By the Rev. Justin Clemente
A quick 600 word or less thought on culture and the Gospel…via the Last Jedi.
There’s this scene in Last Jedi in which the audience is being told something profoundly spiritual – something that very much connects with the spirituality of postmodern culture. I’m talking about the Cave Scene – the one where Rey gets a little too curious and is force-shoved (or something like that) down into the dark underbelly of Luke’s island. By the way, the movie location is actually Skellig Michael, where the remains of a Middle Ages-era Gaelic Christian monastery still stand today.
So, in the scene, Rey has a vision of a mirror of sorts, with an infinite number of “Reys” stretched out in front and behind of her. She finally comes to a hard, dark wall and believes this wall can reveal her parents to her (something a lot of fans have been waiting for!). What does she see? Only herself. This an obvious call back to Luke’s vision in Degobah, but on a another level, it signals something important for the new Trilogy (and perhaps the Trilogy beyond that one). What is it? Simply this – bloodlines don’t matter any more. So much of Star Wars is about family – shattered and broken relationships and redemption within those same bonds. Here, Rian Johnson strikes a different chord – he basically takes all of the fan theories and tossed them out. The message is clear: Rey’s parents were nobodies and don’t matter (Kylo Ren says as much). So, Rey is her own savior with her own destiny. Rey can unshackle herself from the past and chart her own course. How deeply this resonates with our culture!
And yet, how sad it is. What if you were at your wit’s end, suffering from, say, depression or addiction. What if you were told that on the other side of a certain door your savior awaited you – someone who could carry you on their back, lift you out of the very pit of despair? What would you do? You would open the door. And what if, in opening this door, you were simply met with a mirror. Yourself. Your own broken image. Would you not break down in hopelessness? Ah, but this so often how the world thinks of spirituality, and The Last Jedi demonstrates this. How often do the currents of our culture throw us back upon ourselves for redemption!
As apologist and author Peter Kreeft points out, religion is often thought of as a mountain, and “The unproved assumption of this very common mountain analogy is that the roads go up, not down; that man makes the roads, not God; that religion is man’s search for God, not God’s search for man.”
But Christianity is different. Christianity is God’s pioneering road to man, not the other way around. Here we have God coming into our midst that, in Jesus, we might see his face, know him through his cross, and live.
Revelation 3:20 gives us the image of another door to be opened. But behind this door we are offered not a mirror, but a negative image – Christ Jesus. He is one of us, but he is all that we are not. And that is good news.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.“