My oldest son has absolutely no interest in football, but he closed his AP Statistic book and jammed over to our modest-sized TV during the Monday Night halftime break in the game between NY Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles to see the premiere of the first full trailer (3rd if you are counting the previous long teasers) of the long-awaited Star Wars: The Force Awakens. After the trailer was over, we all started singing the John Williams’ theme song and went back to work.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (U.S. Debut on Dec 18, 2015)
Image credit: LucasFilms and Disney

I remember when I saw the very first Star Wars film back in 1977, I was 9 years old at the time. What I enjoyed back then was the sense of adventure: Luke Skywalker looking up at the horizon and wondering what was out there in the vastness of space, thinking why I am stuck in this no man’s land of a desert planet (Tatooine)?! What kid could not relate to the sense of adventure and longing for something grander than the mundane aspects of life? 
    But now a little bit whole lot older, a trained theologian and New Testament scholar, I still love the original trilogy (sorry, folks, not much of a fan for the pre-quels) for the epic scope of adventure but more importantly, for the redemptive themes. In the first film, the redemptive moment was when Han Solo with Chewie came back to help Luke finish off the Death Star. But the longest redemptive character arc was Darth Vader and his story runs in parallel with Luke’s quest to become a Jedi or succumb to the dark side of the force (isn’t Luke’s struggle just a great analogue to Paul’s in Romans 7? Talk about apocalyptic!). 
    In the death scene when Luke Skywalker (much better last name than the originally proposed “Starkiller”) is trying to carry Vader off the soon-to-be-exploding Death Star, Luke stumbles and says to the redeemed-Darth-Vader-turned-back-to-Anakin:

  • [Luke] “You’re coming with me, I’ll not leave you here, I’ve got to save you!” 
  • [Anakin] “You already have, Luke… You were right. You were right about me. Tell, your sister, you were right…”

I was a high schooler when I saw the Return of the Jedi (1983), and I was trying to hide my tears in the darkness because I thought it was so uncool of me to cry. The packed audience I was a part of cheered when Darth Vader defeated the emperor but hushed for a reverent moment at the words: You already have, Luke! You were right… tell your sister, you were right.” Some clapped but most of us were so moved, the only thing we could do was be silent and take great inspiration from the redemption of a villain whom no one thought could be turned back to the force of good, whom no one dreamed could be saved.
    Yes, I’m probably being very nostalgic. But the theme of redemption is why I love Star Wars, even if George Lucas did not originally intend to make any explicit connections with the gospel. But that is what good theological thinking does: it takes the ordinary and extraordinary in life and sees how they reflect the timeless message of redemption by God. I hope (please, please don’t blow it J.J. Abrams and company!) that redemptive moments in the new series won’t be lost on the next generation of fandom. 
    But there’s potential! Rey and Han Solo have this great exchange: [Rey] “Those stories about what happened…” [Han] “It’s true… all of it… they’re real.” You almost wish Han added: So believe! 
   And did you hear the confession of the storm-trooper-turned-Jedi[?] Finn: “I was raised to do one thing… but I got nothing to fight for.” 
   With one redemptive turn, Finn might just find something worth fighting for! Now let’s watch the trailer a hundred more times…