I. Star Wars
Palm Sunday starts Holy Week. In Part 1, we visited the Garden of Eden as seen in the analogies with the movie Avatar. Like Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, darkness covered the world in Star Wars. Instead of fallen man, we see a fallen angel. Lucifer, once the angel of light and prize of heaven becomes consumed with pride and declaring that he is greater than his creator. No longer the star of light, he is kicked out of heaven and associated with darkness and evil as satan. Likewise, in Star Wars, we see a brilliant Jedi, Anakin Skywalker, esteemed as one of the best Jedis ever. He buffets himself, consumed with arrogance, turning from the light of the Force and gives in to the dark side as Darth Vader.
If Vader is not Satan per se, he is definitely the agent of darkness for the Emperor. However, just as the Bible says that God is not left without a witness, neither is the Force left without a savior. Biblically, it is important that the savior takes on human qualities of man – “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Unlike other gods and religions, in Christianity we see a great, omnipresent, omnipotent God take off his power and glory to humble himself in the form of man to suffer and die to redeem his creation unto himself. God’s act of becoming flesh is the antithesis of man’s defiance in the Garden of Eden and Lucifer’s arrogance and pride in heaven. God becomes savior when he humbles himself as man, walks among his creation, living and socializing with them to die to redeem what once rejected him as creator and lord (Adam and Eve).
In Star Wars, the savior comes from the offspring of Anakin, now Darth Vader. Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker are the means by which the Force and the world are to be redeemed. Like Jesus, young Luke Skywalker spends much of his life in a normal working class environment, on the outskirts of the galaxy. Although Christ was always aware of who he was (God the son in flesh), Luke’s true lineage is hidden from him by his aunt and uncle to protect him. Like Christ, an event happens that catapults him from obscurity to savior. For Christ, it is his first miracle turning water to wine. For young Skywalker, the death of his aunt and uncle start his journey to savior/Jedi. Just as Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, so too Luke is tempted by Vader to join the dark side revealing that he is Luke’s father. That declaration incites anger in Luke making him realize his own potential for darkness. Good and evil dwells in all men. Circumstances and convictions are the things that separate us from depravity.
Instead of Luke’s crucifixion, in the end it is Vader that dies. But before his death, like the robber crucified next to Christ, Vader seeks redemption from his son and encourages him to overcome the Emperor and the dark side.
For a futuristic version of the dark side with martial arts that rivaled Bruce Lee’s style, we turn to the Matrix. Follow the white rabbit may as well said follow the innocent lamb that takes away the sins of the world. The religious symbolism is rather blatant. In the Russian novel, The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov coined the phrase that the greatest trick of the devil is making the world believe that he does not exist.
The greatest trick of the Architect in the Matrix is that the world does not know that he, the Matrix, and agents exist. Just as the Bible issues an ultimatum – “chose ye this day whom you will serve, God or man,” so does Morpheus to Neo. The Matrix exists, but you must chose to believe or not believe – red pill or blue pill. One let’s you continue to live in the Matrix without knowledge of its existence, the other pill takes you into the darkness of the beast. Ah, there’s the rub. Enlightenment does not mean serenity. As Jesus told his followers, following him did not mean no suffering, happy ever after, wealth or prosperity. “In this world, you will have troubles, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” Likewise, Morpheus instructs Neo that taking the red pill only begins the journey, but be of good courage for Neo is the savior of Zion.
Neo is reluctant to put on a savior cape, but curiosity induces him to stay in Wonderland to explore how deep the rabbit hole goes. There is the Oracle – a sort of John the Baptist foreshadowing the savior Neo. The agents represent the fallen angels and darkness that has covered the earth. As the Bible says, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The agents represent the rulers of the darkness assailing Zion.
Like Jesus, Neo is betrayed by Cypher. Instead of thirty pieces of silver, a succulent steak dinner suffices. As Cypher betrays Neo, Morpheus’ ship, the Nebuchadnezzar, is under attack. The symbolism behind the ship’s name is too much for this post but will be revisited at a later date. Neo’s death by Agent Smith and resurrection from Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) speaking life of who he is – the ultimate symbolism of the crucifixion and resurrection. There is a new day in Zion as Neo, like Christ, descends into hell (the Matrix) and defeats Agent Smith, setting the besieged Nebuchadnezzar and Zion free. Yet freedom does not mean a happy ending, “for in this world you will have troubles, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” Just as Jesus was alive on earth after his resurrection, a resurrected Neo remains for the battle of Armageddon where he finally overcomes the Matrix and the Architect, establishing a new earth where all are unplugged and enlightened in a new Zion.
In the Bible, God uses ordinary and unlikely suspects to do great and mighty works. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” The religious symbolism in Lord of the Rings is overwhelming. Let us begin with the meek, humble, and least of these – hobbits Frodo and Samwise. Frodo is given the ring by his uncle Bilbo. Gandalf is Frodo’s savior and protector. Frodo’s mission is to destroy the ring that represents the apple that destroyed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Frodo’s disciples represent different walks of life mimicking the motley crew of twelve that Christ assembled for himself. Some of Frodo’s followers sought fame (Boromir), while others sought the truth (Aragorn the true heir of Isildur refusing to take the throne). There are many versions of saviors in the Lord of the Rings.
As Christ’s disciples scattered after the Garden of Gethsemane, so too Frodo is left alone. On the road to Mordor, there is internal strife (dwarf versus elf) and a Judas, Boromir. When the group detours in the caves to avoid the eye of Sauron, things fall asunder. Sauron has corrupted a great wizard, Saruman, a former friend of Gandalf who has fallen to darkness like Lucifer. In the cave, Gandalf must give his life and descend into hell fighting Balrog, a great demon, to save Frodo and the others. Chaos descends as Frodo and the others escape the cave into the forest presuming Gandalf is dead. However, a new leader and savior emerges in Aragorn and help comes via Arwen, who sacrifices her eternity as an elf to become one with Aragorn. As the disciples scatter, Frodo and Samwise encounter darkness (Gollum) on their journey. Gollum represents man’s fall from grace as Smeagol’s lust for the ring makes him depraved enough to kill Deagol – not unlike Cain killing Able. Gollum is also the Judas that betrays Frodo. Unlike Boromir who sought forgiveness from Frodo after his attempts to take the ring, Gollum is so reprobate that he is beyond redemption.
In Return of the King, Armageddon happens between Sauron and Zion (aka Minas Tirith), the white city of kings. Not only is the battle against Sauron and the forces of darkness, but also the struggle of humanity in the form of the steward, Denethor’s refusal to recognize Aragorn as the rightful heir endangering the lives of citizens and his lone surviving son, Faramir. Man’s struggles with lust, pride, and arrogance has always been his downfall. However, just as the Biblical book of Revelations, the king of glory returns to his rightful throne (Aragorn and Arwen) to establish a new earth.