Religious Themes and Motifs in the ST

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Religious Themes and Motifs in the ST

Post by snufkin on Wed 15 Nov 2017, 12:23 am

Spend the afternoon listening to the soundtrack (done by the same composer who did Coppola's version of Dracula) for the early 1990s miniseries centered around the Protestant Reformation reminded me of one of the earlier discussions here about the whole business of Light and Dark. Plus whatever angry Old Testament God and Tree of Knowledge/Adam and Eve themes we could see in TLJ and the ST. Especially when you have a filmmaker and 3 lead actors who were all brought up in Evangelical households, including 2/3 of the lead trio being preacher's kids. Plus there's the very obvious Gospel of Luke references throughout the franchise and Ben/Kylo possibly being the Parable of the Prodigal Son (and the Knights Templar imagery isn't a coincidence is my guess). From the old thread

@snufkin wrote:you wonder how far they'll go into the religious parallels, at least what's been tossed around here about the history of Christianity. Like were the Jedi in the Holy Roman Empire phase in the PT and that's when things finally splintered? Or for those of us more on the Protestant side of things, who's the Martin Luther kicking off the Reformation? Or is it a split between the Mainline and Evangelical/Holy Roller branches? It is interesting that you get these hints about the story with a director and 3 out of the 4 leads having been raised in Evangelical households, including 2 of whom are preacher's kids. Or the Gospel of Luke? You do get the impression that a lot of the super complainy fans about things being weak or needing vengeance are at best, Old Testament v. New Testament types.

@SoloSideCousin wrote:Lol @snufkin, you got me thinking who's Luther, who's the Jesuit and can Rey make peace between them before there is a Thirty Years War, lol? The PT Jedi could have the arrogance of an Innocent III, and I guess Snoke could be the Borgia pope ... but Snoke actually sounds worse than the Renaissance popes, more like a depraved (not Holy) Roman emperor like Caligula, especially if you follow logical paths of some of the subtextual elements of him being a predator and him having two beautiful men at each other's throats to please him. Then there was a rumor that Snoke was like the evil alien, yet under the guise of being Egyptian, rulers in Stargate ... so RJ might be borrowing things from all over. It's hard to know at this point.

But the common religious background is interesting. I'm Catholic from a city with large Catholic, Jewish and Lutheran populations, so my knowledge of evangelical denominations is limited. My husband was raised evangelical, but he left it before met him, so it's not a big topic of conversation. However, on the few occasions I have attended my mother-in-laws church, there has seemed to be more emphasis on the Old Testament than I ever got in church or Catholic school. My nuns in grade school were Italian or Irish Americans who I would run into at the movies and the video store and always went back to the Northeast for vacation when not teaching, studying for another Masters or playing guitar at Mass. And then at my next school all the nuns wore Birkenstocks and Romero was our touchstone movie. So needless to say, I got a New Testament focus and a "God is love" liberal one at that. I think plenty of evangelical churches lean NT as well, if people like Joel Osteen are any indication, so I definitely don't want to paint with a broad brush. Every individual church/parish has its own personality.

But that being said, I have read enough AD interviews to get the impression that the church of his childhood was pretty hard nosed. Was RJ raised in something similar?

Childhood in any more extreme version of any faith always has some backlash with some people reaching for freedom the other way and searching for more nuance. If RJ came from an overly strict background that could definitely find a way into his work, especially with the arrogance of the PT Jedi.

And in Google cache because the original post is gone, but there's a great summary of a podcast interview he did with Kevin Smith about his work on Breaking Bad which turned into a discussion about their respective religious upbringings:

In an odd turn of events, Johnson mentioned off hand that he was raised Presbyterian and Smith(who was raised hardcore Catholic) kept prying just a little further with each comment. Before I knew it, two of my favorite Hollywood heroes were talking God and theology and how it had shaped who they had become. They had my attention as my nerves were set on fire and my adrenaline kicked in to hinge on their every last word.

