The new Star Wars movie hits tonight. It’s giving me the shakes.

CWHmfNcUwAA-pGJTwo years ago, I shared this post with Mockingbird readers as Disney announced the J.J. Abrams helmed Star Wars VII. Can you believe it? Some have been waiting for this movie release for 30+ years and the countdown is almost over. Tonight, at 7pm, we’ll know whether or not to have a “new hope” in this latest franchise reboot.

I won’t speak for you, but it’s been a hard two years for me, and not because of the long wait. We’ve all suffered the endless think pieces and hot takes about how Star Wars relates to the Bechdel test and immigrant crises. A parade of shameless advertisements has invaded this galaxy, with marketing executives putting on stormtrooper helmets so we’ll buy a Chewbacca-themed Furbies. I can’t go to the gas station anymore without a bag of chips appealing to my childhood sense of wonder to sell me stuff.

A quick pair of anecdotes: I had my prized collection of Star Wars trading cards stolen while I was in the lunch line at the middle school cafeteria. My home-made Jedi robe was also stolen when I wore it to school on Halloween. Being a Star Wars fan meant being an outsider for a major chunk of my adolescence. And now the characters that inspired me to give up the search for popularity are on bottles of coffee creamer.

There’s a school of thought in church history which can quickly turn into a conspiracy theory, but it’s helpful none-the-less. The Gospel starts out as good news to cultural outsiders- the fringes of society, people who are deeply in touch with their various states of need. In Jesus’s ministry, for example, those folks were the physically disabled, prostitutes, political sell-outs, and other second-class citizens of the time. As the church gains followers, those with influence and power granted Christianity “insider status,” taking a thing for losers and assimilating it into the identity of winners. In that process, the heart of the gospel is lost. The name of Jesus becomes a tool for differentiating between insiders and outsiders, distorting the original message that we are all outsiders but by God’s grace.

maxresdefaultIt’s almost two opposite trajectories. As the Christian religion slides out of favor with”insider culture” in the United States, the cultural cache of Star Wars nerdom is on the rise. Quoting Admiral Ackbar in your social commentary? Not a trap anymore. Star Wars has gone mainstream beyond selling toys- now it also sells cars to the kids that once bought its toys. This is a very different universe than the one I knew as a pimple-faced teenager.

This evening, I will know whether or not I, the outsider, still belong in a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars is at its best as an action packed prophecy that light will triumph over darkness, that the plucky, diverse, righteous outsiders will eventually beat an evil totalitarian regime of insiders. Words for our time, for sure, if you can hear those words through the whirlwind of commercials and clickbait. That hope of eschatological triumph for outsiders is what blew my mind as a wide-eyed grade schooler.

Will the new trilogy reaffirm that hope? In my last post I joked that the odds of J.J Abrams recreating that childhood magic was 3720:1, a play on C-3PO’s estimated odds that Han Solo could successfully navigate through an asteroid field. What I didn’t share was Han’s response to 3PO’s fear – “Never tell me the odds.”

If so, I’ll probably leave the theater in tears of joy, reconnected with my childhood hopes and dreams. If not, I’ll probably join the dark side. We’ll find out in a few hours.

 

Addendum: The author of this post has joined the Dark Side.