Monday, April 13, 2009

Star Wars, Twilight and Easter

This Good Friday, Josiah and I watched Star Wars Episode I, which he hadn't seen yet. (We of course introduced him to the Star Wars movies in the correct order; we worked through the original trilogy first a few months ago.) Then we watched Episode II on Saturday. I know these prequel movies are fairly weak compared to the original trilogy, with insufferably cheesy dialogue at times, but they've grown on me somewhat over the years. I welcome them as more opportunities to revisit the galaxy far, far away.

Also this weekend Ellen and I watched the movie version of Twilight, as well as all of the bonus features. I thought the movie did a good job of capturing the style and mood of the books, with appropriate romantic tension, suspense and danger. It's been a few years since I'd read the first Twilight book, so I went back and started rereading it to refresh myself on the details.

Oh, and there was Easter Sunday too.

I found myself caught between these various narrative worlds this past weekend. It struck me that watching Star Wars makes me want to be a Jedi. (I already have a blue Force FX lightsaber.) Watching Twilight makes me want to be a vampire. That would be cool. But reexperiencing the Easter story doesn't necessarily make me think, "Oooh, I want to be a disciple. That would so rock."

I know I have a propensity to want to inhabit whatever world I'm vicariously experiencing at the moment. When I read Chaim Potok's classic My Name Is Asher Lev a few years back, I totally wanted to be Jewish. When I saw Rent last week, I really wanted to live in that New York arts community, where everybody bursts into song as a narrative soundtrack to life events. So it probably makes sense that I wanted to be a Jedi vampire this weekend. Except that it's Easter, and I should probably have been reflecting more on what it means to follow the resurrected Jesus.

I think that in some ways, those of us who are overly familiar with the Christian story need to reenter it through other portals. When I read the Gospels, it's not surprising anymore - it's a bit been there, done that. We know how the story goes. But when I do a mental pop culture mashup between Christianity and something like Twilight, then things get interesting again. Because when I watch Twilight, I'm hit by the sense of longing for the beloved, the willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of another, the desire for eternal life, issues of ultimate purpose. The tagline for the movie is a great theological question: "When you can live forever, what do you live for?"

So I don't feel too bad about watching vampire movies or Star Wars while celebrating the resurrection of Christ. Thinking about them together is actually more interesting than contemplating any of them on their own.


Anonymous said...

I can relate to wanting to be whatever you're reading at the moment. I just finished Mirror to the Church by Emmanuel Katongole & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and am now in the middle of The Bishop of Rwanda by John Rucyahana, and last night found myself wanting to move to Rwanda and be part of the Anglican church there. It's enough to make me want to transfer to the AMiA!

I reflected last evening that this is a common effect for me, so I had to chuckle about your desire to be a jedi vampire!

Al Hsu said...

I'm a member of an AMiA church, and I read Mirror to the Church a few months ago--powerful stuff. Emmanuel is a great guy; I worked with him on his Reconciling All Things book for us (and worked with Jonathan on his Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers).

I remember a few years ago when Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution came out and everybody immediately said they wished they could live like Shane and the Simple Way do. Many of us suburban Christians are tempted to feel like we should "go where the action is," that God is doing exciting things in other parts of the world and that we're missing out if we're not serving in those kinds of places. The greater challenge, I think, is figuring out how to live as Christianly and missionally in our immediate context.

Kacie said...

This cracked me up. I want to be transported through time to Lost island.

Or Jewish, that works too. I went to a messianic synagogue a few weeks ago, which was a really interesting and cool insight into the Jewish church. It was awesome.

Anonymous said...

Indeed; I am often challenged with this conundrum. Remember back when Blackaby's Experiencing God was the big hit in evangelical circles (ca. 1997-98 perhaps)? One of his big statements was that we should find out where God is working and go there. I remember thinking that certainly wasn't what William Carey or Adoniram Judson did.

On the other hand, it is difficult to ignore the systemic evils that the losing of a parish or neighborhood mindset have contributed to, and it is impossible to ignore the centrality of God's concern for the widow, orphan, and alien.

On yet another hand (may I borrow one of yours?), who is more lost than the comfortable and deceived? It often seems to me that the myriads of divorcing, therapy-consuming, consumption-addled denizens of suburban pews who mindlessly sing praise songs from 10:30 to 11:45 each Sunday represent perhaps the most unreached and lost population of America.

At least the down-and-out junkie knows he's in need of salvation. Like I said, I'm pulled multiple directions on this critical question.

Sorry to make so serious a light-hearted post...

Al Hsu said...

Kacie - A couple of my friends have visited the Lost set in Hawaii. They have pictures of themselves on the Lost beach and at the Others/Dharma compound. I'm so jealous.

Julie said...

great way to spend easter :)

Yesterday Emma told us that she doesn't want to read the Jesus story book because it was boring. In her imaginative world populated with fairies. princesses, and yes, jedi, it is the fantastic that reaches her. I'm okay with that - since I find the same tendency in myself. Reading about those who are all I am plus so much more like Jedi or vampires is the perfect way to to deal with the "so much mores" of life.

but honestly - who wouldn't want to be a vampire jedi?

Janelle said...

Hello Al, I found your blog via a facebook link posted by my friend Coleen. As my husband and I (and our son Elijah (!)) begin our search for our first home in suburbia, I find your blog very interesting and am definitely going to check out your book. I would also like to recommend a book to you. It's called Star Wars Jesus and it's written by my brother-in-law. You can link to the book here:
Thanks! Janelle

craiger said...

i completely agree. i believe god can teach us many things through the same story. we as christians constantly ignore god because "we've heard this one before" i have unfortunately done this myself. just another thing to work on. god bless!