Johnson was raised in an Orange County evangelical home and to my surprise still had a great amount of intimate knowledge and respect for the tradition he was raised in. In the podcast he talked about how the church was his social network and his understanding of the Biblical text directly and indirectly had informed how he told stories and had made successful TV. Even though he may have arrived at a different conclusions than what I’ve come to, his journey questioning his faith, his love of film, and his career goals sounded almost identical to my own(including his interpretation of South Park’s “Go God Go” commentary). This was clearly a very intelligent person with a creative vision who had a love for the stories that inform us on a daily basis whether it is the stories we tell ourselves to create our own realities, the movies and literature we all consume everyday, or the the stories told to us as children.

Johnson went into thorough detail on how he wasn’t allowed to watch certain movies and how he got around his parental red tape by reading novelizations of all the movies he wasn’t allowed to see in theaters.

The religious/faction discussion was part of trying to figure out what happened at Uncle Luke's Bible Camp. Which is a fantastic discussion, BTW. But being from the land of Lotus Eaters, my first thought was potential parallels to cults with the different factions shown in the ST, both political and Force affiliated

@snufkin wrote: I come from an area that has attracted "Lotus Seekers" and communes for at least the past century and based on history, there are plenty of examples where idealism is overcome by human nature in the worst way. Jonestown and the People's Temple being the most extreme example. But there have been lots of little alternative communities both from the 19th century anti-industrial/End of Time groups and back to the earth communes that have flamed out pretty spectacularly. So it's not hard for my mind to go there about things falling apart pretty quickly during a crisis.

@SoloSideCousin wrote:This is a really good point. With no Jedi apparatus backing him up and no settled canon in terms of rules or religious texts, Luke's community would very much be like those small, start-up groups. And such groups are really vulnerable to imploding if the leadership is bad or if the faith in the leadership dissolves because the whole thing tends to be based on the cult of personality of the leader. In other words, it's all about Luke being the last Jedi and his history of defeating the emperor. He doesn't even have a standard Bible or Koran or Torah or Talmud kind of text to work from. He is actually searching for those materials to remake the canon. In real life religions there are a lot of books/writings that never made it into the final product for a variety of reasons. However in those cases, there would be a decent number of religious thinkers contributing to the debate.

With Luke who is making that decision as to what is a good text or not? Luke! With maybe a little input from the likes of LST. I imagine Luke has been trusted to make those decisions because he is supposed to be in the Light and because the Force (the SW version of God or the Holy Spirit or angels) is guiding his thinking. But when it turns out that this great arbiter of what is right and what is wrong turns out to be a Force Devil's son, all of that falls apart. The cult of personality disintegrates ... and if some of the followers had family that suffered under that devil (Vader), the fall-out could be insane ... especially since the Jedi had a history of teaching that dark side users had to be eliminated by death ... with basically no questions asked. Yoda and Obi-Wan sent Luke to kill Vader. Who says that the acolytes don't think that it's their duty to the Light to kill the dark siders in their midst? Luke and Ben. Talk about getting ugly.

Also, even if Ben was a total victim in such an attack (like the acolytes gang up on him and think he's dead and throw him down a well or lock him in a burning temple and he survives type of thing), he would still have made that "Skywalker mistake" of emotion first and reason later by letting himself getting to such a bad place that he was made vulnerable to Snoke. (Anakin did something similar after cutting Mace's hand. He could have run and gone to Yoda, told the truth and taken the consequences. Instead he totally capitulated to his despair). The falling to despair thing is very sympathetic and an understandable reason, but it's still a mistake that not everyone would make, but a Skywalker probably would. But after reading Bloodlines and seeing how much of a do-or-die fighter Ben's mother is (another Skywalker trait), I think there will probably be a fight. Ben will be initially justified in fighting back but then his strength and probably dark-fueled power will probably lead him to overwhelm his attackers in a rage ... putting him more in that crime of passion/manslaughter type of category than murderer category. He can come back from that, and still have it be complicated and in keeping with Skywalker tendencies. I think the difference between Ben and Anakin in this instance will be that Ben will fall into despair and self-loathing and will feel guilty, that guilt creating a mental highway for Snoke to overwhelm him ... whereas Anakin justified his passion killing and his hate. They've had two chances to show the darkness of pre-fall Ben so far in the TFA and Bloodlines and they still have not shown anything but the fact that Snoke was trying to push him towards the darkness. In TFA Leia blames Snoke and "wants him back", and in Bloodline there is no real mention of darkness in Ben at all. They could show some pre-Kylo darkness in Episode VIII, but I get the feeling that Ben was a better person than Anakin was.
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Re: Religious Themes and Motifs in the ST

