by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.
“Tell me a story, Mommy,” my daughter demanded night after night. Her enthusiasm for stories continued to grow as she grew into an avid reader and frequent moviegoer. I suspect our thirst for a good story is never quenched throughout the ages.
Storytelling has long been a useful forum for teaching and learning. Maybe Christ Jesus believed this — he frequently taught spirituality through similitude and parables using themes, settings and characters his audience could most relate to. His lessons still capture our attention today and give us reason for reflection.
Perhaps we should not be so surprised that religious themes and imagery are appearing in popular culture’s medium for storytelling — from books to films to television to music to technology.
There is a growing awareness of the impact of storytelling. Many religion and philosophy professors argue that fictional books and movies can lead to a deeper faith and understanding of one’s spirituality.
This summer’s movies, The Da Vinci Code and X-Men: The Last Stand are only the beginning. Coming soon are Superman Returns, Click, and Lady in the Water. Flicks like these touch on spirituality through such themes as connection, sacrifice, redemption and reconciliation. Topics worthy of consideration, I would say.
My own spiritual journey took on more serious focus “a long time ago in a theater far, far away.”
It was a day I will never forget. It was one of those unsuspected, defining moments of my life. I saw movies most every weekend, but Star Wars was unlike any movie I had ever seen.
In 1977, I was a freshman in college. My interests were boys and having fun. That was pretty much it. At that point in time, an education or a career were not high priorities. Nor were things spiritual. I probably went to see Star Wars swept up by the anticipation hype of the day with my friends. All I know is I saw it not once, not twice, but dozens of times.
In Bill Moyer’s interview with the director, George Lucas, Lucas said he hoped the Force would “awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people” — one that was more about a “belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system.” One that would simply make young people think. Well, his hope proved true for me.
I can honestly say that in 1977, it was the first Star Wars episode that prompted me to think more spiritually and to broaden my perceptions to consider how one action begets another. The “Force” reminded me of the Higher Power that unifies all creation. That all of creation has a purpose — including me! Yes, for me the Star Wars sagas were much more than mere tales of science fiction.
I found great hope in Anakin Skywalker’s character — hope that promises no one is beyond help, that it’s never too late to change. The same kind of hope exemplified in the parable of the prodigal son told by Christ Jesus.
I think perhaps Anakin’s greatest flaw was fear. He became intoxicated by fear. Thus he was led to believe and do that which he should not. As he succumbed to his fear, Anakin’s doom was sealed. This reminded me of a statement made by Mary Baker Eddy, “A man’s fear, unconquered, conquers him, in whatever direction.”
I was relieved and heartened by knowing he would be redeemed. His “fall” would not be the final chapter of his life.
From watching the Star Wars tales, I’ve concluded that if fear is the answer to the question — what makes men do evil? — perhaps love is the answer to the question — what redeems us from evil? Love was certainly central to Anakin’s redemption.
I’ve often thought about a simple, yet compelling, statement of Eddy’s — “The time for thinkers has come.” A statement that I believe is an imperative call for people in all ages. Why? Because all too often it’s possible to just accept an opinion, viewpoint or prognosis without question. Because we can sometimes get duped into a decision that is not the best for us.
Those six words — “The time for thinkers has come” — were engraved in my heart the first time I read them. I really like the idea of being an independent thinker. And I love anything that gives me reason to think.
There have been many stories told in books as well as on television and on the silver screen that have made me think and that have taught me helpful lessons through their imaginative tales of life and adventure.
Perhaps any storytelling forum that results in people pondering, even questioning and debating, religious beliefs and issues is a good thing.