Not long ago, my daughter and I went to see the latest Star Wars movie. The content has always been New Agey and I’ve been under no illusions as to it being otherwise.
So I was interested to see how CNN’s Dan Burke dissected “The Last Jedi” in terms of its religious content, or lack thereof.
You may ask if this is really a "news" subject. Look at the size of the "Star Wars" audience and its influence over multiple decades. Next question?
Burke sees this new movie as a symbol of a higher indifference to traditional forms of religion found among today’s Millennials and suggests that this attitude got picked up by the filmmakers. I’m not so sure the makers of “Jedi” thought it through to that point. Still, read on:
"Star Wars" has always kept its fingers close to America's spiritual pulse.
In the '70s and '80s, the interstellar saga explored Eastern traditions, mainly Buddhism and Taoism, just as many "spiritual, but not religious" dabblers were doing the same.
At the turn of the millennium, "Star Wars" caught the McMindfulness craze. "The Phantom Menace" opens with two Jedi talking about the benefits of meditation. Riveting, it was not.
But the latest film in the saga, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," touches on trends in American religious life in some surprising ways, especially for a franchise that's so nakedly commercial. ("The Last Jedi" was the highest-grossing movie in the United States last year and raked in nearly $1.3 billion worldwide.)
"It is very much a movie of this time," said the Rev. angel Kyodo williams, a Buddhist teacher, social justice activist and "Star Wars" aficionado who lives Berkeley, California. "It draws on ancient teachings, as well as what is happening in this country right now."
Is the movie trying to make a statement about organized religion or its demise? And if “Star Wars” really kept its finger on America’s pulse, it sure didn’t reflect any of the Christian revivals that happened in that same period. And there was a lot more going on in America amongst the monotheistic religions than the non-theistic ones.