How Keeping the Sabbath Holy Is Like Being a Jedi

YodalukedagobahOne of Luke Skywalker’s frustrations in The Empire Strikes Back is that he is stuck on Dagobah while a war rages around the galaxy. His friends are racing away from the Empire while he’s standing on his head and lifting rocks in a lonely swamp. Giant ships play hide and seek among asteroids and face off against weird monsters, and he has to listen to proverbs from a little green preacher.

This is the life of a Christian on Sunday.

While the rest of the world continues to run around having adventures, those who would be spiritual warriors are quietly pondering ancient scriptures at home, listening to sermons in meetings, singing resolute and reverent hymns with a small community, and otherwise holding back from the normal fray in order to develop inner spiritual strength.

It’s often boring. It seems like a waste of time, just as Luke thought he was wasting his time. But such periodic training is necessary to really be ready for that fight of life during the rest of the week.

Standing on his head and lifting rocks was the best thing Luke could have been doing at that time–he needed it so he’d be able to resist the dark side and help his friends.

Ditto for us. We need the Sabbath and its observance. It may seem odd, but such time apart from the public battles is part of our life as disciples.


Rogue One Reviewed

download-1Q: Let’s get right to it: Is this a good movie? 

A: Yes, this is a very good movie. Definitely go see it.

Q: What’s your new power ranking for the franchise?

A: Rogue One is a worthy entry in the series; however, just as it comes between the two existing trilogies in the timeline, it comes between them in quality, as well.

  1. The Empire Strikes Back     2. Return of the Jedi     3. The Force Awakens     4. A New Hope     5. Rogue One     6. Revenge of the Sith      7. Phantom Menace     8. Attack of the Clones

Don’t let that low ranking fool you–it’s only because the films above it are so awesome. Rogue One is a terrific bit of entertainment.

This is my purely subjective preference, though. Actually, I think that, as a film, Rogue One is better made than The Force Awakens.

Q: Is this film really dark? 

A: Yes, though it’s not a tragedy–it’s a tale of triumph in the face of overwhelming adversity.  But here’s the thing: this movie is an experiment. Disney wants to see if the Star Wars universe can support different kinds of stories. I think the risk totally paid off.

But they’ve given us something new here: there’s no gee-whiz childlike wonder in this movie. This is a gritty film about adult choices; it’s a meditation on redemption through sacrifice for a greater good. Thematically, tonally, structurally, it’s not at all like most Star Wars movies. It is, however, closest to The Empire Strikes Back.

I read one review that likened it to Ocean’s 11. That was dumb. It’s much more like Saving Private Ryan. In a good way.

Continue reading

Steps Scene from The Hidden Fortress (1958)


This brilliant scene showcases the physical vitality of much classic film (especially in the work of director Akira Kurosawa), as opposed to the relatively unrealistic style of film today.

This scene is also an homage to the Odessa Steps scene in the even older Russian classic Battleship Potemkin (1925).

The film itself–particularly the two bumbling low-class men from whose vantage point the story is shown–heavily influenced George Lucas in the making of Star Wars (in which those characters become R2D2 and C-3PO).

The Sacrament Prayers As A Heroic Epic

The promissory elements of the sacramental prayers, especially the prayer on the bread, can be seen as an enactment of a typical heroic arc.

I’ll illustrate here with images from that typical hero’s journey, the Star Wars saga. It’s not perfect or in order, and I hope you don’t find this irreverent, as this analogy makes Darth Vader into Jesus (though there really are clearly some aspects of the Savior used in the character of Anakin Skywalker). In these pictures, Luke Skywalker is each of us as we take the sacrament.

The first thing we as individual participants do is to eat “in remembrance of the body of thy Son.”


“in remembrance of the body of thy Son”

A great hero has fallen, his life given for the good of others, and the young disciple (or in our case, disciples) who must now carry forward the legacy of his work must, first of all, mourn and find strength from the sacrifice of the elder master.


“they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son”

The fallen master’s legacy is now conferred on the next generation, who “take upon them” (physically, spiritually, or both) some talismanic aspect of the master (be it a lightsaber or a holy name).


“and always remember him”

Here’s another example of becoming literally more like a great heroic mentor through continual remembrance–Luke’s bionic hand. In our case, eating the sacramental bread itself could fill this role. (The work and clothing of the temple fit here as well.)


“and keep his commandments which he has given them”

Armed with committed resolve and the basic emblems of the way, the young disciple(s) now must live the way with increasing fullness, through a life of practice, tests and trials, and general faithfulness as they embark on their own version of the master’s journey. This training is ongoing and episodic, like a series of scenes in a movie franchise, or over the course of our daily lives. Either way, growing in strength through regular obedience to the laws of the way is expected.


