Evangelism Explained by Star Wars

This post is another attempt to parallel Christian themes with Science Fiction themes for hopefully relevant conversation among nerds.

Star Wars is coming out with another MMO game in the near future...I might need a bib to catch the drool. But more interesting than the actual game is how it deals with the tension between good and evil, Jedi and Sith, particularly in the ways that the Sith critique the Jedi...with some parallels for biblical evangelism methods, believe it or not.

Table of Contents:

  1. Jedi Intellectualism of using the intellect to spread the Gospel
  2. Sith Emotionalism of using emotional means to the Gospel ends
  3. Force Awareness of using attractional power to embody the Gospel

Read on for more!

Evangelism #1 - Jedi Intellectualism
Student v. Teacher
Here's an interview with one of the game's designers, with this great nugget critiquing the Jedi's teaching pedagogy:
"If you give brash young people almost god-like powers and ask them to behave... you're asking for problems. You're dealing with someone in their early twenties, who has never been able to be thwarted by anything, and you tell them not to play with these Sith artifacts—of course they're going to think they can handle it."

Erickson leans forward to make the point. "You're training children to deal with this power, and then demanding them to be incorruptible, and holding them to a standard that we don't even ask from any of our own societies. We looked at these issues and said, 'We could come up with an entire thematic run with this.'"
The Sith critique of the Jedi training has three parts:

  1. Give Jedi Apprentices immense power
  2. Demand Jedi Apprentices be incorruptible
  3. Demand that Jedi Apprentices deny their emotions

When using the bible for evangelism, often we do something similar to the Jedi:

  1. Give students a Bible, which is a source of immense power in argument and lifestyle conversations.
  2. Demand students be incorruptible to doubt and do not let doubt interfere with their biblical evangelism.
  3. Demand students deny emotions that don't help spread the gospel.
This is called Evangelism by Intellectual Assent.  In short, we give students a powerful book (the Bible), teach them inerrancy (remove doubt), and have student turn off emotions that are not useful for spreading the Gospel truth (deny emotions). This is "if you died today where would you go" conversations in the hallways, for instance. Then use sheerly intellectual arguments to talk about the Bible whereby it becomes intellectually stupid to not consent to the Gospel truths...DING! Notch on the evangelism belt.

In a way, this is unsustainable given the relentless march of intellectualism and intellectual disproofs of the Gospel, particularly biblical inerrancy.  It's fighting a constant battle of out-smarting the others who disprove the biblical parts.  It requires a constant apologetic which is hard to sustain (not as far as Gospel integrity, but as far as evangelism methods...I hope you see the distinction).

Evangelism #2 - Sith Emotionalism
The Force Unleashed
Contrast this with the Dark Side pedagogy (from the same interview)

"What the Jedi call the Dark Side, and what came to be known as the Dark Side, these people believed that life should be about emotion. They believed you should be unrestrained, that the galaxy wants us to love and lust and kill and make art and cry and dream..." he trails off. I imagine him sitting on a throne, lightsaber under his right hand. This conversation started as two Star Wars fans chatting about the expanded universe, but now I'm starting to understand the draw of the Sith.
The Sith version of its pedagogy could have three parts too:

  1. Give Sith Apprentices immense power
  2. Demand Sith Apprentices be relentless and unfettered in their expression of that power.
  3. Demand Sith Apprentices embrace their emotions to their fullest extreme.
When using the bible for evangelism, often we do something similar to the Sith:
  1. Give students a Bible, which is a source of immense power in argument and lifestyle conversations.
  2. Demand students use any and all means to spread the Gospel
  3. Demand students embrace emotional ploys in spreading the Gospel.
This is called Evangelism by Emotional Assent.  In short, we give students a powerful book (the Bible), teach them that conversion is an end that justifies the means, and have students embrace emotions to overwhelm the other's facilities.  This is The Passion by Mel Gibson which relentlessly nails (literally) home the pain Jesus went through to save us.  This is aborted fetuses on protest signs eliciting emotional responses.  This is Halo tournaments or MMA fight churches that uses guns and violence as lures to teach the Gospel.  You can see the problems with this when taken to extremes, yes?

Evangelism #3 - Force Awareness
I sense a great disturbance in the Force...
Since the Star Wars universe is bifurcated into two extremes, we don't have a middle ground example to talk about Evangelism that denies intellectual or emotional extremes, even in the extended universe of the books.

Perhaps then we realize how relevant the Star Wars universe is when you step back from camps and look for shared abilities.  A shared ability between Jedi and Sith is Force Awareness, or being able to sense the Force in other people.  A strong Force user would be detected by other Force users when in geographic proximity, ie. Vader sensing Kenobi's presence on the Death Star.  If you are attuned to it, then you are attracted to it too and seek out what the source is of the Force power.  Practically every Star Wars book or movie deals with the attractional power of the Force.

This ability to be attracted to the Force is a shared one in our world too: people are attracted to others who are obviously tapped into the Spirit.  Perhaps then our Evangelism ought not be one based on power (emotional or intellectual assent) but on developing the attractional power of the Gospel.  Instead of arguing in the street, do acts of mission with one another and cause people to ask "what is up with that guy? Why do those things for other people?"  

In doing this, we turn the Star Wars universe on its head: everyone has Force awareness, not just the elite.  Everyone has this ability to detect goodness in others, and it is our happy task to make the goodness shine forth.  This is called Attractional Evangelism where people are not convinced of the Gospel Truth by intellectual or emotional might, but by seeing the very practical change that could take their life in a direction to which it would not otherwise go.

Perhaps we can stop using our power in growing the Church by force and instead focus on growing ourselves to be beacons of hope to all who seek something new.  In a world where the Empire grows by brute force, perhaps the Church can grow instead by walking the streets, working with neighbors, and gathering people who sense their presence and want to sense the call of the Spirit in their own lives.



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