Post by PalmettoBlue on Wed 15 Nov 2017, 9:56 am

This is fascinating stuff! I'd like to add that I've seen some discussion on Tumblr about Star Wars also drawing from Eastern as well as Western traditions, which helps to explain its universal appeal (well, broad appeal.)
I'll see if I can find the posts, but Jedi Whine Trick and The Sovereign Empress (IIRC) were discussing the Western/Christian need for someone to "pay" for their crimes as opposed to a more Eastern notion that simply living as a good person is considered redemption.
I only read it once, but it was an interesting take. I'll see if I can find it.
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Re: Religious Themes and Motifs in the ST

Post by snufkin on Wed 15 Nov 2017, 12:12 pm

@PalmettoBlue - that would be interesting to read as we've also had discussions here about Eastern religions. I def. get an Old Testament v. New Testament sense from where fans come down on the side of Justice v. Mercy (which is another thread on here from the early days). Can't speak for others, but I get the sense that a lot of us here who had some type of Christian upbringing come from the social justice/New Testament/God's grace wing of our respective denominations. Raised Methodist myself, with stories about how my ancestors were some of the lowlifes John Wesley ministered to during his sojourn in the Colonies (and parents hardcore enough that we attended Sunday services at his old church in London while in England). Versus some of the more typical fan discussions (which I tend to snark on as Bible Study about the Gospel of George Lucas), where it's like they're Calvinists in their stance about Kylo/Ben. Which you can't tell me that many people working on the project with an upbringing in the church and they don't immediately think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son? Or at least how a lot of fans insisting that 'he's going to get eeeevilller and eeevillller and die" come off like the Older Son in that story.
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Re: Religious Themes and Motifs in the ST

Post by MeadowofAshes on Wed 15 Nov 2017, 2:50 pm

Han and Ben on the catwalk is a pretty obvious allusion to Christ on the cross, what with the crossguard saber and Han choosing to love and forgive his son as he's being killed.
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Re: Religious Themes and Motifs in the ST

Post by reylo1992 on Wed 15 Nov 2017, 3:47 pm

A very interesting analysis about TLJ and Taoism:
https://mother-of-porgs.tumblr.com/post/167502680225/the-force-tree-and-what-it-really-means-for-kylo

Btw, if I remember well, someone on this forum already pointed out along time the similarities between Kylo's mask and this symbol:

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Re: Religious Themes and Motifs in the ST

Post by snufkin on Tue 09 Jan 2018, 11:57 am

New on Tor, maybe of interest to @SoloSideCousin because it touches on Irish v Roman Cathlocism. Also hits a point I thought of during TLJ, that the PT era Jedi and religious order Luke eventually rejects was meant to be like the Holy Roman Empire model.

The Evolution of Religious Iconography in Star Wars

While Star Wars is many things to many people, it is, at its heart, a story about a religious revival. If you look at the films chronologically, the stodgy Jedi Order collapses in spectacular fashion over the course of the Prequel Trilogy, leaving a few scattered Force believers looking for purpose in Rogue One, before a trio of Jedi Knights help restore balance in the Original Trilogy. But the Jedi Order Reboot also collapses spectacularly, and, in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, we’re back down to a couple of Force users who might be about to bring the religion back a second time.

I’m fascinated by the way the series uses parallels to real-life religious iconography to tell its story, especially how, in Rogue One and The Last Jedi, the filmmakers used some very specific references to create a richer and more inclusive galaxy far, far away.
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