Miss Colombia was celebrating her victory as Miss Universe last night when host Steve Harvey broke in: “Okay, folks, I have to apologize. The first runner-up is Colombia.” It turned out, Miss Philippines was the winner. “I will take responsibility for this,” Harvey said. “It was my mistake.”
The news outside the pageant was far more tragic: A driver on South Las Vegas Boulevard killed a pedestrian and injured at least thirty-six others. When I saw the headline, my first thought was that terrorists were responsible. However, a police spokesman later ruled out terrorism as a motive.
The threat of terrorism has struck America again, however. A “specific threat of violence” closed schools in Nashua, New Hampshire today. All seventeen campuses are closed, affecting 11,400 students.
When the first Star Wars movie premiered in 1977, no one had heard of “radical Islam” or worried about terrorist attacks in America. Today, of course, this threat dominates the news daily. The battle between good and evil has never been more stark, or frightening.
Against this backdrop, the latest Star Wars film had the biggest domestic opening of any movie in history, collecting $238 million over the weekend in the U.S. and Canada. It also set records globally. Star Wars tickets and products have sold more than $32 billion over the last 38 years. (For comparison, James Bond has sold $8 billion.)
Why is this franchise the most popular in history?
Consider an interview with Eric Metaxas published last Friday in The Wall Street Journal. Eric is popular today in part because of his wit and winsome personality. I have been with him at several events in recent years, and can testify that he is as vibrant and optimistic in private as he is in public.
But an even deeper reason for his popularity is found in what he calls his “life’s thesis”: “we live in a culture that has bought into the patently silly idea that there is a divide between the secular world and the faith world.” He is exactly right. Eric’s message resonates because he speaks to faith issues in the secular world and secular issues in the faith world. His message goes to the heart, which transcends both.
So does Star Wars. George Lucas’s stories are secular, with no references to specific religions, but his central theme is deeply spiritual: The eternal battle between good and evil resonates in the universe and in every human heart.
We are drawn to his movies not just because they are great stories but because they are our story. We know somehow that we need salvation from the “dark side of the Force” just as much as anyone in the Star Wars universe.
I saw the latest Star Wars film last Friday, and thought it was perfectly timed for the Christmas season. Without giving away too much, I can tell you that victory over an evil empire comes from a courageous young woman, an unlikely young man, and a father who loves his fallen child. Do their stories sound familiar?
According to Eric Metaxas, we’re “dramatically underestimating” the search for “answers to transcendent questions” in our culture. The global popularity of Star Wars is proof. So spend time in the mysterious, miraculous manger this Christmas week. And look for opportunities to share the Child you worship with those whose hearts seek him.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out” (John 1:5 GNT).