Spoiler alert: this article spoils one of the main final scenes of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, although I will try to keep other spoilers to a minimum
“Be with me.” This is the first phrase that we hear from Rey in the latest episode of the Star Wars saga (Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker). At the moment, it is not clear whether she is speaking to the Force in general, or a person/group of people in particular. I think the development of this idea in Rise of Skywalker is very significant to the philosophical/religious foundation of the concept of the Force in Star Wars.
At first glance the spirituality of the Force and the Jedi seems to have an immediate application to the Christian faith. The battle between the Light Side and the Dark Side of the Force (the Jedi and the Sith) seems to be a great analogy for Good vs. Evil, Holiness vs. Sin, God vs. the Devil, etc. However, there are actually a few classic problems with the philosophy of the Force.
First and foremost, the two sides of the Force are portrayed as being roughly balanced. This dualism sees the two sides as equals. When one side increases, the other side responds with an increase to match it. This is completely contrary to the Christian conception of the battle between good and evil. The Easter season in particular is a reminder that God has already triumphed. What remains is the extension and application of this victory throughout time, until the ultimate realization of the heavenly kingdom in which death will be no more. Likewise, the power of God is infinitely greater than that of the devil, who has no power over us unless we allow it.
Secondly, there is the problem that the Force is portrayed as an impersonal power like gravity. It is not something that can be said to know and love us. There is some discussion of being “absorbed” into the Force at death, perhaps losing our individual identity. Again, this is completely at odds with the Christian conception of God and the afterlife. In heaven we are fully alive in God and bound to each other, but not in a way that loses our individual existence.
How does Rise of Skywalker handle these questions? In response to the first objection (that the Light Side and Dark Side are even), there is the showdown at the end between a character that possesses the power of all of the Sith and one that possess the power of all of the Jedi. The power of the Light Side clearly defeats and destroys that of the Dark. Shortly before this battle, a voice (see the next paragraph) even encourages this defeat of the Dark as “bring[ing] back the balance.” This supports the theory (which I hold) that the classic prophecy of “bringing balance to the Force” is achieved when the Dark is defeated and the Light is shown to be superior, rather than by bringing Light and Dark into an equal standing. Although not all writers or pieces of Star Wars lore have backed this theory, I think that the clear sense has always been that there is a greater power in the Light rather than the Dark. The Dark is portrayed as having a quick and apparent power, while in reality being corrupting and illusory. It is the Light that perseveres and conquers in the end.
In terms of the second objection to the Force (its impersonal nature), the initial phrase “be with me” is repeated just before this climactic battle between the Sith and Jedi. It is not an impersonal surge of strength that responds, but individual, personal voices. Rise of Skywalker portrays the deceased Jedi as alive, aware, distinct, and involved in the affairs of the world (as the presence of “force ghosts” has always done in the series). It is a wonderful parallel to the Catholic understanding of the communion of the saints. The saints and angels in heaven are active and involved, and we can ask for their prayers in our times of need. While it does not portray the Force as something other than an impersonal power, I think that this is important step in the right direction of personal existence.
As a huge Star Wars fan, I was very happy to see the way these ideas were developed in the film! I hope that this reflection has helped you to appreciate the echo of the victory of the Resurrection and the communion of the saints, which are at the heart of this Easter season!