The Gospel according to the Ewoks

Disney bought Star Wars for $4 billion! I simply can’t imagine $4 billion. I am confident that is enough to handle Han Solo’s debt to Jabba the Hutt. My first response was to be critical. Lucas had always said he would not allow anyone to touch his world. I believed him. Then he goes ahead and sells it to Disney. I thought, ‘How much money does this guy need?’ Then I heard that Lucas had to go and give all $4 billion away to charity to support education. I had to take it all back.

On one level this story is a great encouragement about giving and helping others. Lucas is not going to need a loan anytime soon but still giving away $4 billion can’t be easy. Any of us who have walked past a ringing bell and bucket at Christmas without giving know how we all have excuses we can give.

And the story also has another conversation element too it. Lucas’ story about Ewoks, Wookies, and Jedis is a great story. I confess I love Star Wars. I loved the original trilogy (which is actually part four, five, and six) and remember watching them when they came out and then waiting for each one with great anticipation. As a kid I remember talking to my friends about each installment with anticipation and eagerness. The beginning of the first movie is still one of the best movie scenes ever. The opening scene when Darth Vader comes aboard with his Storm Troopers still gives me goose bumps. And the ending to the second movie shocked me as a kid. I worried about Han Solo and wondered how in the world he would get out of that mess.

I also longed for Lucas to continue his stories. Back then he promised us three prequels and three sequels. Then they didn’t come and finally he said that this was it. Then he decided to do the prequels.  And I felt so disappointed when they came out. They did not have the magic. The introduction of the new character Jar Jar Binks says it all.  I was so disappointed. The stories were just dull. There was more flash but less fun. And so when he retired it all I was glad. I still had my original three and could ignore the rest. I never did get into the books and so my world was basically complete.

Then along comes Disney. Now we are facing part seven. A new trilogy followed by other movies, cartoons, and more Star Wars then we’ve ever seen. We are now facing more stories to be told by new writers and new faces are coming. At first I was shocked. Then I was leery. Then I got excited. It’s time for more to be told.

And so I thought about the church. We had our original trilogy. We’ve had some high days in our past. In North America we got organized, grew, built quite a story up. My own faith tribe (Baptists) have had a successful history. Baptists worked hard and built and amazing enterprise. We created hospitals, schools, colleges, seminaries, publishing houses, newspapers, multi-media, beautiful churches, programs and organizations. We had quite a run. Then the run ended. Our screens grew dim and our seats started to empty out.  We had to let go and watch much of what we built move away.  We tried to reboot. We copied others and we got hip. Preachers wore skinny jeans, grew goatees, and our churches sang songs that sounded like the radio (or so we thought). We created our own versions of everything we saw that people liked. We put in Starbucks in church lobbies, and we have tried to do what we thought would bring it all back. We wound up more like Jar Jar Binks than Han Solo.

But it isn’t working. The decline is still going on and folks are leaving. The crowd under thirty really isn’t interested. And so maybe it’s time to follow Lucas. It’s time to trust this great story to new voices and let the spirit blow where the spirit will blow. Maybe we have to trust that God is bigger than what we built and created. Maybe we need to let go and give up our preconceived ideas of the way we think it should be done.

And fresh winds are blowing. I’m not sure we can even envision what this will mean. I am excited as I read Phyllis Tickle and Diane Butler Bass. I hear what they are saying and believe that in the end something is emerging. And yet it will not be what we think or plan. Some are retreating to the past and trying to find solace there. I honestly believe that is what the Neo-Calvinist movement is doing. Somehow going back to the ‘50s (more 1850s then 1950s) will save the day in some minds. Then there is the entertainment mega-church model’s attempt to air brush it and put some flash into it all. None of this has sustainable hope. Lucas took his original vision and tweaked it here and there trying to keep it going then he tried to revisit it and it never really happened.  Now he is releasing his world for others to carry forward.   The essence of his vision will remain.  But the next step will be new and different.

So maybe just maybe that’s the future. Maybe there is a way forward but we have to be brave and courageous and to trust God and to open our hearts and minds.   The essence will not change.  The gospel will remain.  But I am very confident that the next step will also be new and very different.

Ewoks and Wookies.  Show us the way!

Derik Hamby

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Dr. Derik Hamby serves as pastor of Randolph Memorial Baptist in Madison Heights, Va. He enjoys history, religion, movies, music, and pop culture.

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