1 Feb 2023
Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Featuring Dr Andrew Mark Henry
At first glance, Star Wars appears to be a fictional world built with religion and religious ethos: The Jedi live an ascetic lifestyle (much like Jesus, the Qumran community, Buddhist monks, and other religious orders), they dress kind of like Franciscan monks, they have a temple to gather in, they are guided by prophecy, and await deliverance to a better era by a "chosen one" figure; and let's not forget, Anakin Skywalker is literally the product of a virgin birth. Yet, probe a little deeper and you find most of that world building is only surface-level, falling apart under scrutiny. In this episode, join us as we ask Dr Andrew Mark Henry, What, if anything, does Star Wars have to offer those of us interested in religion? And how could George Lucas have created a better realized narrative? Our conversation focuses on the third installment in the Star Wars saga, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) - the only film of our season with a failed "chosen one".
A practice of austere self-discipline, and abstention from certain behaviours and material comforts.
Asceticism can be seen in many religious traditions (practised, for example, by members of Christian monastic orders, within Islamic mysticism, in Jainism, and in some types of Buddhism). However, the specifics of the practice differ according to the religious group, including which worldly comforts are avoided.
One who practises self-discipline, austerity, and abstinence; sometimes, mortification of the body. From the Greek askētēs, meaning "monk".
From the Greek, kanōn, meaning "measuring rod" or "standard". Can refer to a corpus of approved writings (or other works), comprising either (i) writings genuinely considered to be those of a given author; or (ii) writings traditionally considered to demonstrative of a particular genre, culture, nation, language, or set of beliefs. Canon can also refer to: a principle (or, ethics); an ecclesiastical law; an official list of saints; or, a cathedral dignitary.
The Christian Bible is considered canon therefore, because it is a collection of texts recognized by an authoritative body (religious leaders) to be genuine or authoritative. However, just as there is no one set of religious leaders in Christianity, there is no one Bible either: The Anglican, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Assyrian churches, for example, each have their own canons. For this same reason, the Jewish canon, the Tanakh, differs (in the selection of texts and/or how they are ordered) from Christian Old Testaments. Though the concept of canonicity comes mainly from Christianity, many religious traditions have a set of texts or books given a special authority within that tradition.
The texts and writings included in the Old Testament canon by the the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and Assyrian churches, but not included in Protestant canon.
Nag Hammadi Library -
A set of early Christian and Gnostic texts dating to the 3rd and 4th centuries. Buried in a sealed jar, the library was discovered in the upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945.
One who possesses special knowledge of spiritual truth (good and evil) and of the illusory nature of the world, or gnosis.
Many thanks to Dr Andrew Mark Henry for his time and expertise.
Andrew is a scholar of early Christianity with a research focus on late Roman magical practices and demonology. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Mind and Culture, a non-profit research centre in Boston, MA. Andrew also manages Religion for Breakfast, a hugely popular YouTube channel dedicated to online religious literacy education. You can find Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMarkHenry
Andrew has produced a few videos on Star Wars & religion for Religion for Breakfast, including: How Star Wars Explains New Testament Canon, Star Wars Fan Fiction Explains Early Christian Apocrypha, and Is Jediism a Religion?
Vincent A. Olea. "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 9: Iss. 2, Article 14 (2005).
John C. Lyden. “Whose Film Is It, Anyway? Canonicity and Authority in ‘Star Wars’ Fandom.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 80, no. 3 (2012): 775–86.
Kevin J Wetmore, The Empire Triumphant: Race, Religion and Rebellion in the 'Star Wars' Films (McFarland & Co, 2005).
Kevin J Wetmore, "The Tao of ‘Star Wars’, Or, Cultural Appropriation in a Galaxy Far, Far Away." Studies in Popular Culture 23, no. 1 (2000): 91–106.
Lee Clarke, The Buddhist and Taoist Influences that Underpin the Star Wars Universe. The Conversation (Dec 2002)
Adam Possamai. "Gramsci, Jediism, The Standardization of Popular Religion and the State." In Religion and the State: A Comparative Sociology, eds. Adam Possamai, Jack Barbalet, and Bryan S. Turner (Anthem Press, 2011).
James L. Papandrea, From Star Wars to Superman: Christ Figures in Science Fiction and Superhero Films. (Sophia Institute Press, 2017). - Chapter 3 for Papendrea's discussion of Star Wars
Michael Jindra. “Star Trek Fandom as a Religious Phenomenon.” Sociology of Religion 55, no. 1 (1994): 27–51.
Sean Guynes and Dan Hassler-Forest, eds. Star Wars and the History of Transmedia Storytelling. Amsterdam University Press, 2018. OPEN ACCESS.
Michael B. Charles. “Remembering and Restoring the Republic: ‘Star Wars’ and Rome.” The Classical World 108, no. 2 (2015): 281–98.
John S. Schultes. "Any Gods Out There? Perceptions of Religion from Star Wars and Star Trek," Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 7: Iss. 2, Article 3 (2003).
Timo Tekoniemi. "Editorial In(ter)ventions: Comparing the Editorial Processes of the Hebrew Bible and the Star Wars Saga," Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 22: Iss. 1, Article 37 (2018).