“that they may always have his Spirit to be with them”

The reward for demonstrated faithfulness to practicing the way of this order is to have the eternal, spiritual presence of its holy divinities with the young disciple along the path of the dangerous journeys ahead. These spiritual guides offer blessings and gifts that aid the hero on his ever-maturing way (“Use the Force, Luke” or “Choose the right,” perhaps).

This pattern could also be illustrated with scenes featuring Obi Wan more, or figures like Gandalf or Dumbledore. The point here is to invest the great words of our compact little sacrament prayer with the majesty they deserve. It’s a simple routine for us, but one that can and should have profound meaning.

Keeping in mind this pattern of a heroic journey as each of us takes the sacrament each Sunday might help us realize its importance and power. It may only last a few minutes, but this ordinance has the ability to orient and refresh us after a long week of heroic journeying, and prepare us to continue fighting forward.

5 New References in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

So I just made a video out of my various observations about the new Star Wars movie.



Clearly, this is all that’s been on my mind. Even on Christmas Day, as I put together a desk for one of my kids, I saw a subtle Star Wars reference in the hardware kit that came with it:


The New Star Wars Trailer–A Cinematic Appreciation

The best thing about the new Star Wars teaser trailer is how thoroughly cinematic it is.  Most trailers, especially teaser trailers, are just a lazy mess of spotlighted clips.  This one, though, was clearly constructed with a specific narrative arc in mind.

It naturally falls into three acts:

Act I: Establishing character and setting

First we see Tatooine, then we see a hero.  The hero is tired, sweaty, and scared.  And alone.  That’s how we know he’s a hero, despite the Stormtrooper uniform–villains never appear so beleaguered in Act I.

The soccer ball droid reassures us that two big mainstays of the series are still present: innovation and whimsy.

The next shot reaffirms the first: a panicked, lone hero in a hurry.  No coincidence here: clearly, we’re meant to know that this film will show our new protagonists in a fractured, oppressed state, desperate to escape a threatening presence.  This, of course, is highlighted by the gravelly voiceover.

The fourth “scene” reaffirms the second: a reassurance here, not of innovation and whimsy, but of action and equipment.  Few series are so rooted in their weapons and vehicles as Star Wars, and this part of the trailer shows us J.J. Abrams doing what he did with Star Trek: preserving the bets of the old while updating its peripheral elements.

Continue reading

5 Things The Star Wars Prequels Got Right

Yes, they’re awful movies, but there are some great things about them that we should be able to acknowledge despite that.

1. The music.  John Williams’ “Duel of the Fates” is a terrific theme, as are its derivatives.  Totally worthy of the series.  The usage of the theme was even judicious, never becoming obnoxious.

2. The titles.  The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith are great names, in full harmony with the original three–nostalgic, evocative, melodramatic.  Too bad the content didn’t live up to the promise here.

3. The conspiracy. Continue reading

Why I Never Bothered Finishing Eragon

I’ve started many books which I’ve stopped reading before they were finished–some after only a few chapters, others when I was halfway through–but there has only been one where I read far more than half and then decided that I had wasted enough time on it.  That was Eragon; I only had 50 pages left when I stopped and never looked back.  I quit because at that point, the rest of the book was clear and my hope that it would get better was fully crushed.

I thought I’d bring this up now since the last book in the series has just started dominating the best seller lists, like the fantasy equivalent of another Adam Sandler movie: dishearteningly popular despite total stupidity.

Speaking of movies, in a footnote (see #71)  to his scathing review of the Eragon film, which somehow managed to be even more bland and lifeless than the novel, Eric D. Snider pinpoints the imaginative failure of this story:

Here’s what happens in the movie version of “Eragon.” A petulant young man without parents lives with his uncle on a remote farm. The boy finds an object belonging to the imperial ruler, and the ruler sends soldiers to the farm to retrieve it, killing the uncle in the process. The boy then meets with an old man whom the locals consider crazy, and he explains the boy’s destiny, training him in the ways of an ancient art that is no longer practiced but which was once a powerful means of keeping peace in the world. The old man himself was once a practitioner, and in fact so was the imperial ruler; they were friends, even. But the ruler suffered a great personal loss and turned to the dark side, becoming evil and standing by as nearly everyone who practiced the art was killed. It is now up to the young man to be trained in these ways so he can do battle with the imperial ruler and defeat his evil empire.

Continue reading

Whom Should Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Send After the Truant Senate Democrats?

"14 Democrats frozen in carbonite, coming up!"

When it came time for the vote on the controversial bill that Wisconsin’s teachers are ditching work to protest, it was stalled because the Democrats in the state senate–all of them–got on a bus and ran away, out of state.  The governor has dispatched the state troopers to find them, but I don’t think that’s good enough for these gutless cowards, subverting the will of the people as made manifest in elections, by pandering to their special interests. 

