucas sought to mimic.
“Fear of the Lord is the path to life. Fear leads to obedience. Obedience leads to humility. Humility leads to the embrace of suffering.”
-3rd Order Templar Knight Dane Kietzman
It is in this genuine entering into and embrace of suffering, which follows fear, where passive empathy becomes virtuous compassion. Compassion, I think even the great Jedi Master Yoda would agree, is far from the Dark Side.