Jim Denison on ‘Star Wars’ and the 12 Steps of the ‘Hero’s Journey’: Finding God in Surprising Places

Jim Denison is the founder and CEO of the Denison Forum, a nonprofit Christian media organization that comments on current issues through a biblical lens. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the last film in the last Star Wars trilogy, opens in theaters today.

I remember my first Star Wars film as if it were last week. I had never seen such technology on a movie screen. And when Luke destroyed the Death Star, the cheers shook the theater.

We’ve been cheering for the Skywalkers for forty-two years since.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, the Star Wars business has been good business for DisneyThe Force Awakens grossed $937 million domestically, the most of any movie in box-office history. Disney’s new streaming service launched with a Star Wars spinoff called The Mandalorian; Disney reported that ten million users signed up a day after the service launched.

An immersive Star Wars-themed attraction called Galaxy’s Edge opened this year at Disney parks in Orlando and Anaheim. The attraction sells $20 Blu-rays, $84 Darth Vader gold rings, $32 Chewbacca kitchen aprons, and $199 lightsabers as well.

“A FUNDAMENTAL EXPERIENCE THAT EVERYONE HAS TO UNDERGO”

What explains the remarkable generational popularity of the Star Wars franchise?

Dr. Travis Langley is a professor of psychology and lead writer of Star Wars Psychology: Dark Side of the Mind. He explains that Star Wars creator George Lucas “deliberately wove the most successful elements of heroic epics from throughout history into his story.”

Dr. Langley points to Lucas’ use of Joseph Campbell’s work on the “Hero’s Journey,” which Campbell based on Carl Jung’s writings about the power of archetypes and myth.

According to Campbell, the hero takes twelve steps:

  1. Living in the ordinary world
  2. Hearing the call to adventure
  3. Refusing the call
  4. Meeting with the mentor
  5. Crossing the threshold to leave the ordinary world
  6. Testing allies and enemies
  7. Approaching a challenge
  8. Facing the ordeal of death or a great fear
  9. Gaining the reward but facing the risk of losing it again
  10. Taking the road back to complete the adventure
  11. Facing the resurrection—one more severe test, a possible moment of death and rebirth
  12. Returning with the elixir—the hero has been transformed.

Shortly before he died in 1987, Campbell told reporter Bill Moyers that this “journey” is “a fundamental experience that everyone has to undergo.”

THE “GOD-SHAPED EMPTINESS” IN US ALL

Campbell is right: we are all on a journey toward God’s purpose for our souls. Unfortunately, many attempt to reach their supernatural destination through natural means.

Observant Jews strive to obey the 613 laws of God. Muslims live by the Five Pillars of Islam. Buddhists seek to follow their Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. Hindus practice ascetic rituals as they attempt to progress through multiple reincarnations toward their concept of salvation.

As Pascal noted, there is a “God-shaped emptiness” in each of us. Like the Skywalkers, we battle the Evil Empire in our hearts and our world as we seek to fulfill our ultimate destiny.

But unlike the Skywalkers, none of us can complete the “hero’s journey” without the help of the one true Hero.

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Source: Christian Headlines

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