When something similar happened in Texas a few years ago, Governor Rick Perry sent out the Texas Rangers (the law enforcement officers, not the athletes) after them.  Sadly, Wisconsin doesn’t have access to the Chuck Norris squad, so perhaps we could offer him some other options.  Tell me which one you like best.

Star Wars As a Dispensationalist Allegory

It’s a common quip that Mormon nerds love to make analogies between their church and Star Wars.  Short of some of the generic ideas about faith in the series, though (“I don’t believe it!” “That is why you fail.”), I haven’t actually seen much commentary from anyone linking the two. 

Now, Star Wars is not exactly deep theology, but after the release of the dreadful prequel trilogy, I did notice that the overall story arc meshes with our understanding of history pretty well.  In short, the original saga tells the story of a Restoration, while the newer three episodes go back to tell the story of the Apostasy.  In Episodes IV-VI, truths and powers that had been lost by persecution and rejection are slowly brought back to life as a new generation of heroes are called upon to start the work over.  Episodes I-III go back to show us just how those truths and powers were lost.  In fact, I started making this connection when I saw Yoda and Obi-Wan talking, and Yoda confessed that the Jedi Order was weakening and was not as close to the Force as it had once been.   I immediately pictured a late-first century meeting of church leaders to discuss the growing distance of the Spirit from their organization.  When the Jedi were exterminated in Episode III, I saw Apostles being beheaded, run through, and crucified head down. 

This is hardly a point-by-point metaphor.  Obviously, there are huge differences between Star Wars and church history.  However, with this basic template in mind, more than few solid correspondences can be made:

Church history figure Star Wars character Shared traits
Joseph Smith Luke Skywalker Conflicted young man from an obscure, pastoral setting is called upon by events around him to rise up and form a new order—a restoration of an older, lost order
Moroni Obi-Wan Kenobi The last human survivor of the lost order, he disappears from the setting until the founder of the new order is ready, whereupon he delivers early messages to the young man and begins his training
The priesthood The Force A supernatural power that had been lost with the destruction of the old order, which is bestowed on the new founder and which he learns to use from the survivors of the lost order.  Requires faith and effort to operate.  Is treated lightly by nonbelievers
Continue reading

Yet Another Star Wars FAIL

Near the beginning of Episode II, when Obi Wan has jumped out the window and is hanging on to the droid that tried to kill Padme, and the assassin sees the droid and Obi Wan coming towards her, why the heck does she shoot the droid?  Wouldn’t it have made much more sense just to shoot Obi Wan?  But I guess then the movie would have been over. 

On a related note, perhaps she could have asseverated vertiginously with a dichotomy of pulchritude.

Star Wars Pun

Even in my long, storied career of making bad puns, this may well be the very worst:

Obi-want Kenobi and Lack Skywalker each got a chance to fight Dearth Vader.


My apologies.  This headache-inducer grew out of my attempt to illustrate to a class what “dearth” means.  I don’t think it was especially helpful.

Star Wars FAIL

I enjoy the Star Wars movies, but I’m not nearly so rabid about it as many of my generation.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve especially liked two things I’ve read recently: this, a detailed reflection on the several awful drafts of the first Star Wars script before the 1977 movie was finally made, and this, a run down of some of the biggest logical loopholes in the physical designs of that universe. 

The best part of the latter is reading the superior comments from readers, and the best part of the former is seeing just how many of Lucas’s original ideas–which were far too lame and got cut from the first Star Wars film he made–mostly got recycled and ended up in the prequel trilogy.  As if we needed more vindication for hating Episode I. 

Speaking of the prequels, here’s a huge failure of reason from Episode II that I’ve never figured out.  Why the heck does the Republic, much less the Jedi, trust the clone army in the first place?  Obi Wan finds that the army was created–allegedly–under the secret auspices of a dead Jedi master, but was clearly done so without the consent of the Jedi council.  Further, the army was patterned after a mysterious bounty hunter who tried to kill Obi Wan.  And didn’t it strike anyone as suspicious that this army just happened to show up at the precise time that the Republic found its resources strained by new hostilities and in need of more muscle?  Shouldn’t that alone have made people leery of bringing these guys on board?

I mean, if America were suddenly under increasing siege, and the president’s advisers found that someone had just finished secretly training an army for decades under the orders of a former high ranking general–but who had launched the program without the authorization of the president–and those soldiers had been trained and molded in the exact pattern of a known terrorist, wouldn’t you think we just might not send those guys right into action for us? 

Please, if you can, someone explain this to me.